Black Cohosh: End Hot Flashes With THIS
Oh great. You knew something was off, you even suspected what it was, but it couldn’t happen to you…yet.
You are having trouble sleeping, sex is the last thing on your mind, and every sappy commercial on television has you wallowing in a pool of tears.
Still, you tell yourself it’s just a phase. Then, the hot flashes hit. At first, you think everyone was just insistent on cranking the heat, and then you realize…it’s you.
And suddenly it hits you like a ton of bricks — yep, you are in menopause.
For many women, menopause can mean a trip to the doctor and, likely, a prescription for estrogen and progesterone or other synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
This is shocking, considering the stacks of medical data showing the truly fatal potential of prescription HRT.
What’s worse is that there is a natural therapy that is far more effective that you aren’t hearing about. And it’s got a long history of being used safely.
Welcome to the Danger Zone…
Reports on the risks associated with conventional HRT have filled medical journals for more than 20 years. But the summer of 2002 forever removed the curtain of doubt surrounding the dangers of HRT.
On July 17, 2002, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported on the findings from one part of the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), an 8.5-year project funded by the National Institutes of Health.1
Researchers found that women taking estrogen/progestin for five years or more had an increased risk for blood clots, coronary heart disease (CHD), strokes, and breast cancer.
More specifically, the data indicated that if 10,000 women took the drugs for a year and 10,000 did not, women in the first group would have eight more cases of invasive breast cancer, seven more heart attacks, eight more strokes, and 18 more instances of blood clots.
Researchers felt so strongly about the negative implications of long-term combined HRT, especially the unacceptably high risk for breast cancer, that they ended the study three years early! Participants were contacted and instructed to stop taking the drug—immediately.
Sadly, given overwhelming evidence of HRT’s dangerous side effects, many doctors still continue to prescribe it. The reason given? There are no other effective alternatives.
Really? Does that make any sense given the hundreds of natural therapies that have been discovered over the years for everything from high blood pressure to cancer to heart disease?
Not every health problem can be cured and not every health problem has a safe, effective natural therapy, but that assumption simply fails the common-sense test.
But what natural therapy is the most promising replacement for HRT? Which has been proven to be both safe and effective?
Snakeroot is No Snake Oil…
Our Native American ancestors have used the herb black cohosh for centuries to treat everything from fatigue and arthritis to sore throats and rattlesnake bites. In fact, it’s this latter use that led to its nickname “snakeroot.”
Similarly, it was also referred to as “squawroot” because of its abundant use and effectiveness in treating female menstrual disorders, including pain relief during menstruation and childbirth, as well as to ease symptoms associated with “the change,” or menopause.2,3
While traditional and historical use of a nutrient is valid proof, it’s ideal to see studies that back it up. And, when it comes to black cohosh, there are plenty.
The Native American Herb Goes Global…
Clinical studies the world over have shown that black cohosh extract not only relieves hot flashes, but also depression and vaginal atrophy.
This research has prompted several well-publicized studies on the standardized extract of black cohosh and its ability to treat menopausal symptoms.4 Let’s take a look at three.
In the first, a randomized study, researchers examined 55 women who were given black cohosh, estrogen, or diazepam (a drug similar to Valium)for 12 weeks.5
At the end of the study period, all groups showed a significant reduction in mood symptoms, such as depression, headaches, and heart palpitations. Plus, those women in the black cohosh and estrogen groups also enjoyed relief from hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness.
Once again, black cohosh is found to be as effective as estrogen at relieving menopause symptoms. While these results are encouraging, this study was not double-blind or placebo-controlled, which is the gold standard when it comes to research.
Fortunately, the second study was a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind study that tested the effects of black cohosh, estrogen, or placebo on 80 menopausal women.6
The women were divided into three groups. The first took 8mg of black cohosh a day. The second took 0.625mg of estrogen a day, while the third group received a placebo.
At the end of 12 weeks, those women in the black cohosh and estrogen groups noted significantly better relief from their menopause symptoms than the placebo group. And those in the black cohosh group had a bit more relief than even the estrogen group.
Specifically, daily hot flashes decreased from 4.9 to 0.7 in the black cohosh group, as compared to 5.2 to 3.2 in the estrogen group and 5.1 to 3.1 in the placebo group.
That means a gold standard study found that black cohosh actually worked better than synthetic estrogen at relieving menopause symptoms, and pretty much blew everyone away when it came to easing hot flashes. Now that’s solid science.
The third study is also a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. This time, researchers tested the use of 40 mg of black cohosh or placebo on 69 breast cancer survivors.7
After two months, those using the black cohosh enjoyed a statistically significant decrease in excessive sweating as compared to the placebo group. They also had fewer and less intense hot flashes.
