For some women, taking hormone replacement therapy is not an ideal solution for dealing with menopause symptoms. Alternative therapies such as black cohosh are gaining increased attention among those women who prefer to take natural remedies. Black cohosh may not work for everyone, and there are side effects to consider. But for women leery of or unable to tolerate hormone replacement therapy, black cohosh offers menopausal women what previous generations have been denied for years – a choice.
What is black cohosh?
Black cohosh is an herb that is part of the buttercup family and is native to North America. It has been used as a dietary supplement in the United States but more recently has shown to help reduce the effects of some menopause symptoms. Black cohosh preparations are made from the roots and stems of the plants where the higher concentrations of extract are believed to help women during peri-menopause and menopause.
Sometimes black cohosh is called rattleweed, black snakeroot, bugbane, and bugwort; bugs avoid these plants and that is where some of these off-putting names derive from.
What does it do?
Black cohosh has been shown to contain isoflavones which are believed to be estrogen-like substances. Taking black cohosh is thought to be similar to taking traditional estrogen; both of these treatments help to deal with the decreasing estrogen levels in the body during menopause. In reality, the effects of black cohosh are still not fully understood because only recently have extensive studies been conducted to determine the remedy’s effects. Longer term studies will help researchers better understand how black cohosh works and its effectiveness.
For the most part, researchers indicate that for some women black cohosh helps reduce discomfort from hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings. Working in the same way as estrogen, black cohosh acts as a ‘replacement’ of estrogen to help balance out the hormonal levels. Both traditional hormone replacement therapies and natural alternative are used for short term periods when women are going through moderate to severe menopausal symptoms.
Aside from relieving those annoying hot flashes, black cohosh is thought to provide the same benefits as estrogen. Estrogen loss increases risks for developing osteoporosis, type two diabetes, and heart disease. One problem with understanding the full black cohosh story is the lack of detailed long term studies to monitor women during and after treatment.
Early reports indicate that there are relatively few side effects due to black cohosh compared to estrogen therapies. The most common side effects are headaches and upset stomachs. Women concerned about the side effects associated with estrogen such as increased risk of breast cancer can look into a natural alternative that will work the same way as estrogen.
When to avoid black cohosh
Some women should avoid black cohosh. Those with liver disease or disorders should not take black cohosh. Women taking black cohosh who experience unusual abdominal pain, dark colored or bloody urine, or yellow (jaundice) skin must seek out medical attention immediately.
Women who are pregnant or those who have breast cancer should also avoid black cohosh as there simply have not been enough studies conducted to determine additional side effects.
Today, women have more options to choose from when deciding upon treatments for menopausal and peri-menopausal symptoms. Black cohosh is a natural remedy that may provide relief and is an alternative for women unable to tolerate hormone replacement therapy.
Consulting with a healthcare professional is a must when exploring the myriad of natural and traditional options for dealing with menopause.
To learn more about black cohosh and to read about some of the early findings, please visit:
Menopause, Your Doctor, and You