Black Cohosh: An Effective Natural Remedy for Menopausal Symtpoms
History and Claims
This herbal goes by many names. These include: Black Cohosh, Cimicifuga Racemosa, Squaw Root, Rattle Snake Root and Black Snake Root. It does NOT go by the name Snake Root, this is an unrelated herbal--Aristolochia Serpentaria. If a woman chooses to use it, she will most likely buy it under its brand name of Remifemin. This comes in drops or tablets.
Black Cohosh has been used by Native Americans, Europeans, and Chinese for centuries.
Native Americans used it for a wide variety of female problems. They used it to restore normal menstrual function, to return a woman to her pre-pregnancy state after birth, and for menopause. It has been described as "hormone-like" and a mild euphoric by some. It has scientific evidence to support its effect on improving blood pressure. In addition, it has many claims that were not investigated for the purposes of this article. These claims include: its use as an astringent, an anti-diarrheal, a water pill, and a cough suppressant/expectorant. It is also believed to improve heart rate, increase sweating, and be an antidote to rattlesnake poison.
Chemistry and Pharmacology of Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga Racemosa or Reminfemin)
It is classified as a phytoestrogen. It is from the plant family N.O. Ranunculaceae. The active components of the natural form include: acetin, cimicifugioside, acetylacteal, 27-deoxyactin, cimigenol, deoxyacetylateal. The processed forms also include isoterulic and salicylic acid (the main ingredient is aspirin).
It is not known exactly how it works. But studies on animals and women have shown that its various components act on the hormonal system in at various levels. Some do bind to estrogen receptors in the body. It causes LH, but not FSH suppression. (Estrogens cause both to be suppresed, when they both rise they are signs of menopause) . Some studies have found it to cause an increase in vaginal epithelium that is superior to estrogen replacment.
The Scientific Evidence For Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga Racemosa or Reminfemin) For Menopausal Symptom Relief
Most of the studies done used the Remifemin version of the herb. Many of the studies were done by the manufacturer of Remifemin.
Studies compared Black Cohosh to Estrogen Replacement (for physical and psychological symptoms) and valium (for psychological only), and to women not taking anything. In more than one study, black cohosh has been found to improve a myriad of physical and mood symptoms in the menopausal women who took it. Women who took it did as well as those who took estrogen or valium, and better than those who took nothing.
Black Cohosh was not found to cause any of the side effects commonly associated with hormone replacement. While it is reported that nausea and vomiting can be due to overdose, no evidence of discontinuation due to side effects was found. Over 93% of women in one study reported no side effects.
Black Cohosh is not associated with increased breast cancer rates, nor dysfunctional uterine bleeding. It is not habit-forming. It does not interact with other medications. It is considered non-toxic.
Using Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga Racemosa or Reminfemin) For Menopausal Symptom Relief
As mentioned Remifemin is the processed and packaged version and the one most studied. It comes in liquid (take 40 drops, two times a day) or tablets (take 2 tablets twice a day). Other regimens include: the fluid extract U.S.P -- 15 to 30 drops, the fluid extract B.P. -- 5 to 30 drops, tincture U.S.P. -- 1 drachm, tincture B.P. -- 15 to 60 drops, Cimicifugin -- 1 to 6 grains, and powdered extract, U.S.P. -- 4 grains.
Results have been found in as little as four weeks of use, but six to eight was more common. Twelve weeks is the point were a woman might discontinue the herb if it hasn't worked by that time. While there is no documentation of adverse effects with long-term use, this practice has not been closely studied. Therefore, some have suggested a 6 month limit on its usage.