By R. Morgan Griffin
Reviewed By David Kiefer, MD
For centuries, the roots of
the North American black cohosh plant have been used for various ailments.
Black cohosh is now a popular remedy for the symptoms of menopause. This has
been especially true since the risks of a standard treatment for menopause --
hormone therapy -- were publicized in 2002.
Why do people take black
Black cohosh is most often
used to control the symptoms of menopause, such as:
- Hot flashes
- Mood changes
- Sleep problems
- Heart palpitations
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
Some studies have found
evidence that black cohosh does help with these symptoms. However, many experts
consider the evidence unclear and say that we need more research.
Other uses of black cohosh
have less scientific support. Women sometimes take it to regulate periods, ease
PMS symptoms, and induce labor. Black cohosh has also been used to relieve
arthritis pain and help lower blood pressure. There are some preliminary
laboratory studies showing that black cohosh may be useful in preventing or
treating prostate cancer. Definitive research has not verified black cohosh's
effectiveness for these uses.
How much black cohosh should
For menopausal symptoms, the
dose of black cohosh used in studies has been 20-40 milligrams tablets of a
standardized extract taken twice a day. More than 900 milligrams a day of black
cohosh is considered an overdose. There is some reference in studies to
tinctures of black cohosh, with a dose range of 2-4 milliliters daily.
Directions for taking black cohosh in other forms will vary. Some experts say
that no one should take black cohosh for more than six months at a time.
Can you get black cohosh
naturally from foods?
There are no food sources
for black cohosh.
What are the risks of taking
from black cohosh include headaches and upset stomach. Side effects usually occur
at high doses. There have been some people who may have developed liver
problems after using black cohosh, the specifics of which are still being
investigated. Nonetheless, people with pre-existing liver problems, or those
taking any other medication/substance that affects the liver, should either
avoid black cohosh or check in with their health care provider prior to use.
Risks. Black Cohosh may not be safe
Women who are pregnant
(although it is sometimes used to induce labor)
Women who have -- or have
had -- breast cancer or uterine cancer
Women who have endometriosis
Children under 18
People with liver disease, a
high risk of stroke or blood clots, or seizure disorders
People with allergies to
taking birth control pills, hormone replacement therapy, sedatives, or blood
pressure medicine should not take black cohosh without the approval of their
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