Menopause comes with a variety of symptoms that can be disruptive and frustrating, and hot flashes are at the top of the list. Menopausal hormone therapy is a good option for some women, but it’s not recommended for those who have heart disease or history of breast cancer. Women who either can’t or choose not to undergo hormone therapy often turn to alternative treatments like black cohosh. This herbal supplement is relatively cheap and easy to purchase, but does black cohosh for hot flashes actually work?
What is black cohosh?
Black cohosh supplements come from the roots of the plant by the same name, and have been used in traditional medicine for several centuries. Sometimes called black bugbane or black snakeroot, past uses of the herb include repelling insects, treating rheumatism, and lowering blood pressure. Since becoming popular in Europe in the mid-20th century, black cohosh is mostly used to treat symptoms associated with menopause and menstruation.
What does black cohosh do in the body?
Scientists aren’t fully aware of how black cohosh behaves in the body. It was once thought to influence estrogen, but studies appear to have disproven this theory.
Another possibility that’s been investigated is the effect of black cohosh on serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in regulating mood as well as temperature. Antidepressants that make serotonin more available in the body are sometimes used as an alternative to menopausal hormone therapy, and black cohosh could present a natural version of this treatment course.
Does Black Cohosh for Hot Flashes Work?
Studies show mixed results in using black cohosh to treat hot flashes and symptoms of menopause. In rigorous double blind studies (where the participants and experimenters don’t know who is receiving which treatment or placebo), the herbal supplement has found to be about as effective as a placebo.
Are there any downsides to trying black cohosh?
One of the biggest problems with taking herbal supplements is that it’s difficult to know what you’re getting. Because the FDA isn’t required to test supplement products to see if they contain what’s claimed, what’s in a bottle of black cohosh — or any herbal supplement — is a bit of a mystery.
Potential Side Effects
Black cohosh appears to be relatively safe, but most studies only look at its effects for up to one year. Taking the supplement for longer could result in side effects that haven’t been reported yet.
The most concerning side effect associated with black cohosh is reported liver toxicity. But studies have been unable to find evidence of liver damage caused by the supplement. Investigations into liver damage suspected to be from black cohosh supplements revealed the supplements in question actually contained a different plant species instead of black cohosh.
Many drugs and herbal supplements have to potential to cause liver toxicity. Whether true black cohosh is the culprit, the uncertain nature of herbal products means anyone taking them should look out for the signs of liver toxicity:
- Yellowing of skin and eyes (jaundice)
- Upper right abdominal pain
Black cohosh may lower blood pressure or increase the risk of bleeding, and shouldn’t be taken along with drugs that already produce these effects. Anyone taking blood thinners, NSAIDs, or blood pressure medication should consult with their doctor before taking black cohosh.
Prescription Menopause Treatments
If remedies like black cohosh don’t improve hot flashes, your doctor might prescribe a hormone treatment like Premarin or Vagifem to help treat your symptoms. For women who are uninsured or without prescription drug coverage, this course of action can add up to huge yearly costs. RxConnected.com presents a reliable alternative to buying from your local pharmacy, offering drugs at significantly lower costs delivered right to your door. Click here to search for your prescription medications, and place an online order at your convenience.
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