Black Cohosh Root Cimicifuga racemosa for Hot Flashes

In Germany, this herb has been used for more than 40 years by more than 1.5 million women. Based on my clinical experience with clients and the findings from controlled scientific studies, black cohosh is definitely the most promising herbal remedy for treating menopausal hot flashes. In fact, many randomized controlled trials have found black cohosh to be just as effective as estrogen therapy at relieving flashes.3 The advantage black cohosh offers is that it doesn’t have the uncomfortable side effects associated with hormone therapy. And studies in the lab have found that black cohosh dramatically inhibits the growth of breast cancer cells, unlike estrogen, which promotes such cell growth.

Exactly how the herb works is currently under scientific debate. Researchers don’t believe it acts like estrogen. Instead, black cohosh is thought to exert its effect by interacting with certain brain receptors. Black cohosh contains naturally occurring compounds called triterpene glycosides that are thought to be responsible for the plant’s effect.

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Buy a product that is standardized to contain 2.5 percent triterpene glycosides. Standardization means that each pill is guaranteed to give you a certain amount of the active ingredient. Take one 40-milligram tablet twice daily. The specific black cohosh that was used in virtually all of the scientific research is sold under the name Remifemin®. This product is sold as a 20-milligram tablet, since a recent study showed that a lower dose of the herb is equally effective. It may take up to four weeks for you to notice an effect. The only potential side effect that’s been reported in a small number of women is mild stomach upset and headache. Black cohosh should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Today there are many menopausal supplements sold in pharmacies and health food stores. These products combine a number of herbs known to ease a variety of peri-menopausal symptoms. You might decide to give one of these products a try instead of taking black cohosh alone. One product relatively new to America is Kyolic® Estro-Logic™. This supplement contains standardized black cohosh, soy isoflavones and a number of other herbs supportive to menopause. A gynecologist, Dr. Kathleen Fry, and a medical herbalist, Claudia Wingo, developed it. The product is currently being studied in a trial of 100 menopausal women. Preliminary findings look promising. The herbal combination appears to be effective at easing a number of common menopausal complaints, including hot flashes. Other brands include Menopause Multiple and Menopause Formula.

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