Black Cohosh May Tame Menopausal Symptoms
By Anthony Almada, MS

The Women's Health Initiative study recently indicated that combined estrogen and progestin therapy poses increased health risks among menopausal women, so the search is on for an alternative. One herb on the radar screen is black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa). Despite its North American roots, black cohosh extracts are widely promoted in Europe for treating hot flashes and other menopausal discomforts. Only a few controlled clinical trials have been conducted on black cohosh, and most of those tested a specific brand called RemiFemin. A recent review of published studies shows that black cohosh's promised effect is not supported by rigorous clinical trials. Researchers of the single study conducted in the United States enrolled 85 female breast cancer survivors, 59 of whom were on the drug tamoxifen. They took 40 mg of RemiFemin or placebo each day for two months. The black cohosh extract decreased sweating but was no better than placebo for treating all other measured symptoms. However, researchers of a recent six-month study, conducted by the makers of RemiFemin, found significant improvements in symptoms, but they used no placebo group. To determine whether black cohosh is truly effective as an alternative menopausal treatment, more well-designed studies lasting longer than six months are needed.

Nutrition and exercise biochemist Anthony Almada, MS, has collaborated on more than 45 university-based studies, is co-founder of Experimental and Applied Sciences (EAS), and is founder and chief scientific officer of IMAGINutrition.