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Black Cohosh - Menopause Remedy?

Black Cohosh and Night Sweats, Hot Flashes and More

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Updated October 14, 2008

Black cohosh is an herb that has a long history of use in traditional medicine but had gained popularity as a remedy for the symptoms of menopause. Black cohosh is native to North America and is used in Native American medicine. Other names for black cohosh include black snakeroot, macrotys, bugbane, bugwort, rattleroot and rattleweed.

Health Benefits of Black Cohosh

In the past, black cohosh was used as a home remedy for pains in the muscles and joints. Now, it has become the herbal remedy of choice for menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. Black cohosh is also used for other menstrual and vaginal symptoms such as dryness and PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome). Generally, black cohosh is taken as a strong tea, but extracts and capsules are also available.

Does Black Cohosh Work For Menopause Symptoms?

Hard to say. Short studies (less than 6 months) have shown mixed results. The best of those studies showed that black cohosh did not relieve hot flashes or night sweats. Researchers are still looking into the possibilities, though.

Cautions and Side Effects of Black Cohosh

First, black cohosh was used traditionally to induce labor. Pregnant women should avoid any use of black cohosh. Other side effects include headaches, stomach pains and weight gain. Women who have had breast cancer should avoid black cohosh until more safety data is gathered. Black cohosh has not been found to interact with medications.

The Bottom Line on Black Cohosh

The bottom line here is a big “no” for pregnant women and women who have had breast cancer. For other women, a cautious “maybe” but only after consulting with a doctor. If your goal is to get rid of hot flashes and night sweats, there may be other more effective options available to you.

Source: National Institutes of Health, National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Herbs at a Glance.

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