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The Ellechemy Glossary: Black Cohosh in lube: a modern application of an ancient herb

Black Cohosh, also called Cimicifuga racemosa or Actaea racemosa is a herb used in Native American traditional medicine to treat symptoms experienced by women in perimenopause and menopause. Black Cohosh is also variously known as black snakeroot, rattle weed, bugbane and wanzenkraut.

Transitioning through perimenopause to menopause can be a disruptive and difficult time, with many women experiencing hot flushes, night sweats, but also challenging vaginal and clitoral atrophy and profound sensitivity, dryness and sexual discomfort.

Evidence from experimental studies suggests that black cohosh may be a biologically plausible alternative treatment which is why we use it in our Eternelle formulation. 

How might Black Cohosh be helpful?

Black cohosh contains a number of biologically active compounds including the triterpene glycosides cimicifugoside and actein, isoferulic acids as well as isoflavones, resins, caffeic acids and fatty acids. Different effects of Black Cohosh may be exerted by each of these component molecules.  

Experimentally, black cohosh has been demonstrated to induce dopaminergic effects via stimulation of D2 receptors, which can oppose prolactin and in theory increase libido.

It is thought that the isoflavone formononectin derived from black cohosh may directly stimulate oestrogen receptors mediating mild post receptor effects via the same pathway through which the oestrogen hormone  itself is effective.

Many studies have demonstrated that triterpene glycosides found in black cohosh reduces circulating luteinising hormone levels which may reduce some of the unpleasant symptoms of menopause.

Is Black Cohosh Safe?

Systematic reviews of the safety of black cohosh, when used for a variety of menopause and menstrual symptoms, including in breast cancer survivors have found the herb to be safe, with a very low risk of any serious side effects.

There has never been a reported case of any person suffering adverse effects from the topical use of black cohosh, as applied in Ellechemy formulations. 

What does the medical literature say about Black Cohosh?

Unfortunately, as is the case with many traditional therapies, a recent Cochrane review was critical of clinical trials performed to date assessing the reported effects of Black Cohosh in menopause. Authors concluded they could neither confirm or negate the clinical utility of this ancient and anecdotally popular therapy. More well designed randomised controlled studies are needed. However, authors agreed Black cohosh is safe and proposed mechanisms of effective action are theoretically sound.



Keville K. The Illustrated Herb Encyclopedia. East Roseville: Simon & Shuster Australia, 1991.

Blumenthal M. The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs. Austin: American Botanical Council, 2003.

Borrelli F, Izzo AA, Ernst E. Pharmacological effects of Cimicifuga racemosaLife Sciences 2003;73(10):1215‐29.

Borrelli F, Ernst E. Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa): a systematic review of adverse eventsAmerican Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology 2008;199(5):455‐66.

Roberts H. Safety of herbal medicinal products in women with breast cancerMaturitas 2010;66(4):363‐369.

Burdette JE, Liu J, Chen SN, Fabricant DS, Piersen CE, Barker EL, Pezzuto JM, Mesecar A, Van Breemen RB, Farnsworth NR, Bolton JL. Black cohosh acts as a mixed competitive ligand and partial agonist of the serotonin receptor. J Agric Food Chem. 2003 Sep 10;51(19):5661-70. doi: 10.1021/jf034264r. PMID: 12952416.

Leach MJ, Moore V. Black cohosh (Cimicifuga spp.) for menopausal symptoms. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Sep 12;2012(9):CD007244. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007244.pub2. PMID: 22972105; PMCID: PMC6599854.