For many years, the roots from the North American black cohosh plant have been used to target various ailments. Today, it’s commonly used to treat symptoms of menopause, especially due to the risks associated with hormone therapy. This is due to black cohosh having a similar effect to estrogen.
Generations of women have relied on this plant in order to relieve symptoms of PMS and menopause. It’s also believed to have an anti-inflammatory and sedative effect. We’ll examine what this plant is, how it works, and any possible negative effects that could surface.
What is Black Cohosh?
A member of the buttercup family, black cohosh is a perennial plant that’s native to North America. The roots and rhizomes (which are underground stems) are used to prepare this plant for commercial use.
For years, black cohosh was used within North American Indian medicine, treating malaise, malaria, rheumatism, kidney issues, gynecological disorders, coughs, colds, hives, and constipation. Within the mid 19th century, black cohosh was used to treat fevers, offered as a diuretic, and used to induce menstruation.
It became increasingly popular amongst a group of alternative practitioners, using this plant for conditions affecting women’s reproductive organs, including infertility, inflammation of the ovaries and uterus, and menstrual issues.
How Does Black Cohosh Work?
How exactly black cohosh works is not fully known. It’s believed that black cohosh produces estrogenic activity. Recently, a compound in black cohosh known as fukinolic acid yielded estrogenic activity in vitro.
Studies Regarding Black Cohosh and Menopausal Symptoms
Black cohosh is generally taken to reduce hot flashes and other associated menopausal symptoms. Although findings have been mixed, there’s been a lot of positive support regarding black cohosh and a reduction in these symptoms, including depression, hot flashes, and insomnia.
In the first double-blind study, participants included breast cancer survivors because the tended to experience hot flashes and were looking for alternative remedies. A total of 85 women were given either a placebo or 40 mg of black cohosh daily. After two months, the frequency and intensity of hot flashes seemed to decrease in both groups, whole sweating significantly decreased in the experimental group.
In another 24-week study, 60 women who had experienced a hysterectomy in the past but still had one ovary took part in this experiment. Black cohosh was being compared to three other estrogen regimens. Although black cohosh did reduce symptoms, this study was not placebo controlled which was its key weakness.
A double-blind study did include a placebo group, focusing on 80 menopausal women. These participants were comparing 8 mg of black cohosh with a placebo. After 12 weeks, physical symptoms and anxiety levels were significantly reduced in the experimental group. In comparison to the placebo group who’s daily hot flashes decreased from 5.2 to 3.2, the black cohosh group went from 4.9 hot flashes a day to 0.7.
In another study, 704 women were examined. A total of 49 percent of these women who took black cohosh experienced complete relief some their menopausal symptoms. These symptoms included headaches, vertigo, sweating, hot flashes, ringing in ears, and heart palpitations. An addition 37.8 percent experienced significant improvements.
The Effects of Black Cohosh on Women
There are three key areas that we’re going to focus on, as black cohosh has yielded positive effects in all three areas: hormonal levels, vagina, and uterus. All of these significantly affect symptoms of PMS and menopause and also influence overall positive health.
When you reach menopause, you experience a reduction in estrogen levels and an increase in both luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). Three out of four studies show that women who took black cohosh did not experience increased LH or FSH levels.
Effect on the Vagina
Based on changes in hormonal levels, women going through menopause also experience changes to the structure of their vaginal tissues. If you look at vaginal cells after menopause under a microscope, you can see a clear difference. This is said to be due to lower levels of estrogen. Within one study, black cohosh was shown to have estrogenic changes on menopausal women.
Effect on the Uterus
Once again, menopause is associated with the thinning of uterine lining. Although no human studies have been conducted, positive effects were seen in mice. It was found that black cohosh caused an increased in uterine weight.
The Side Effects of Black Cohosh
For the most part, black cohosh is safe when taken as directed. However, there have been some slight side effects experienced, such as an upset stomach or headaches. These effects are more likely to occur when taken in high doses.
After taking black cohosh, some individuals may have developed liver issues. If you currently suffer from pre-existing liver complications or are taking medications that affect the liver, please avoid taking this supplement. Always check with your doctor prior to use.
If you are currently taking birth control pills or taking part in hormone replacement therapy, taking sedatives or high blood pressure medicine, do not take black cohosh without approval from your doctor. If you are currently pregnant, black cohosh may induce labor.