If you’ve ever researched the menopause or spoken to friends about it…
…there’s no doubt that you will at some point come across a major buzzword in the menopause community: black cohosh. It’s regularly cited as one of the top alternative, natural remedies to treat symptoms like hot flushes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, and excessive sweating. But does it really work? And if so, how can you get some for yourself?
First thing’s first: what is black cohosh. Simply, it’s a herb found in Eastern North America that has been used for centuries as a natural treatment (Native Americans would use it to treat irregular periods, menopause, and childbirth pains). Now, it’s sold in tablet or liquid form (for about £16 pounds for 60 tablets) at your local pharmacy or health store. It’s not particularly known why black cohosh could help with menopausal symptoms, but researchers believe it could have some similar effects that estrogen has. In fact, while there’s been plenty of individual studies on the benefits of black cohosh, there’s no conclusive scientific evidence for its effectiveness (so read on with caution).
It’s not particularly known why black cohosh could help with menopausal symptoms, but researchers believe it could have some similar effects that estrogen has.
What’s the positive evidence, you may ask? Among many other studies, a 2010 study found that menopausal women experienced a 26% reduction in night sweats and hot flushes; a 2013 review found that menopausal symptoms reduced more for women taking black cohosh compared to a placebo-administered group; finally, a 2017 study found that black cohosh could help regulate temperature in female rats without ovaries. Ultimately, there are plenty of studies here and there (not to mention personal anecdotes) that celebrate the benefits of black cohosh. But there are some risks.
Firstly, just as there are studies that recognize the benefits of the herb, there are studies that denounce it, saying it has no effect. Again, there’s no clear conclusion on the effectiveness. Secondly, beyond it being potentially ineffective, it could be harmful. It’s suggested that people with allergies to aspirin or salicylates, a history of blood clots, strokes, liver disease, or seizures, or are taking medication for high blood pressure should avoid taking black cohosh. This is mainly given the lack of sufficient research on the serious side effects of black cohosh and the chemical composition of it. Finally, recent research has suggested that black cohosh is a selective estrogen receptor modulator (SERM), which means that it stimulates only certain estrogen receptors in the body: namely, the bones and the brain, excluding the womb and breast tissue. As a result, there is some question as to its safety for the breast tissue. Additionally, because of this, it should not be taken in conjunction with HRT.
As there are risks to consider, be sure to speak to your GP or another medical professional before taking black coshosh.
As with most homeopathic remedies, it’s currently unclear as to whether black cohosh is an effective treatment for the menopause. As there are risks to consider, be sure to speak to your GP or another medical professional before taking black coshosh. If you decide to take it, the recommendation is to take 20-40mg tablets twice a day (note: more than 900mg a day is considered an overdose). It is not recommended to take black cohosh for more than 6 months at a time, though it may take up to one month to start feeling the full benefits. Mild side effects include upset stomach, nausea and headaches – the lower the dose you take, the lower the risk. Again, the choice is yours! Plenty of women swear by black cohosh as a great remedy for hot flushes, night sweats, and mood swings, while others say it’s done nothing for them. Consider both the potential risks and potential benefits before taking!