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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Herb of the Week- Black Cohosh

Black cohosh (known as both Actaea racemosa and Cimicifuga racemosa),is a member of the buttercup family. It is a perennial plant that is native to the woodlands of eastern North America. Other common names include black snakeroot, bugbane, bugwort, rattleroot, rattletop, rattleweed, and macrotys. The flowers can be unpleasantly scented causing insects to avoid it, which accounts for some of these common names.

Black Cohosh was used by the American Indians as a traditional medicine for women’s health and is still used to today as a folk remedy for hot flashes and menopausal cramps and bloating. It has also been used to treat rheumatism and even induce labor in some cases. The roots and the rhizomes are the parts of the plant that are used in the various concoctions of black cohosh which includes tablets, tinctures and the dried rhizome (root) itself

After being used as an American Indian folk remedy for gynecological problems for centuries, Black Cohosh was first rediscovered by Western Science in the middle of the Twentieth Century when it was promoted in Germany as an alternative to estrogen therapy for menopausal woman. Black Cohosh seemed to provide the same benefits of estrogen without the side effects. Since then it has been used to treat hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness as well as rheumatism and inflammation. While the scientific data on the benefits of this plant are a bit vague, many gynecologists and obstetricians will attest to it.

Recommended Dosage

For Adults of 18, two 20-40 mg tablets or 2 mls( 40 drops) of the extract taken twice daily is recommended. If supplementing with the dried root, the British Herbal Compendium suggests 40 to 200 mgs daily in divided doses, but some traditional doses have gone as much as 3 grams a day. Black Cohosh is not recommended for children or pregnant women. As with all supplements it is wise to first consult your physician before taking black cohosh.

Side Effects
Not everyone corresponds well to it and some people have reported liver damage (yellow skin, dark urine, pain under the ribs, tiredness, and lack of appetite) after using it. Cases of Hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) have also been linked to Black Cohosh use. This condition is extremely rare, and most people taking black cohosh respond well to it. Clinical trials have reported a low incidence of other adverse side effects including headache and stomach discomfort. In large doses some complaints include: gastric problems, heaviness in the legs, nausea, dizziness, seizures, lowered pulse rate, increased sweating and vision problems. If these types of symptoms persist it is important to seek medical help. Some people have also had severe allergic reactions to black cohosh: closed throat, swelled lips, tongue or face, hives. On the plus side black cohosh does not seem to interfere with other prescription medications.

Black cohosh has an estrogen-like effect, and women who are pregnant or lactating should not use the herb. Large doses of this herb may cause abdominal pain, nausea, headaches, and dizziness. Women taking estrogen therapy should consult a physician before using black cohosh.

Large doses of black cohosh cause symptoms of poisoning, particularly nausea and dizziness, and can also provoke miscarriage.

Black cohosh should not be used by those who have full-blown measles or those who are having trouble breathing.

As I have been suffering tremendously with hot flashes as of late, I am going to try this and see for myself if it gives me any relief.

General Safety Advisory

The information in this document does not replace medical advice.

Before taking an herb or a botanical, consult a doctor or other health care provider -- especially if you have a disease or medical condition, take any medications, are pregnant or nursing, or are planning to have an operation.

Before treating a child with an herb or a botanical, consult with a doctor or other health care provider.

Like drugs, herbal or botanical preparations have chemical and biological activity. They may have side effects. They may interact with certain medications. These interactions can cause problems and can even be dangerous.

If you have any unexpected reactions to an herbal or a botanical preparation, inform your doctor or other health care provider.

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