The popular herbal treatment black cohosh has been rated a mediocre “C” grade for its effect on menopausal symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic in a recent website article.
Based on a review of studies from 2002 to 2007, the Mayo Clinic concluded that initial reports on black cohosh suggested the herbal supplement may have effectively countered some menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings and vaginal dryness for perimenopausal or postmenopausal women.
Recent studies have not been so positive. “The current evidence is mixed and more studies are needed to make a strong recommendation” according to the Mayo Clinic website article.
Several research groups in the U.S. and Europe claim that black cohosh is one of the most effective botanical treatments for the relief of hot flashes and mood swings, either alone on in combination with other herbal supplements like St. John’s wort.
Most studies also show that herbal treatments, while beneficial, are not as good as estrogen-based or hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in alleviating the discomforts of menopause. Because of well-publicized reports of health hazards associated with long-term use of HRT, many women have chosen to not use hormone therapies for menopausal symptoms.
Less effective herbal remedies or nonhormonal therapies may be appropriate in certain women, such as those with mild symptoms or those who cannot or will not take HRT,” asserts Dr. E.M. Umland of Thomas Jeffeson University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in a 2008 overview on the treatment options and strategies for menopause.
Since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements, “there is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels,” the Mayo Clinic suggests.
The authors also point out that safety and effectiveness of black cohosh has not been proven beyond six months of use. They advise caution until better quality and longer-term safety studies are completed.