What is black cohosh?
People in the US and Europe have used the herb black cohosh since ancient times for a variety of illnesses ranging from cough and cold to infertility. It has been most commonly used for menopause and found to be beneficial. Other problems include menstrual cramps and menstrual irregularities. Much of the research on black cohosh has been on menopause. Some studies show black cohosh effective for relieving the following symptoms of menopause
In a study, black cohosh has worked as effectively as hormonal replacement therapy in the management of postmenopausal symptoms. But some other studies have found its effect to be similar to a placebo. The data on its efficacy are mixed.
The most comprehensive research on black cohosh to date has been the study published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2012. The review concluded that there is not enough evidence to state whether black cohosh is effective or ineffective to help treat the symptoms of menopause. Given this, the reviewers suggested the need for further research on black cohosh.
The problem with these studies is the inconsistency in variations of the chemical composition of the products containing black cohosh.
Scientists have yet to find the active ingredients in black cohosh and also its potential mechanism(s) of action. It is unclear whether black cohosh has any effects on the vagina and uterus.
Based on the different compounds present in black cohosh, experts have proposed the following theories of how black cohosh works in the body.
- Estrogen-like properties: Estrogen is a female hormone, the level of which declines in menopause. Its reduced levels are responsible for all the signs and symptoms of menopause. Some experts believe that black cohosh works like estrogen in the body and helps ease menopause symptoms.
- Action on the brain: Black cohosh can work on nerves in the brain to increase serotonin levels, which can help improve mood and help treat depression and anxiety in menopause.
- Anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties: The properties of black cohosh help the body fend off chronic illnesses.
There is insufficient evidence to recommend it for uses other than for menopause.
Black cohosh is available in the market as capsules and tinctures. The recommended dose is between 20 and 80 mg of black cohosh extract once or twice daily for up to six months.
Is black cohosh safe for everyone?
From the several studies done on black cohosh, it is found to be associated with few adverse reactions. The reported side effects include
- Gastrointestinal upset
- Skin rash
- Breast pain
- Brain enlargement
- Vaginal bleeding/spotting
- Joint or muscle pain
The duration of all the studies conducted on black cohosh is six months or less. Safety data on the long-term use of black cohosh are lacking. Hence, physicians often recommend taking the black cohosh for no more than six months.
Black cohosh is not safe for everyone. There are several reports of patients with some bad effects on the liver such as
Physicians recommend avoiding black cohosh if you have any problem with your liver. Always use it under medical supervision. Discontinue its use and consult your doctor if you develop symptoms of liver trouble, such as abdominal pain, dark urine or jaundice.
- Cholesterol-lowering drugs
- Drugs that can cause hepatotoxicity (harmful for liver), such as
- Medications that change in the liver. Examples include
- Cisplatin (medication for cancer)
Black cohosh differs from blue cohosh and white cohosh concerning its actions. Do not confuse these drugs. Unlike black cohosh, blue cohosh and white cohosh are toxic.
Remember to look for certifications provided by Consumer Labs, The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention or NSF International while choosing preparations of black cohosh and all other supplements in general.
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Top What Are the Side Effects of Black Cohosh Related Articles
Tips to Ease Menopause SymptomsWhat happens during menopause? At what age do menopause symptoms start? Women in their 40s or 50s may begin to have hot flashes, night sweats, and sleep problems as they enter menopause. See what triggers some menopause symptoms. Get tips for relief through treatment.
15 Things Women Should Know About MenopauseMenopause is a phase in a woman’s life that challenges her physically and emotionally. Many women deal with menopause without any medical treatments, whereas some women with severe symptoms require therapies.
9 Signs of PerimenopausePerimenopause occurs before menopause as estrogen levels begin to change. This can cause menopause like symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, heavy bleeding, weight gain, vaginal dryness, and changes to libido. Pregnancy is still possibly during perimenopause.
Natural Remedies for Hot FlashesHot flashes are experienced by many women, especially at night. However, not all women undergoing menopause experience hot flashes. What causes hot flashes? A hot flash is a feeling of warmth that spreads over the body. Treatment for hot flashes include hormone replacement therapy and alternative prescription medications such as:
- SSRIs (Effexor, Paxil, Prozac),
- clonidine (Catapres),
- megestrol (Megace),
- and gabapentin (Neurontin).
