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Black cohosh is an herb. The root of this herb is used for medicinal purposes. Black cohosh was first used for medicinal purposes by Native American Indians, who introduced it to European colonists. Black cohosh became a popular treatment for women’s health issues in Europe in the mid-1950s.
Since that time, black cohosh has commonly been used to treat symptoms of menopause, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), painful menstruation, acne, weakened bones (osteoporosis), and for starting labor in pregnant women.
Black cohosh has also been tried for a lot of additional uses, such as anxiety, rheumatism, fever, sore throat, and cough, but it is not often used for these purposes these days.
Some people also apply black cohosh directly on the skin. This is because there was some thought that black cohosh would improve the skin’s appearance. Similarly, people used black cohosh for other skin conditions such as acne, wart removal, and even the removal of moles, but this is seldom done anymore.
How does it work?
The root of black cohosh is used for medicinal purposes. Black cohosh root contains several chemicals that might have effects in the body. Some of these chemicals work on the immune system and might affect the body’s defenses against diseases. Some might help the body to reduce inflammation. Other chemicals in black cohosh root might work in nerves and in the brain. These chemicals might work similar to another chemical in the brain called serotonin. Scientists call this type of chemical a neurotransmitter because it helps the brain send messages to other parts of the body.
Black cohosh root also seems to have some effects similar to the female hormone, estrogen. In some parts of the body, black cohosh might increase the effects of estrogen. In other parts of the body, black cohosh might decrease the effects of estrogen. Estrogen itself has various effects in different parts of the body. Estrogen also has different effects in people at different stages of life. Black cohosh should not be thought of as an “herbal estrogen” or a substitute for estrogen. It is more accurate to think of it as an herb that acts similar to estrogen in some people.
Possibly Effective for:
Menopausal symptoms. Research shows that taking some black cohosh products can reduce some symptoms of menopause. However, the benefits are only modest. Black cohosh might lessen the frequency of hot flashes. Most of this research is for a specific commercial black cohosh product, Remifemin. The benefits may not occur with all products that contain black cohosh.
Research using black cohosh products other than Remifemin have not always shown benefits for menopausal symptoms. Some of these studies show that these other black cohosh products do not reduce hot flashes or menopausal symptoms any better than a sugar pill (“placebo”).
Mental function. Early research suggests that taking 128 mg of black cohosh daily for 12 months does not improve memory or attention in postmenopausal women.
Infertility. Some early research suggests that taking black cohosh plus clomiphene citrate can increase pregnancy rates in infertile women compared to clomiphene citrate alone. Other research shows that taking black cohosh with clomiphene results in pregnancy rates that are similar to those found when clomiphene is taken with another fertility drug.
Induction of labor. Some people report that black cohos
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