During the past 40 years, millions of American women have taken synthetic hormones to alleviate menopausal symptoms and to avert diseases like osteoporosis, heart disease (and more recently for Alzheimer's), which usually have their onset after menopause. But in July 2002, the Journal of the American Medical Association reported that a large-scale study of HRT-known as the Women's Health Initiative (WHI)-was halted when it was found that the increased risk of breast and uterine cancers, heart attack, and blood clots associated with HRT far outweighed any benefits the therapy might provide.
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Additionally, in May of 2003, the WHI Memory Study reported that women older than 65 who used "estrogen" plus progestin doubled their risk of developing dementia. It's important to note that the WHI study used synthetic hormone-like drugs. The medical establishment calls them "hormones," but the molecules used are not identical to those normally found in a woman's body. Because of this, it did not surprise us in the least that there turned out to be serious side effects.
In contrast, the use of natural hormones, or bio-identical hormones like natural progesterone, still appears to be safe.
The good news is recent studies have shown that black cohosh provides relief equal to synthetic-HRT for menopausal symptoms … without any side effects.
Scientists have assumed that black cohosh worked as a phytoestrogen, or natural plant-based estrogen. Just very recently, however, several studies were published indicating that black cohosh is not a phytoestrogen—meaning it does not produce estrogenic effects—and is therefore considered VERY safe for all women who want to reduce menopausal symptoms safely without worrying about the potentially bad effects of estrogen.
Menopause is a natural phase of life
Most American women reach menopause between the ages of 45 to 55, but menopause-like symptoms can begin at least ten years earlier. "Menopause is often heralded by the onset of a change in menstrual flow or skipped menstrual periods, "says Christiane Northrup, M.D., bestselling author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom (Bantam Books, July 1994), and The Wisdom of Menopause (Bantam Books, July 2001), and a past president of the American Holistic Medical Association. "Some women simply stop having periods and have no symptoms whatsoever. Others experience hot flashes, vaginal dryness, decreased libido, and fuzzy thinking," she adds.
It is these annoying problems that have given menopause its bad reputation. Furthermore, studies have shown that the onset of menopause can contribute to a higher risk of heart disease and a decline in bone density. So, what's a woman to do?
Black cohosh has been used as a female tonic for hundreds of years
Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) was used by Europeans and numerous Native American tribes for "female problems" long before the New World was settled. Native Americans also used it for arthritis, diarrhea and snake bites, as well as coughs and other pulmonary conditions.1
Black cohosh was first listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia in 1830 under the name black snakeroot, and was introduced to the medical community in 1844 when Dr. John King prescribed it for rheumatism and nervous disorders. It was a prominent herb in midwifery practice, and the Eclectic Physicians used it in the mid-nineteenth century for a number of Ob/Gyn problems including endometriosis, menstrual irregularities, sterility, uterine prolapse, after-birth pains, and to allay miscarriage and increase breast milk production.
And, during the past 40 years, black cohosh has been used in Europe as an herbal pharmaceutical by more than 1.5 million women, and scientific research has recently demonstrated that black cohosh is a promising therapy for menopausal symptoms.2
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This article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Always consult with a physician before embarking on a dietary supplement program.
Foster S. Black cohosh: for ease in menopause. The Herb Companion, 1998, Aug-Sep:63-65.
Cimicifuga racemosa - Monograph. Altern Med Rev. 2003 May;8(2):186-189. [No authors listed]
Guthrie, J., et al. Hot flushes, menstrual status, and hormone levels in a population-based sample of midlife women. Obstetrics & Gynecology 1996; 88, 437-442.
Seidlova-Wuttke D, Hesse O, Jarry H, Christoffel V, Spengler B, Becker T, Wuttke W. Evidence for selective estrogen receptor modulator activity in a black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) extract: comparison with estradiol-17beta. Eur J Endocrinol. 2003 Oct;149(4):351-62.
Nisslein T, Freudenstein J. Effects of an isopropanolic extract of Cimicifuga racemosa on urinary crosslinks and other parameters of bone quality in an ovariectomized rat model of osteoporosis. J Bone Miner Metab. 2003;21(6):370-6.
Burdette JE, Liu J, Chen SN, Fabricant DS, Piersen CE, Barker EL, Pezzuto JM, Mesecar A, Van Breemen RB, Farnsworth NR, Bolton JL. Black cohosh acts as a mixed competitive ligand and partial agonist of the serotonin receptor. J Agric Food Chem. 2003 Sep 10;51(19):5661-70.
Kligler B. Black cohosh. Am Fam Physician. 2003 Jul 1;68(1):114-6.