Actea racemosa, Cimicifuga racemosa
- Indications with possible efficacy:
Menopause symptoms - hot flashes (popular use)
- Indications with possible, but poorly documented efficacy:
- Other indications with no proof of efficacy:
- Risk of Drug Interactions: Low
- Adverse Effects: Not Frequent
Part of the plant used: roots and rhizomas
Black cohosh is a perennial plant found along the edge of North American forests, from Ontario to Tennessee, west of Missouri. The plant can reach 8 feet high and carries, from June to September, a long white flowerhead. The roots and rhizomes are used for their medicinal properties.
Black cohosh is not a well-known plant. It appears to contain estrogenic constituents, and some have feared that it could promote the proliferation of some cancerous cells with estrogenic receptors. However, scientific evidence has shown that black cohosh can inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells and some recent studies allow to doubt that the estrogenic effect is not the major mode of action. It also appears to enhance tamoxifen's anticarcinogenic effect. This information leads us to believe that black cohosh is not contraindicated in women with a history of breast cancer.
Direction of use
- Menopause symptoms:
Therapeutic effects take 2 weeks to develop.
20 to 80 mg twice daily of a standardized extract (containing 1 mg of triterpen per 20 mg).
There is insufficient reliable information to conclude that black cohosh is effective in any other indication.
- Side effects
Black cohosh is not associated with any severe immediate toxicity, but some people may experience occasional stomachache, nausea and vomiting, headache, dizziness, feeling of heaviness in the legs or weight gain. Some women also report abnormal vaginal bleeding. Because the long-term safety profile of black cohosh is not known, most experts recommend limiting its use to less than 6 months.
During fall 2006, Health Canada has warned Canadians about a possible link between liver damage and consumption of herbal products containing black cohosh. Definite link has not been established and reported cases are rare. Caution is advised.
Black cohosh is contraindicated in hepatic diseases, breast cancer or other hormone-sensitive cancer. Use with caution in presence of allergy to salicylic acid (Aspirin).
Do not use concomitantly with other drugs that can be toxic for the liver.
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Black cohosh is contraindicated in pregnant and lactating women. There have been reports of spontaneous abortions due to the ingestion of large amounts of black cohosh. Because of the estrogenic effect of the plant , it should not be used by pregnant or lactating women. However, it is safe when used in pregnant women at term, but it should be used with the supervision of a health care professional.
- Black cohosh has interesting properties and a low risk of short-term toxicity. But because its long term safety profile is not documented, it should not be used for more than 6 months.
- Do not confuse black cohosh with blue cohosh and white cohosh. These plants do not have the same properties.
In 2004, Canada adopted new regulations that control the manufacturing, packaging, labeling and importing of natural health products. The new regulations also include an adverse reaction reporting system. Products that conform to the regulation's criteria are identified with a natural product number (NPN) and can be legally sold in Canada. This number indicates that the product meets specific criteria for safety and purity, not that it is effective for any indication.
Medicinal plant contents vary naturally from plant to plant - just as fruits from the same package may vary in taste and texture. There is no standard to measure the active content of each plant. Thus, efficacy of natural products should be expected to vary from brand to brand as well as from bottle to bottle of the same brand.
For more information about the Natural Health Products Regulations, or to check if a product has been assessed, visit the Health Canada website at www.hc-sc.gc.ca/dhp-mps/prodnatur/index-eng.php.
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