While some people only know black cohosh (Actaea racemosa) as a wild flower used to beautify their landscapes, to others it is much more. This ornamental wildflower is one of the most popular herbal treatments for menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and anxiety. But the list of black cohosh benefits extends far deeper. Let’s start from the beginning.
Black Cohosh-An Overview
The black cohosh wildflower can be found in the eastern parts of North America. It grows as far north as Canada, and as far south as Georgia. It grows in partial shade and usually reaches around 3 feet in height and blooms in mid summer. Some other common names for black cohosh include rattle top, squaw root, rattleweed, black snakeroot, and bugbane.
The first known use of black cohosh was by the Native Americans. It was used to treat the symptoms of menopause, hot flashes, malaria, and for kidney problems. The Cherokee and the Iroquois are 2 tribes with a well documented history of using black cohosh.
The second group of people that are documented to have used black cohosh are the Eclectics, and black cohosh was listed in the American Eclectic Dispensatory which was published in 1854. It as used to treat a large quantity of ailments including muscle pain, nerve pain, and hot flashes.
Black cohosh extract was listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia until the year 1920. It is currently accepted today in Europe and Australia as a natural treatment for menopausal symptoms.
Black Cohosh for Menopausal Symptoms
In modern times, many clinical studies have been conducted that indicate the effectiveness of a black cohosh extract for nearly every symptom of menopause. In all of these studies, no severe side effects were found.
A randomized, placebo controlled study was conducted of 70 women suffering from severe menopausal symptoms. After 4 weeks of treatment, a significant improvement was noted in their mental and psychological well being based on the 14 point Hamilton Anxiety Scale. Symptoms of anxiety, depression, and fatigue were greatly reduced.
Another study was done on 85 women taking black cohosh. At the end of the study, the black cohosh group showed a significant decrease in the amount of sweating as opposed to the placebo group. The physiological reasons for this are still unclear. But this decrease in the number and severity of hot flashes was replicated in several other clinical studies.
In Germany, an open label study was done that demonstrated the ability of black cohosh extract to greatly reduce or eliminate many other common complaints of menopausal women including headaches, insomnia, ringing in the ears, weight gain, and heart palpitations, among others.
7 Other Benefits of Black Cohosh
While the above mentioned list of black cohosh benefits is by itself enough to classify this wildflower as a miracle herb, there is more. Some of these examples are accounts of traditional use by the Native Americans, some are from the United States Pharmacopoeia, and others are based on modern research. The thing these all have in common is that they are not directly related to menopausal symptoms
- Antioxidant Activity-These help protect cells from damaging free radicals, these free radicals can damage DNA if left unchecked.
- Sedative Effect-Black cohosh is known to be naturally calming.
- Anti-inflammatory-This medicinal herb has been shown to calm total body inflammation which is something that everybody needs.
- Helps with Labor-During the 19th century, black and blue cohosh were given to aid in delivery as well as to help induce labor.
- Respiratory Infections-The Native Americans used black cohosh extensively to treat colds and coughs.
- Kidney Function-This is yet another medicinal use discovered by the Native Americans as well as the Colonists.
- Diuretic -This is a use that is recommended by many modern practitioners.
While this article isn’t intended to suggest that everyone with any of these conditions should be taking black cohosh, it is good to know that so many other benefits come along with the package. It should be noted that black cohosh has not been studied in humans for periods longer than 6 months, or for pregnant or lactating women. But for some help getting through your menopausal years, this herb appears to be safe and effective.