Menu

Does Black Cohosh Induce Labor?

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on March 02, 2021

Women have been using plants and herbs as medicine for a long time and some to induce labor when their pregnancy is full-term. Some plants are not always safe to use during pregnancy, and it’s best to let labor happen on its own. But, is black cohosh safe?

Can Black Cohosh Induce Labor?

Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa) is a herb that many women use for menopause symptoms. Native Americans have used black cohosh for many years as part of traditional medicine. It sometimes has other names, including:

  • Black snakeroot
  • Bugbane
  • Bugwort
  • Rattleroot
  • Rattleweed
  • Macrotys

Experts think that the herb affects different hormones. This could be estrogen, luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, or serotonin, but the research isn’t clear. 

It’s possible that black cohosh can induce labor. There isn’t much research on how black cohosh affects pregnancy and breastfeeding. Some studies say that black cohosh can make the uterus contract, which could induce labor. Other studies aren’t clear if it affects the uterus. 

Some midwives use black cohosh to relax the uterus and stimulate contractions, but this should not be done at home by yourself. More studies are needed about the safety of black cohosh. Because the research isn’t clear, black cohosh shouldn’t be used during pregnancy or breastfeeding.  

Ingestion 

In studies, people have taken black cohosh for as long as 12 months without any side effects. But this does not apply to pregnant women and it should not be ingested during pregnancy. 

Side effects 

Black cohosh can cause some side effects like cramping, headache, upset stomach, rash, vaginal spotting or bleeding, weight gain, and a feeling of heaviness. There are some reports of rare cases of liver damage from taking commercial black cohosh products. It is unclear if these side effects were caused by the plant or the product. 

High amounts of black cohosh can also cause side effects. These can include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Slow heart rate
  • Seizures, in rare cases

Drug interactions

Black cohosh might interact with statin (cholesterol-lowering) medicines. This means it could stop the medicine from working properly. The risk seems to be low, but it hasn’t been studied very well.

Risks

Taking black cohosh while pregnant might induce labor by relaxing the uterus and causing contractions. 

Sometimes black cohosh is confused with blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) or is mixed together in products. Blue cohosh may be unsafe. Some people have used black cohosh and blue cohosh together to induce labor, but this had side effects in at least one baby.

Experts don’t fully understand what black cohosh might do to your baby. You should talk to your doctor first before you take any herbal supplements or if you’re thinking about inducing labor on your own as it may not be safe.

Women who have a hormone cancer or condition like breast cancer, ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, or endometriosis should not use black cohosh. The research is mixed about cancer and how black cohosh works in these diseases, so you should not take it without talking to your doctor first.

How Is Black Cohosh Meant to Be Used?

Black cohosh has been used for a long time for muscle pain, fever, coughs, pneumonia, and menstrual problems. Today it is mostly used for common women’s hormone problems. These include:

Research shows that it does help menopause symptoms and normal doses are safe to take without any serious side effects. 

Osteoporosis

Some studies found that black cohosh can stop bone loss in osteoporosis, but more research is needed.

Arthritis

Black cohosh might help lower inflammation from osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. There isn’t enough research to say that it can be used alone for arthritis.

The black cohosh root is the part that is used in herbal supplements. Black cohosh comes in lots of different forms, including:

The dried black cohosh root is used as a tea, but the standardized extracts are the best to use for menopausal symptoms. 

Sometimes commercial products have other ingredients in them that might not be safe and might cause side effects. Some studies tested products and found the wrong herb or and other herbs that weren’t listed on the bottle. It’s important to only use products that are clearly labeled.

If you’re pregnant and thinking about inducing labor, you should talk to your doctor first before doing anything on your own. Pregnant women should not take black cohosh as it may be unsafe. Generally, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before taking any herbal supplement.

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Journal of Nurse Midwifery: “A national survey of herbal preparation use by nurse-midwives for labor stimulation. Review of the literature and recommendations for practice.”

Mount Sinai: “Black cohosh Information.”

National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: “Black Cohosh.”

National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: “Black Cohosh.” 

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved. View privacy policy and trust info