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Black Cohosh: Nature’s Estrogen Replacement?

In the last few decades, after clinical studies cast shadows on hormone replacement therapy to treat many of the symptoms of menopause, the medical establishment and millions of women have associated HRT with health concerns such as cancer and heart disease. With this in mind, many women have looked for alternative and all-natural forms of treatment for menopause. One of the more popular treatments women have turned to is the herb black cohosh.

HFN 087 BlackCohosh 1 F26380435What is Black Cohosh?
Black cohosh, a plant native to North America, is a member of the buttercup family. The part of the plant used for medicine is its roots. Before being used as an alternative treatment method for the symptoms of menopause, black cohosh has also been employed to ease arthritis, muscle pain, malaria, constipation, hives, backaches, and kidney and gynecological disorders.

It is thought that black cohosh contains material that can be categorized as a functional mimetic. In other words, while it is not a hormone itself, it mimics the role that a hormone would play inside the body. Since menopausal symptoms are triggered when estrogen levels fluctuate in the body, it makes sense that replacing, or at least mimicking, estrogen would relieve the symptoms of menopause.

The most common commercially available form of black cohosh is Remifemin®, which supplies the extract of the herb in pill form.

There is much disagreement regarding the use of black cohosh as a viable treatment for the symptoms of menopause. In 2010, scientists and researchers concluded that black cohosh was able to improve menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, by a rate of 26 percent. The findings were in conflict with another study that had been completed the year before. That study consisted of 16 separate studies of the relationship between black cohosh and the symptoms of menopause. When the study ended, results were not conclusive.

Concerns and Side Effects
There are several side effects that a woman can experience while taking black cohosh to treat menopause. Possible side effects include:

Low Blood Pressure
Nausea and Vomiting
Heavy Sweating
Weight Gains
Irregular Heartbeat

Currently there have been no studies regarding the safety of black cohosh in pregnant or breastfeeding women, and it should be avoided in these situations unless advised by a healthcare professional. Some nurse-midwives believe it has the ability to induce labor, but again, its use should be avoided without the supervision of a healthcare professional, as black cohosh has been known to cause uterine contractions, which can end with miscarriage.

No matter what your situation is, make sure to always consult a doctor before embarking on any type of treatment program. Each person is different, and only your doctor can evaluate your specific situation and prescribe the safest, most effective treatment plan. ♀

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