Black Cohosh

Nutritional Compound

OVERVIEW

Summary

This perennial plant found in the U.S. and Canada was historically used by the Native Americans to treat female conditions, rheumatism, and snakebites. Although the herb had been used for hundreds of years as a female tonic, it wasn’t until the 1900’s that black cohosh was accepted as an alternative to hormone therapy for menopausal ailments. It was at this point when more studies started showing black cohosh may reduce the symptoms of hot flashes and elevate mood in menopausal women.

Other names for Black Cohosh

Cimicifuga racemosa, black snake root, rattle root, bugbane

Where to find Black Cohosh

This plant is native to forests in both the U.S. and Canada. Native Americans often used black cohosh to help relieve gynecological problems and rattlesnake bites.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Why athletes use Black Cohosh

A female athlete may consider using this if she is suffering from menstrual problems or if she is looking for an alternative to hormone-replacement therapy at the onset of menopause.

HEALTH BENEFITS

Signs of Black Cohosh deficiency

No deficiency conditions are known to exist.

Potential uses for Black Cohosh

Research indicates that Black Cohosh may be useful in the treatment of:

  • Menstrual pain
  • Menopause

DISCUSSION

More about Black Cohosh

This perennial plant found in the U.S. and Canada was historically used by the Native Americans to treat female conditions, rheumatism, and snakebite. Although the herb had been used for hundreds of years as a female tonic, it wasn’t until the 1900’s — in particular, the 1950’s — that black cohosh was accepted as an alternative to hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms. It was at this point when more studies started suggesting black cohosh may reduce the symptoms of hot flashes and elevate mood in menopausal women.

Thought to be so effective for menopausal symptoms, it’s actually used in a German over-the-counter product called Remifemin. In 1985, German researchers found that black cohosh produced an effect on serum concentrations of pituitary hormone levels, including a reduction of luteinizing hormone, significant because hot flashes are associated with a rise in the release of luteinizing hormone. The study finally provided a way to measure estrogenic effects of black cohosh. A follow-up study failed to identify a single component responsible for the luteinizing hormone-suppressing activity. This led researchers to conclude that numerous components in black cohosh are responsible for its effects.

Further studies in 1987 did a direct comparison with estrogen-replacement therapy and black cohosh for 3 months with 80 women. The women taking black cohosh responded well and showed significant improvements in their mood and other symptoms of menopause. The author concluded that black cohosh not only produced safe and effective results, but compared to estrogen-replacement therapy, it is suitable as a treatment of choice in menopausal symptoms.

In conclusion

Although black cohosh has no performance benefits as such, it could prove very beneficial to both active and sedentary females alike to relieve menstrual problems or symptoms of menopause.

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount

Black cohosh is available in raw herb (up to 2 grams per day can be taken), tablet (up to 100 mg per day), and tincture (up to 12 ml per day). Use for no more than six months at a time.

Timing

There is no preferred timing to consume black cohosh.

Synergists of Black Cohosh

Black cohosh is often found in menopausal formulas with other herbs, such as licorice.

Toxicity of Black Cohosh

No serious side effects have been documented with recommended levels of black cohosh. Some patients taking above the recommended amounts have reported dizziness, headache, and abdominal pain. Do not use if you are pregnant or breast feeding.

Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Duker, E.M., et al., “Effects of Extracts from Cimicifuga racemosa on Gonadotropin Release in Menopausal Women and Overiectomized Rats,” Planta Medica 57.5 (1991) : 420-4.
  • Jarry, H., et al., “The Endocrine Effects of Constituents of Cimicifuga racemosa. 2. In Vitro Binding of Constituents to Estrogen Receptors,” Planta Med 4 (1985) : 316-9.
  • Lieberman, S., “A Review of the Effectiveness of Cimicifuga racemosa (Black Cohosh) for the Symptoms of Monopause,” J Women’s Health 7.5 (1998) : 525-30.
  • Taylor, M., “Alternatives to Hormone Replacement Therapy,” Comprehensive Therapy 23 (1997) : 514-32.