I was upset to see news of a recent study conducted at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern University that concluded that placebo is better than black cohosh and red clover at reducing menopause symptoms like hot flashes. While I acknowledge that red clover has not been studied enough to conclude that it helps relieve certain effects of menopause, I completely disagree with their black cohosh findings. In fact, I have been recommending black cohosh for many years and my patients have experienced great relief from hot flashes, night sweats, and other effecs of menopause.
Black cohosh, native to North America, is derived from the dried rootstock and roots of Cimicifuga racemosa. Traditionally it was used to treat rheumatism, general malaise, kidney ailments, and malaria as well as to provide pain relief during menstruation and childbirth. Native Americans have used the herb throughout history to treat a wide variety of gynecological conditions.
Clinical studies have shown that black cohosh extract not only relieves menopause hot flashes, but also depression and vaginal atrophy. This research has prompted well-publicized studies on the standardized extract of black cohosh and its ability to treat menopause symptoms.
In one of the largest studies on black cohosh, women with menopause symptoms received forty 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 menopause symptoms either high- or low-dose black cohosh for a twelve 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.
The only good news that came from this newest study from the University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern University is that black cohosh won’t hurt you and is considered safe. Well, this is GREAT news indeed, considering the only FDA-approved treatment for menopause symptoms–hormone replacement therapy–is dreadfully dangerous and increases your risk of heart disease, cancer (particularly breast cancer), stroke, and other serious problems. So if you have menopause hot flashes, night sweats, or other menopause symptoms, why not try a natural treatment that has been proven safe? I suggest taking 40 to 80 mg of a standardized extract of black cohosh twice a day. This dose should contain 2 to 4 mg of the active components (triterpenes, calculated as 27-deoxyacteine).