Black Cohosh—Natural Treatment for Menopause Relief

Posted by Medical Board on February 3, 2017 in Hormones Last updated on May 23, 2019

While there are currently more than 477 million postmenopausal women in the world, that number is expected to rise to 1.1 billion by the year 2025.[7] This makes menopause and menopausal symptoms one of the most important women’s health issues this century.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the average age of menopause in the United States is 51.[8] The clinic defines true menopause as the period after a woman no longer has her menstrual period for 12 months. At this time, she is no longer fertile or able to conceive a child.[8]

For most women, menstruation becomes irregular over a long period of time, before actually ceasing altogether. Along with these differences in the cycle itself, come many hormonal changes that actually precede the menopause event. These occur as ovaries begin to decrease production of certain hormones including estrogen and progesterone, and fewer eggs are released.[8]

Effects of Menopause

According to the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, the cost of menopause, in terms of medical services, prescriptions, and lost work productivity, can add an additional 40% to a woman’s regular expenses. For 80% of individuals however, menopause does not adversely affect quality of life, according to a recent study.[5]

While some women will experience few symptoms during menopause, about 10% suffer severe night sweats, hot flashes, mood swings, brain fog, weight gain, fatigue and insomnia.

Menopause and Traditional Treatment

Some women seek relief from debilitating hot flashes and night sweats through hormone replacement therapy. Others are treated for mood swings with anti-depressants, and may be prescribed topical creams and lubricants for vaginal dryness and discomfort during intercourse. For women who cannot tolerate traditional therapies, or for those who want to explore a more natural alternative to pharmaceuticals, herbal supplements such as black cohosh may provide an effective treatment option.

Black Cohosh for Menopause Symptoms

Actaea racemosa or Cimicifuga racemosa (commonly known as black cohosh) is a perennial plant related to the buttercup family that grows in North America.[2]

This tall herb was first discovered in the northeast by native Americans and used for a variety of conditions including fatigue, snake bite, arthritis, and discomfort during menstruation and menopause.[3]

In the U.S., black cohosh roots and stems are prepared as a dietary supplement and sold as a dry root, tablets, capsules, liquid, or as an extract. Historically, though black cohosh has been used to lessen the severity of menstrual and menopausal symptoms ,it has also been used as an anti-inflammatory for other conditions such as, arthritis and rheumatisim, as well as a pain reliever after childbirth.[3]

Black cohosh may help relieve the following menopausal symptoms:

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Occasional sleeplessness[2][1]

Adult Dosage for Black Cohosh

For reduction of hot flashes, black cohosh can be taken in 20-40mg doses, twice a day.[4]

Side Effects of Black Cohosh for Menopause

While scientists don’t know for sure how plants, such as black cohosh work to relieve menopausal symptoms, some think that they may contain plant estrogens that create hormonal changes within a woman’s body. Although black cohosh is a natural herb, it is important to contact a physician if you experience any side effects other than mild stomach upset, headache, dizziness, heaviness of the legs, or weight gain.

Women who are pregnant, or are breastfeeding should not use black cohosh since it can act as a stimulant, causing contractions that could lead to premature labor. It is also not known how black cohosh affects breast milk. In rare cases, women taking black cohosh have reported liver disease. Individuals with a history of liver problems should consult a physician before taking black cohosh supplements.

In double blind government studies of postmenopausal participants, black cohosh was found to reduce vasomotor, psychiatric, physical, and sexual symptoms of menopause at four and eight month treatment intervals.[6]

While many women experience only mild discomfort during menopause, others suffer from serious symptoms that adversely impact their life. Black cohosh can offer a gentle, natural alternative to hormone therapies, without many of the dangerous side effects associated with these treatments.

References

1 A, 2013 (1997) Black cohosh. Available at: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/black-cohosh (Accessed: 3 February 2017).

2 Black Cohosh (2016) Available at: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/blackcohosh/ataglance.htm (Accessed: 3 February 2017).

3 Black Cohosh – health encyclopedia – university of Rochester medical center (2017) Available at: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=19&contentid=BlackCohosh (Accessed: 3 February 2017).

4 Handout, P. (no date) Supplements for hot flashes during menopause. Available at: http://www.fammed.wisc.edu/files/webfm-uploads/documents/outreach/im/handout_hot%20flashes_patient.pdf (Accessed: 3 February 2017).

5 Kleinman, N.L., Rohrbacker, N.J., Bushmakin, A.G., Whiteley, J., Lynch, W.D. and Shah, S.N. (2013) ‘Direct and indirect costs of women diagnosed with menopause…: Journal of occupational and environmental medicine’, . doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e3182820515.

6 Mohammad-Alizadeh-Charandabi, S., Shahnazi, M., Nahaee, J. and Bayatipayan, S. (2013) ‘Efficacy of black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa L.) in treating early symptoms of menopause: A randomized clinical trial’, 8.

7 PietrangeloMedically, A. (2005) Menopause by the numbers: Facts, statistics, and you. Available at: http://www.healthline.com/health/menopause/facts-statistics-infographic#1 (Accessed: 3 February 2017).

8 Staff, M.C. (2015) ‘Menopause definition’, Mayoclinic, .

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