What is Black Cohosh and Can it be Used For Menopausal Symptoms?

November 12, 2012

What is Black Cohosh and Can it be Used For Menopausal Symptoms?

Black cohosh is an herb sold in America as a dietary supplement to treat symptoms of the menopause such as hot flashes. There is a lot of evidence appearing to suggest that the plant is effective as a treatment for some menopausal symptoms, however there has not yet been enough support provided in order for black cohosh to be taken as a health supplement. Further research and studies into its long-term safety is required, although up until now, very few negative reactions have been reported.

Black cohosh has been used in the medicines of North American Indians for centuries. It was commonly used in treatments for many conditions including colds, coughs, constipation and backache. It was also used to encourage menstruation and later on to treat lung conditions, neurological conditions and problems associated with the female reproductive organs.

A number of studies have been conducted in order to recognise any effects black cohosh may have on symptoms of the menopause. The first was a double blind placebo-controlled study on survivors of breast cancer who were regularly experiencing hot flushes. The women all took (as well as their anti-oestrogen treatment for breast cancer) either a placebo tablet or a black cohosh tablet for 2 months and its effects on hot flashes, sweating, headaches, poor sleep and depression were studied. Excessive sweating decreased dramatically in the group taking the black cohosh tablet but the other symptoms decreased in both group with significant differences between the two.

In another study, which took 24 weeks and involved women who had had, one ovary removed via hysterectomy compared the effects of black cohosh when used simultaneously with different oestrogen regimens. In all groups the black cohosh appeared to decrease symptoms similar to the ones the oestrogen treatment it was working along side was decreasing. This study is lacking in a placebo group.

Another study has proven that black cohosh does not have any effect on the luteinizing hormone or the follicle-stimulating hormone. These are the two hormones that increase in women who have been through the menopause whilst oestrogen levels decrease. This change and imbalance of hormone levels is thought to be the reason behind many menopausal symptoms.

These studies a long with many of others that have been conducted fail to provide and real strong and conclusive evidence. Further studies are being financed, which will longer term, randomised and placebo-controlled to discover if there really are any effective effects of black cohosh on the frequency and intensity of hot flushes as well as other menopausal symptoms.

As many of the studies into black cohosh are still on going, some of the effects it may have, positive and negative are not yet fully known. It is thought that there may be affects on the vagina and the uterus when black cohosh is taken but again the results of studies have been mixed.

In America black cohosh is currently been sold and marketed as a dietary supplement as it doesn’t have to approved by the Food and Drug administration when placed in this category. Anyone considering taking this product should seek advice from his or her doctor or a medical professional before doing so. People suffering from any medical conditions, are pregnant or breast feeding should take extra caution before taking black cohosh.

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