As I reasonable man, I don’t profess to know everything. One of the things I lack direct knowledge about, is how it feels to go through menopause. However, judging from the experiences of my female family members, it must be hell to go through.
There is something called Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) women can get from their doctors. While HRT is usually successful, for some women it may increase the risk heart disease and breast cancer. Thus, many women have turned to alternative, natural methods to alleviate their menopausal symptoms. One of these alternatives is a herb named black cohosh. How does black cohosh work? Can it actually help relieve menopausal symptoms?
North American Indians have used the black cohosh plant as a medicinal for various health ailments, ranging from rheumatism to general malaise. Since, black cohosh as attained a kind of “rock star” status, as an alternative to traditional HRT. Researchers aren’t exactly sure how this herb works. Some believe black cohosh effects hormonal levels, but it’s action is not clear at this time. Is black cohosh really effective in relieving menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness? Unfortunately, the findings from clinical studies are mixed.
For example, researchers of the Group Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle, conducted a Herbal Alternatives for Menopause Study in 2006. The study compared several different HRT regimens, in women aged 45 to 55. Each woman had suffered hot flashes and/or night sweats daily, prior to the study. Researchers found no significant difference in the number of hot flashes experienced between women receiving black cohosh only, or in combination with other herbs, and that of women receiving a placebo, after one year. However, the women in the group receiving traditional HRT, had 4 fewer hot flashes daily, as compared to the placebo group after one year of study.
A meta-study of 9 clinical trials, published in the January 2010 issue of Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, found that black cohosh help reduce hot flashes by 26% in menopausal women.
Even with the mixed clinical results for black cohosh, researchers are concerned about the varying content and quality of black cohosh products. A review of 11 black cohosh products, found 4 instances where supplement makers used a cheaper species of black cohosh from Asia, instead of the variety found in North America.
A good primer on black cohosh can be found on the Mayo Clinic site. Use it as a starting point for considering the use of this herb.
The Bottom Line: Menopausal women must carefully weigh the options for alleviating symptoms in this phase of their lives. Consultation with a doctor is a must, because your medical history and lifestyle issues have to be considered before any regimen begins. Black cohosh appears to be a toss-up, but only working with your doctor can determine if it’s right for you.
It’s your life, live well.