Black cohosh is an herb that is used to help alleviate the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. Although it is not clear as to how exactly it works, it is thought that the herb has estrogen-like effects. Some of the possible side effects of black cohosh include headaches, weight gain, and an upset stomach.
It is not clear how exactly black cohosh works. It contains several different active compounds. Because it is most often used for menopause symptoms, it is thought that the herb's activity is related to estrogen. While black cohosh seems to work like estrogen (it has many actions similar to estrogen), research suggests that it does not bind to estrogen receptors and does not increase the number of estrogen receptors. Therefore, it is not known how or why this supplement has estrogen-like effects.
Is It Effective?
Many studies have evaluated the effectiveness of black cohosh for treating the symptoms of menopause, and the results have been mixed. Some studies indicated that it worked well, while other studies suggested that it was no more effective than a placebo (a "sugar pill" that does not contain any active ingredients).
There is not enough evidence to evaluate the effectiveness of this supplement for any other use.
Written by/reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last reviewed by: KristiMonson, PharmD;
List of references (click here):
Jellin JM, editor. Pharmacist's Letter/Prescriber's Letter Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Web site. Available at: http://naturaldatabase.com/. Accessed January 8, 2008.
National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. National Institutes of Health. Herbs at a glance: black cohosh (July 2005). NCCAM Web site. http://nccam.nih.gov/health/blackcohosh/. Accessed January 8, 2008.
Office of Dietary Supplements. National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine. National Institutes of Health. Questions and answers about black cohosh and the symptoms of menopause (June 2006). NCCAM Web site. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/BlackCohosh.asp/. Accessed January 8, 2008.
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