A stark drop in oestrogen levels is responsible for bringing on the symptoms of menopause. Some researchers believe that Black Cohosh might exert its effects on menopausal symptoms through a brain-related action, such as modulation of serotonergic pathways, or through its potential ability to act as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, or selective oestrogen receptor modulator.
It has been extensively studied, with many results showing that Black Cohosh does indeed alleviate symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety and mood swings. In a German study involving 629 women, Black Cohosh improved physical and psychological menopausal symptoms in more than 80% of the participants within four weeks. In another study, 80 menopausal women were treated for 12 weeks with Black Cohosh extract, conjugated oestrogens or a placebo. Black Cohosh improved anxiety, menopause and vaginal symptoms. In addition, the number of hot flashes dropped from 5 to less than 1 average daily occurrence in the Black Cohosh group compared to those taking oestrogen in whom hot flashes dropped from 5 to 3.5 daily occurrences.
Whilst the jury is still out as to whether Black Cohosh has an oestrogenic effect, certain complex chemicals, especially triterpenes and flavonoids, are believed to be the active constituents. Some of these apparently act on the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain, to suppress the secretion of luteinizing hormone (LH). High levels of LH in the blood are often associated with menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, headaches, heart palpitations and drying and thinning of the vagina.
Black Cohosh can also have an impact on the hormonal balance of the body, making it useful to combat mood swings and stress brought about by PMS or the menopause.
This adaptable herb can be useful in managing erratic periods and/or easing cramps and uterine tension. It can also stimulate menstrual bleeding and improve uterine tone
The salicylic acid in Black Cohosh is responsible for its anti-inflammatory action. Salicylic acid is the base for the active ingredient in aspirin, making this herb an ideal natural alternative to take when you would normally reach for the painkillers. The anti-inflammatory nature of Black Cohosh makes it useful for arthritis, sore throats and even high blood pressure. It also works as a vasodilator, reducing stress on the cardiovascular system, thus contributing to the health of the heart.
The traditional use of Black Cohosh for period pains can be attributed to its ability to act as a powerful anti-spasmodic (relieving muscle cramps and aiding nerve function). This anti-spasmodic activity in conjunction with its natural analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties makes Black Cohosh a great herb for aches and pains related to muscle strain/injury or chronic nervous tension.
Folklore and history
Black Cohosh is a member of the buttercup family and is native to North America, where it has been used for centuries to treat pain, anxiety, inflammation, malaria and gynaecological problems.
Men would sometimes go to the shaman of their tribe and ask to be fueled with Black Cohosh before battle. It is said that those who took the Black Cohosh infusion became famous as fierce and magnificent warriors, and it may be for this reason that Black Cohosh is also known as Battleroot.
Early medical authors noted that use of this plant was learned from Native Americans. The importance of Black Cohosh as a medicinal plant was recognized in the first works on American herbs, dating back to 1801. The root was an official drug of the United States Pharmacopoeia from 1820 to 1926. In historical works, information on this herb can be found under several names. Early editions of the United States Pharmacopoeia gave its official name as "black snakeroot", a name that persisted in medical books into the 1890s.
Used for thousands of years by indigenous peoples of the Americas, the Black Cohosh root was a valuable herbal remedy for many complaints. It was primarily used to treat all manner of gynaecological problems including menopause symptoms, painful periods and difficult childbirth. Other uses included; sore throats, kidney problems and depression.
Black Cohosh Tincture: Take 2-4ml up to three times a day or as directed by a herbal practitioner.
Black Cohosh should not be used for more than 6 months at a time at normal doses.
Compounds found within the Black Cohosh root include: triterpene glycosides such as actein, 23-epi-26-deoxyactein, and cimicifugoside; resins, such as cimicifugin; and aromatic acid derivatives such as caffeic, isoferulic, and fukinolic acids.
Black Cohosh can cause some mild side effects such as stomach upset, cramping, headache, rash, a feeling of heaviness, vaginal spotting or bleeding and weight gain. There is also some concern that black cohosh may be associated with liver damage, particularly if used long term.
Do not take Black Cohosh if pregnant or lactating.
Consult your healthcare provider before using Black Cohosh if you are taking any form of medication, especially antidepressants or SSRI's.