Black Cohosh: The Safe Herb for Hot Flashes and Other Menopausal Symptoms

Black Cohosh: The Safe Herb for Hot Flashes and Other Menopausal Symptoms

to SP Update and receive weekly e-alerts from the

world of nutritional medicine. Just type your email address

below and click on submit (unsubscribe anytime.)

Cohosh: The safe herb for hot flashes and other menopausal

the past 40 years, millions of American women have

taken synthetic hormones to alleviate menopausal symptoms

and to avert diseases like osteoporosis, heart disease

(and more recently for Alzheimer''s), which usually

have their onset after menopause. But in July 2002,

the Journal of the American Medical Association reported

that a large-scale study of HRT-known as the Women''s

Health Initiative (WHI)-was halted when it was found

that the increased risk of breast and uterine cancers,

heart attack, and blood clots associated with HRT

far outweighed any benefits the therapy might provide.

in May of 2003, the WHI Memory Study reported that

women older than 65 who used "estrogen" plus progestin

doubled their risk of developing dementia. It''s important

to note that the WHI study used synthetic hormone-like

drugs. The medical establishment calls them "hormones,"

but the molecules used are not identical to those

normally found in a woman''s body. Because of this,

it did not surprise us in the least that there turned

out to be serious side effects.

the use of natural hormones, or bio-identical hormones

like natural progesterone, still appears to be safe.

news is recent studies have shown that black cohosh

provides relief equal to synthetic-HRT for menopausal

have assumed that black cohosh worked as a phytoestrogen,

or natural plant-based estrogen. Just very recently,

however, several studies were published indicating

that black cohosh is not a phytoestrogen-meaning it

does not produce estrogenic effects-and is therefore

considered VERY safe for all women who want to reduce

menopausal symptoms safely without worrying about

the potentially bad effects of estrogen.

is a natural phase of life

women reach menopause between the ages of 45 to 55,

but menopause-like symptoms can begin at least ten

years earlier. "Menopause is often heralded by the

onset of a change in menstrual flow or skipped menstrual

periods, "says Christiane Northrup, M.D., bestselling

author of Women''s Bodies, Women''s Wisdom (Bantam Books,

July 1994), and The Wisdom of Menopause (Bantam Books,

July 2001), and a past president of the American Holistic

Medical Association. "Some women simply stop having

periods and have no symptoms whatsoever. Others experience

hot flashes, vaginal dryness, decreased libido, and

these annoying problems that have given menopause

its bad reputation. Furthermore, studies have shown

that the onset of menopause can contribute to a higher

risk of heart disease and a decline in bone density.

So, what''s a woman to do?

cohosh has been used as a female tonic for hundreds

cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) was used by Europeans

and numerous Native American tribes for "female problems"

long before the New World was settled. Native Americans

also used it for arthritis, diarrhea and snake bites,

as well as coughs and other pulmonary conditions.1

cohosh was first listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia

in 1830 under the name black snakeroot, and was introduced

to the medical community in 1844 when Dr. John King

prescribed it for rheumatism and nervous disorders.

It was a prominent herb in midwifery practice, and

the Eclectic Physicians used it in the mid-nineteenth

century for a number of Ob/Gyn problems including

uterine prolapse, after-birth pains, and to allay

miscarriage and increase breast milk production.

the past 40 years, black cohosh has been used in Europe

as an herbal pharmaceutical by more than 1.5 million

women, and scientific research has recently demonstrated

that black cohosh is a promising therapy for menopausal

affect 70 to 85 percent of all perimenopausal women.3

happens in your body to make you throw the covers

off in the middle of a winter night, only to find

that you''re freezing and wanting to bundle up a few

minutes later? And why do some women have an intense

heat spread over their face, scalp, and chest accompanied

to Dr. Northrup, hot flashes are triggered by falling

estrogen and rising follicle stimulating hormone (FSH).

Most women have them just before or during the menstrual

periods during perimenopause. They become more frequent

during menopause-when your period ceases-and this

suffer from sleep deprivation because they experience

a continuum of hot flashes during the night. Consequently,

rapid eye movement (REM) sleep-during which dreaming

occurs-is interrupted, which can lead to depression.

hormonal factors, external factors can impact the

intensity and duration of a woman''s hot flashes. Stress,

anxiety, a poor diet loaded with carbohydrates, caffeine,

sugar, and alcohol, and lack of exercise can all exacerbate

have been many theories about how black cohosh works,

but exactly how and what it is that makes it work

are still being determined. Up until now, the theory

has been that it contains phytoestrogens that bind

to estrogen receptor sites, thus inducing an estrogen-like

know from recent studies that black cohosh is technically

This means it selectively mimics estrogen in the brain

and bone, but not in uterus- or estrogen-dependant

cancers. In one study it compared favorably with raloxifene

(a SERM sold by prescription for osteoporosis), though

something in black cohosh is interacting with some

part of the estrogen signaling pathway, but not the

estrogen receptors. This gives the benefit of some

of estrogen''s good effects, without the negative effects.

