Excerpt from Dr. Susan Lark’s Healing Herbs for Women
One of the most effective of the estrogen-like herbs is black cohosh. Native to America, black cohosh was well known and accepted in Native American herbal medicine and was widely prescribed in colonial times as a treatment for menstrual cramps and menopausal symptoms.
The effectiveness and safety of black cohosh are well documented. Clinical studies have shown that black cohosh reduces PMS symptoms such as mood swings, anxiety, tension, and depression. It also relieves the symptoms of pain and discomfort due to menstrual cramps. Other studies have focused on the symptoms of menopause and have found that black cohosh relieved hot flashes, night sweats, heart palpitations, headaches, and vaginal dryness and atrophy. It is also effective in relieving other symptoms such as depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and a decline in libido. Black cohosh is considered a safe and effective therapy.
Currently, in Germany, a special extract of black cohosh is the most thoroughly studied and widely used natural alternative to hormone replacement therapy. This research has prompted at least six well-publicized studies on the standardized extract of black cohosh and its ability to treat menopausal symptoms. According to a review of five key studies on black cohosh from the American Journal of Medicine, black cohosh is most effective at easing hot flashes.
In one of the largest studies on black cohosh, women with menopausal complaints received 40 drops of liquid black cohosh extract twice a day for six to eight weeks. Within four weeks of treatment, a distinct improvement was seen in nearly 80 percent of the women. After six to eight weeks, all symptoms had completely disappeared in half of the women.
Another study found similar results. Scientists gave women with menopausal symptoms either high- or low-dose black cohosh for a 12-week period. At the conclusion of the study, approximately 80 percent of both patients and physicians rated the treatment as “good to very good.” The investigators reported no differences in either effectiveness or adverse reactions between the two groups.
Other studies have focused on black cohosh and its relationship to breast cancer. One in particular concluded that black cohosh actually inhibits the growth rate of breast cancer cells due to the herb’s lack of estrogen-like effects in certain breast cancer cell lines whose growth is dependent upon estrogen.
Laboratory experiments have shown that black cohosh inhibits the effects of estrogen induced stimulation and actually binds to those receptors. By doing so, it does not increase production of endometrial cells, nor does it change the makeup of vaginal cells. Also, it does not exert estrogen-like effects on the endometrium or breast, nor does it exhibit any toxic, mutagenic, or carcinogenic properties.
Given its apparent safety, I consider black cohosh a safe therapy for women who suffer from the acute symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, sleeplessness, vaginal dryness and mood swings. I am particularly fond of Klimadynon from BioNorica. Compelling research from several different journals, including Maturitas: The European Menopause Journal and Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society has shown that Klimadynon (CR BNO 1055) safely and effectively eases hot flashes and night sweats, promotes plumping of the vaginal wall, decreases vaginal dryness, and even promoted bone growth. Moreover, Klimadynon did not cause proliferation of the uterine lining or of breast cells. This means that it, very likely, does not increase your risk of uterine or breast cancer.
I think that it is important to mention, however, that a recent study from the Australian Adverse Drug Reactions Bulletin found that, in rare instances, black cohosh can cause liver toxicity. More common and minor effects include occasional gastrointestinal disturbances, headaches, heaviness in the legs, and possible weight problems. There are no known drug interactions and the only contraindication is in pregnancy, with the possibility of premature birth due to overdose.
Additionally, an article in the Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry found that some three of 11 tested black cohosh supplements didn’t even contain the herb! Instead, they contained less expensive extracts of a similar Chinese herb. To be sure this doesn’t happen to you, I suggest buying black cohosh from a reputable retailer or look for BioNorica’s Klimadynon brand.
Suggested Dosage: To treat your menopausal symptoms safely and effectively, I suggest taking 40–80 mg of a standardized extract of black cohosh such as Klimadynon twice a day. This dose should contain 2 to 4 mg of the active components (triterpenes, calculated as 27-deoxyacteine). You should see results within four weeks. In my practice, I have seen women experience relief from hot flashes and mood swings in as little as two days to one week.
For more information about black cohosh or other herbs with estrogen-like effects, see my book Dr. Susan Lark’s Healing Herbs for Women available on Amazon, Amazon Kindle, and Womens Wellness Publishing.