That’s two gold-standard studies that show black cohosh works to relieve menopause symptoms.
But how, specifically, does it work, and is it safe?
How Black Cohosh Works Its Magic…
There are two schools of thought on how black cohosh helps ease menopause symptoms.
The first is that an active ingredient in black cohosh—fukinolic acid—has estrogenic properties. However, there is conflicting research on this front and most studies have been in the laboratory.8
That lack of clarity has led to the other hypothesis that black cohosh works through an entirely different avenue—the brain and hypothalamus.
It does so by affecting the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin, which may also be why black cohosh has also been shown to alleviate irritability and mood swings.
Is It Safe?
Given that black cohosh has been shown to be very effective at treating menopause symptoms, the next question we had to ask was, “Is it safe?” After all, there’s no sense in jumping from the proverbial frying pan into the fire.
Fortunately, black cohosh appears to be quite safe.9 The most common complaints associated with the herb include:
- Occasional gastrointestinal disturbances,
- Heaviness in the legs, and
- Possible weight problems.
You should not use black cohosh if you are pregnant, as there is the possibility of premature birth due to overdose.
Also, there have been very rare instances when black cohosh can cause liver damage. However, millions of people have taken the herb with no adverse effects.9
Choose Your Black Cohosh Carefully…
If you, like thousands of women before you, decide to pitch your HRT and give black cohosh a try, you’ll need to make sure you are getting what you paid for.
According to an article in the Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry, three of 11 black cohosh supplements researchers tested didn’t even contain the herb!10 Instead, they contained less expensive extracts of a similar Chinese herb.
To make sure this doesn’t happen to you and that you get actual black cohosh, be sure to buy your product from a reputable retailer. You can also look for black cohosh’s Latin name Cimicifuga racemosa.
If the manufacturer is more interested in hype than research, move on to another product.
Make sure the manufacturer uses good manufacturing practices (GMP) for the product and be sure you can find all ingredients contained in the product before purchasing. And, if the product contains a trademarked extract, research that extract. Is it safe? Has it been through clinical trials?
Also be sure the product you choose is free of preservatives, fillers, binders, excipients, flow agents, shellacs, coloring agents, gluten, yeast, lactose, and other allergens. Ideally you’ll also be able to find independent analysis done by a 3rd party to verify the active ingredients and identify any contaminants.
Once you have a true black cohosh product, the research indicates that you should aim for 40–80mg twice a day, which should contain 2 to 4mg of the active components (triterpenes, calculated as 27-deoxyacteine). At this dosage, most women see results within four weeks.
Lastly, if you are currently taking HRT, be sure to discuss your plans with your physician before changing your regimen.
Then you can start enjoying cooler days and more enjoyable nights without fear for your safety. And all thanks to our Native American friends!
1Rossouw, JE et al. Risks and benefits of estrogen plus progestin in healthy postmenopausal women: principal results from the Women’s Health Initiative randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2002 July 17; 288(3),321-33.
2Foster, S. Black cohosh: Cimicifuga racemosa: a literature review. HerbalGram. 1999,45,35-49.
3Upton, R, ed. Black cohosh rihizome actaea racemosa L. syn. Cimicifuga racemosa (L.) Nutt. Standards of analysis, quality control, and therapeutics. American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and Therapeutic Compendium. Santa Cruz, CA. American Herbal Pharmacopoeia, 2002, 1-38.
4Lieberman, S. A review of the effectiveness of Cimicifuga racemosa (black cohosh) for the symptoms of menopause. J Womens Health. 1998 Jun, 7(5), 525-9.
5American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Use of botanicals for management of menopausal symptoms. ACOG Practice Bulletin. 2001, 28, 1-11.
6Warnecke, G. Influencing of menopausal complaints with a phytodrug: successful therapy with Cimicifuga monoextract (in German). Medizinische Welt. 1985, 36, 871-4.
7Jacobson, JS et al. Randomized trial of black cohosh for the treatment of hot flashes among women with a history of breast cancer. J Clin Oncol. 2001, 19, 2739-45.
8Kruse, SO et al. Fukiic and piscidic acid esters from the rhizome of Cimicifuga racemosa and the in vitro estrogenic activity of fukinolic acid. Planta Medica. 1999, 65, 763-4.
9Workshop on the Safety of Black Cohosh in Clinical Studies—Meeting Summary. 2004. http://nccam.nih.gov/news/events/blackcohosh/blackcohosh_mtngsumm.htm.
10Jiang, B et al. Evaluation of the botanical authenticity and phytochemical profile of black cohosh products by high-performance liquid chromatography with selected ion monitoring liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry. J Agric Food Chem. 2006 May 3, 54(9), 3242-53.
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