Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa) or Cimicifuga racemosa as it was previously called, is a North American plant that was and still is used to treat snakebites. The American Indians also used the roots and rhizomes of black cohosh to treat gynecological disorders including the relief of what we now know as menstrual cramps and the symptoms associated with menopause.
The active constituents in the black cohosh root are the terpene glycosides, actein and cimifugoside. The rhizome contains other bioactive compounds including alkaloids, flavonoids and tannins.
Black Cohosh is an alternative to hormone replacement therapy because it stimulates estrogen-like activity. It was originally believed that Black Cohosh interacted with estrogen receptors to produce its effect.
It is unknown if this is the reason for its estrogenic effect. Black cohosh reduces luteinizing hormone levels by inhibiting pituitary function.This provides an estrogenic effect that minimizes vaginal atrophy, night sweats, and anxiety. When estrogen levels drop, the pituitary secretes more luteinizing hormone. High luteinizing hormone levels are believed to cause many of the menstrual discomforts associated with menopause.
Standardized extracts of Black Cohosh should be taken twice a day in doses of 20 or 40 mg for up to 6 months. Remifemin is an extract of the rhizome manufactured in Germany.