Black Cohosh - Benefits for Women
Actaea racemosa, or more commonly, black cohosh grows in the central and eastern regions of the United States and Canada. A member of the buttercup family, it stands 4 to 8 feet tall and has white flowers (see photo).
Native Americans have used black cohosh for treating feminine issues such as cramping, vaginal dryness, and the hot flashes brought on my menopause. This herbal remedy can and has been used to induce labor, as well. For this reason, pregnant women are strongly cautioned not to take black cohosh. Aside from the obvious uses for female remedies, there are natural medicine experts that claim it is useful for treating muscular pain, stomach issues, arthritis, mood, sore throat and coughing.
Modern menopause information claims are that the extract stimulates (or simulates - as reports are mixed) estrogen production. Other reports are claiming this is not the case at all. The mixed reviews are typical of reports regarding herbal remedies, so one has to balance caution with personal experience.
Though the United States has not officially evaluated black cohosh, it has been commonly prescribed in European countries for over 50 years.
Following are some my personal experiences with black cohosh, common dosages, warnings and side-effects:
Personal Experience with Black Cohosh
Specific Product and dosage
Nature's Answer Black Cohosh Single Herb Supplement - One 50 mg. capsule once daily.
I started taking black cohosh on the recommendation of an herbalist who told me that it has been shown to be beneficial to women even before they go into menopause. It is her claim that black cohosh balances hormones and has even been shown to affect mood in a positive manner.
I'm 39 years old and have not begun menopause, nor do I think I am perimenopausal as my cycle is as regular as it has always been.
What I've noticed in the last few weeks of taking black cohosh:
- My libido, which has been low for several months, has definitely increased and there aren't any environmental or social factors that have recently changed.
- My skin is softer and has more natural moisture. This is not one of the reported effects of black cohosh, but if it does indeed have something to do with estrogen, it could be the reason for my great looking (and feeling) skin!
- I did not experience the cramping I have always experienced during my menses. Until this last month, I have always had to take pain killers during my period. This time, I did not experience cramping.
- The clotting that has been a "normal" part of my periods since the onset of puberty was not an issue.
- Typically, I have a couple of emotional days at the beginning of my period. I have never really had to use a calendar as I could pinpoint accurately by my mood. When I started to cry over little things, I would know my period would start the next day. This time, I did not experience that at all.
- I have had some minor headaches since starting black cohosh, but these have gone away within an hour or so without being debilitating.
- One of the possible side effects of black cohosh is weight gain. I have been watching my diet lately and have lost a few pounds while on black cohosh.
Black Cohosh: Dosage and Cautions
The typical dosing of the root is 40 to 200 mg., two times a day.
Possible Side Effects:
- weight gain
- excessive sweating
There have been indications that excessive doses can cause harmful side-effects, including liver problems, heart palpitations, low blood pressure and seizure. Dosage instructions should be strictly followed.
If you have a history of liver problems or you notice jaundice (a yellowing of the skin and/or eyes), darkened urine or abdominal pain, you should stop taking black cohosh immediately and see your doctor.
As with any type of herb, food or medication, results do vary by the individual. It may work splendidly for some while wreaking havoc on the health of another.
Black cohosh may interfere with hormone-based birth control and with other forms of hormonal treatments.
It has been shown to interfere with certain chemotherapy drugs.
It should not be taken during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
Beware of similar names or appearance of herbs such as white cohosh, blue cohosh, white baneberry, or sheng ma. White and blue cohosh are dangerously toxic.
As with any other supplement or drug, be sure to tell your doctor that you are taking black cohosh in order to avoid possible negative effects of drug interactions.
References and Resources
- ACS :: Black Cohosh
Reports of possible interactions between cancer drugs and black cohosh and information regarding black cohosh's effect in treating reproductive cancers.
- Black Cohosh - What You Need to Know About Black Cohosh
What is black cohosh? Why do people use black cohosh? What are the side effects and safety concerns?
- Black Cohosh Herbal Medicine Use, Black Cohosh Pictures
Black cohosh, herbal use, picture, how to grow Black Cohosh
- Black Cohosh [NCCAM Herbs at a Glance]
Basic information on black cohosh, including common names, uses, potential side effects, and resources to learn more. From the U.S. National Institutes of Health.