Black Cohosh for Menopause Symptoms: Does It Really Work?

Black cohosh is an herbal supplement that also goes by the names black snakeroot or bugbane. It does have medicinal properties and is often used to treat things like menstrual cramps and PMS, or premenstrual syndrome. Some women also use black cohosh for menopause symptoms, but does it really work, and is it safe?

Basic Information

Scientists know that black cohosh contains substances called phytochemicals that affect the endocrine system, but how these substances work is still unclear. Black cohosh is used widely in the US, Germany, and in Australia, and it can be purchased over the counter without a prescription. It comes in several forms, including 20mg pills made from standardized extracts, roots, and tinctures. The only known side effect is stomach discomfort, which typically ranges from mild to moderate among those who use it daily.

What Do the Studies Say?

The majority of studies that have been conducted on the use of black cohosh for menopause symptoms produced mixed results. Some show that the supplement might relieve certain symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, and others suggest that it has little to no effect. In the positive studies, black cohosh not only relieved hot flashes in menopausal women, but it also helped treat the frequency and severity of night sweats and a variety of other sleep problems, such as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep.

Is Black Cohosh for Menopause Symptoms Safe?

Unfortunately, despite the popularity of black cohosh among American, German, and Australian women, there have been no long-term studies on its safety. If the suggestions made by the studies are true, then this shows that black cohosh has benefits that mimic estrogen therapy and may also have similar risks. What’s more, experts are not sure whether black cohosh causes liver problems with long-term use, and because of this, the supplements generally come with a warning label. Signs of liver damage include weakness, tiredness, yellowing of the skin or whites of theeyes, and loss of appetite.

How to Use Black Cohosh

Women who choose to utilize black cohosh for menopause symptoms should talk to their physicians about how to use it safely. Many women can use it for up to six months (and sometimes longer) with regular checkups to check for liver damage and changes in the body related to estrogen. Women who have breast cancer or uterine cancer, or those who are at risk for these cancers, should avoid using black cohosh. What’s more, it is important to follow the dosing directions on the bottle to avoid overdose, and women who are currently on hormone therapy of any kind should not use this supplement.

Before you decide to use black cohosh for menopause symptoms, be sure to check with your doctor to discuss the risks and benefits. In some cases, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy may be the best option, particularly for women who are at risk for certain cancers, who are prone to liver damage, or who do not receive ample relief from supplements.