Herbal Meds

Using Black Cohosh to treat menopausal symptoms

Menopause occurs when a woman's ovaries stop releasing eggs in her early 50's and her menstrual cycle stops.  When a woman has not had a period in six months, it is considered that she has completed menopause.  Even though menopause should not be considered as a disease, it can have unpleasant symptoms.  Before a woman has her last period, she can experience menstrual irregularities, hot flushes and irritability.  After menopause, vaginal dryness, loss of bone mass and an increased risk of heart disease can occur.  This happens because the ovaries stop manufacturing estrogen and progesterone.

To try and counter these problems, women in general opt for hormone replacement therapy (HRT).  Recent studies have however increased concern that long-term HRT can cause breast cancer, and many women are searching for a natural alternative.

One of the natural herbal alternatives is Black Cohosh which is widely used to help stabilize hormone levels.

The healing abilities of Black Cohosh were recognized centuries ago when Native American women started using the root of this plant to treat a variety of ailments, specifically problems related to the menstrual cycle and menopause.

Black Cohosh was the main ingredient in one of the most popular folk remedies in the early 1900's.  Lydia Pinkham's Vegetable Compound was sold as a women's tonic and is still available today.

The Black Cohosh plant is a member of the buttercup family and is recognized by its tall stalks of fluffy white flowers.  This perennial plant is native to North America and has quite a few other common names such as black snakeroot, bugbane, bugwort, rattleroot, rattletop and rattleweed.

Traditional uses of Black Cohosh included treating menstrual problems and reducing the symptoms of menopause.  Today, Black Cohosh is used for similar purposes, but also as an anti-inflammatory that can relieve muscle aches and pain.

In Europe and increasingly in the United States, Black Cohosh is recommended by homeopaths to treat hot flushes, vaginal dryness and other menopausal symptoms.  A hormone called LH (luteinizing hormone) is produced by the brain's pituary gland and when the levels of LH rise, it can cause hot flushes.  Scientific studies have revealed that Black Cohosh can reduce the levels of LH in the body.

In addition, Black Cohosh contains phyto-estrogens which are plant compounds that have a similar effect to that of estrogen produced by your body.  When these phyto-estrogens bind to hormone receptors in the uterus and breast it can ease menopausal symptoms without increasing your risk of breast cancer, which is a possible side effect of conventional hormone replacement therapy.  Some experts even believe that Black Cohosh can prevent breast cancer by keeping the body's own estrogen from locking onto breast cells.

Black Cohosh is very effective to alleviate menstrual cramps due to its antispasmodic properties.  This herbal remedy increases the blood flow to the uterus and reduces the intensity of uterine contractions, which also makes it useful during labour and after childbirth.

Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, Black Cohosh might be valuable in treating muscle aches and pain, joint inflammation and nerve-related pain.  More scientific studies are being done to prove the herb's value as a pain killer.

Black Cohosh is often recommended by homeopaths to assist in clearing mucus from the body.  This makes it an effective herbal medicine to treat sinus infections, coughs and bronchitis.  

What are the side effects of Black Cohosh?

Please consult your medical practitioner prior to using any herbal medications should you be under their care.

Black Cohosh has basically no toxic effect, although a few people have reported stomach upsets.  If you are taking medicine for high blood pressure, make sure that you consult your health care practitioner before taking Black Cohosh as this herb can lower your blood pressure.  

Do not increase dosages of Black Cohosh as this can have serious side effects such as nausea, vomiting, headaches, heavy perspiration and a reduced pulse rate.

How do I take Black Cohosh?

Make sure that you purchase capsules or tablets that are standardized to contain 25 percent of triterpenes which are the active components in Black Cohosh.

For menopausal symptoms, take 40 mg of Black Cohosh twice a day.  To ease menstrual cramps and PMS, start taking 40 mg of this herbal remedy a week to 10 days before your period.  

Black Cohosh can be taken at any time of the day but to minimize the chance of a stomach upset it is best to take it with a meal.  Allow four to six weeks to see the benefits of this herbal remedy.  Some experts have recommended that Black Cohosh not be used longer than six months continually, but more recent studies have shown that longer use seems safe and that there are no significant side effects to long term use.

Compresses soaked in Black Cohosh tea can be applied to sore muscles and joints to ease pain.  Boil dried root in water for 20 to 30 minutes and let it cool off until it is warm enough for you to tolerate holding a compress against your skin.  Apply the warm compress for 20 minutes, repeating this every 4 hours if the pain does not improve.

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