Hot FlashesHot flashes (or flushing) is the most common symptom experienced by a woman prior to and during the early stages of menopause, and often is described as the feeling of warmth that spreads over the body, often starting at the head accompanied by sweating. Symptoms of hot flashes include flushing, excessive sweating, anxiety, and palpitations.
How Long Does Menopause Last?Some symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes (a sudden feeling of warmth in the upper part of the body) usually last for one to two years. However, they can continue for 10 years or longer.
What Happens During Menopause?Menopause is the time in a woman's life when menstrual periods permanently stop, also called the "change of life." Menopause symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, irregular vaginal bleeding, vaginal dryness, painful intercourse, urinary incontinence, weight gain, and emotional symptoms such as mood swings. Treatment of menopausal symptoms varies, and should be discussed with your physician.
Menopause QuizThe Menopause Quiz challenges your knowledge about the time in a woman’s life when menstruation ceases. Menopause can bring many physical, mental and sexual challenges to maturing women, but they don’t have to be limiting. Take the Menopause Quiz to learn the causes, symptoms and treatments of what’s known as "the change of life."
Menopause SlideshowWhat is menopause? What are the signs of menopause? What age does menopause start? Learn about menopause and perimenopause symptoms. Find the latest treatments for menopause.
Night sweats are severe hot flashes that occur at night and result in a drenching sweat. The causes of night sweats in most people are not serious, like menopause in women, sleep apnea, medications, alcohol withdrawal, and thyroid problems. However, more serious diseases like cancer and HIV also can cause night sweats. Your doctor will treat your night sweats depending upon the cause.
You may experience other signs and symptoms that are associated with night sweats, which depend upon the cause, but may include, shaking, and chills with a fever caused by an infection like the flu or pneumonia; unexplained weight loss due to lymphoma; women in perimenopause or menopause may also have vaginal dryness, mood swings, and hot flashes during the day; and low blood sugar in people with diabetes.
Other causes of night sweats include medications like NSAIDs (aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), and naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), antidepressants, sildenafil (Viagra), and abuse of prescription or illegal drugs and drug withdrawal; hormone disorders like pheochromocytoma and carcinoid syndrome; idiopathic hyperhidrosis; infections like endocarditis, AIDs, and abscesses; alcoholism and alcohol withdrawal; drug abuse, addiction, and withdrawal; and stroke.
A doctor or other health care professional can treat your night sweats after the cause has been diagnosed.
PerimenopausePerimenopause is the time in a woman's life when she is approaching menopause. During this time a woman starts to develop symptoms of declining estrogen levels that may include mood swings, painful sex, night sweats, hot flashes, and weight gain. Every adult woman eventually will experience perimenopause.
Premature menopause is when menopause occurs in a woman before the age of 40. Causes of premature menopause include premature ovarian failure, treatments for cancer and other conditions, surgical removal of the ovaries, or chronic diseases of the pituitary or thyroid gland, or psychiatric disorders. Treatment is directed at menopausal symptoms.
Vaginal Dryness and Vaginal AtrophyVaginal dryness and vaginal atrophy occurs in women during perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. With vaginal atrophy, the lining of the vaginal wall becomes thinner, drier, less elastic, and light pink to bluish in color. Symptoms of vaginal atrophy include vaginal dryness, itching, irritation, and/or pain during intercourse. Treatment options for vaginal dryness and vaginal atrophy include hormone treatment and over-the-counter vaginal lubricating and moisturizing products.
What Are the 40 Symptoms of Menopause?Menopause is the end of the reproductive era of a woman’s life that is characterized by drastic changes in her emotional and physical aspects. Studies have identified around 40 signs and symptoms of menopause, but not every woman gets all of them.
Causes of Flushing (Hot Flashes)Menopause isn't the only thing that causes flushing (hot flashes). Find out what else can trigger these sudden waves of heat as your body tries to cool down.