line seems to be that black cohosh does not stimulate

estrogen receptors, which can promote cancer. This

makes it a very safe alternative for osteoporosis

more good news. A preliminary recent German study

indicates that black cohosh may prevent bone loss

in menopausal women. The study examined the effects

of black cohosh extract on bone density in rats that

had their ovaries removed. Typically, bone loss is

accelerated after menopause, or in this case, after

the removal of the rats'' ovaries, their main source

were divided into three groups: one received a normal

diet, the second group received a normal diet plus

raloxifene, a SERM sold by prescription for osteoporosis,

and the third group was fed a normal diet with black

given black cohosh had significantly lower markers

for bone loss in their urine. They also showed a reversal

of the effects of ovariectomy on bone loss. These

results were similar to the group given the prescription

SERM, raloxifene, which is currently used to prevent

osteoporosis. These exciting results led the researchers

to conclude that a longer-term clinical trial of black

cohosh for the treatment of osteoporosis is warranted.5

the herb has been used traditionally for hundreds

of years, the recent scientific research validates

its effectiveness and proves its safety. Many women

never have hot flashes, and for those who do, the

annoyance lasts only a few years. BUT, because black

cohosh exerts positive effects on the brain and bone-which

have nothing to do with hot flashes-every menopausal

woman can benefit from using it long term to help

prevent osteoporosis and mental changes. Additionally,

perimenopausal women can use it safely long term to

prevent symptoms of PMS and future bone health and

we know that black cohosh is not recommended for pregnant

women. The question of whether the herb is safe for

women with breast cancer has been questionable, although

a recent study at the University of Illinois in which

it was found to be non-estrogenic indicates that it

researchers at the Evanston Northwestern Healthcare

Research Institute, Northwestern Medical School, also

found that black cohosh does not promote the growth

use, and even among women who have had breast cancer

as we saw in the previous cited studies, black cohosh

appears to be extremely safe. According to Dr. B Kligler,

a researcher at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine

in New York, " Adverse effects are extremely uncommon,

and there are no known significant adverse drug interactions."7

black cohosh is a gentle way to naturally treat menopausal

symptoms and deal with some of the physical and emotional

stresses unique to perimenopausal and menopausal women.

In addition to getting relief for hot flashes, night

sweats, and other menopausal symptoms, women typically

report they feel less irritable, have a clearer mind,

calmer emotions, fewer mood swings and better sleep.

importance of taking standardized European pharmaceutical-grade

as black cohosh has become popular as a natural menopause

treatment, a large number of products have been marketed

that do not meet the exacting pharmaceutical standards

of quality required of black cohosh products marketed

in Europe as pharmaceuticals. It seems safe to say

that if you want to get the amazing benefits of black

cohosh you must use a high-quality extract like has

been used in all the scientific research. Only black

cohosh extracts that meet European Pharmaceutical

to reaping the benefits of black cohosh are patience

and consistency, since it may take three to four weeks

for its effects to be fully realized. Consistently

using a recommended daily dose of standardized European

pharmaceutical-grade black cohosh is one of the safest

and most effective ways to naturally deal with the

physical and emotional stresses unique to perimenopausal

and menopausal women. With the recent flurry of scientific

research on black cohosh, it seems clear that it is

the best choice for anyone looking for a natural and

safe alternative to synthetic estrogen therapy.

Foster S. Black cohosh: for ease in menopause. The

Cimicifuga racemosa - Monograph. Altern Med Rev. 2003

May;8(2):186-189. [No authors listed] Abstract

Guthrie, J., et al. Hot flushes, menstrual status,

and hormone levels in a population-based sample of

Seidlova-Wuttke D, Hesse O, Jarry H, Christoffel V,

Spengler B, Becker T, Wuttke W. Evidence for selective

estrogen receptor modulator activity in a black cohosh

(Cimicifuga racemosa) extract: comparison with estradiol-17beta.

Eur J Endocrinol. 2003 Oct;149(4):351-62. Abstract

Nisslein T, Freudenstein J. Effects of an isopropanolic

extract of Cimicifuga racemosa on urinary crosslinks

and other parameters of bone quality in an ovariectomized

rat model of osteoporosis. J Bone Miner Metab. 2003;21(6):370-6.Abstract

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

Kligler B. Black cohosh. Am Fam Physician. 2003 Jul