A member of the buttercup family, black cohosh is a large plant found in North America.
Native Americans have been utilizing the medicinal properties of the black cohosh root for centuries. Although its anti-inflammatory properties can significantly relieve joint and muscle pain, black cohosh is more useful for female hormonal problems.
The root actively reduces the levels of the luteinizing hormone which is one of the main causes of hot flushes and other menopausal symptoms. Such female problems are also eased by the phytoestrogens contained within the plant which act in the same way as oestrogen.
Black cohosh is so effective in this area that some countries actually recommend it as a safer alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
However, as with many such herbs, the benefits of black cohosh have not been fully proved. Some studies have shown definite positive results whereas others have found no improvement in patients whatsoever.
There is still some debate over the safety of taking black cohosh as a health supplement. Pregnant women are advised to avoid the herb as some studies have highlighted the possibility of uterine contractions and miscarriage. As the herb's effect on the body's hormonal balance is not fully understood, people with hormone related conditions such as endometriosis or breast cancer should also avoid black cohosh.
As black cohosh can act like the hormone estrogen, there may be a risk of it interfering with hormone replacement therapy, oral contraceptives, and certain chemotherapy drugs. Always talk to your local doctor before taking black cohosh or any other supplement you may be unsure about.
General side effects of the herb include nausea, indigestion, headache, vomiting and weight gain. Exceeding the recommended daily allowance will increase your chances of experiencing such issues.
Black cohosh should not be confused with either blue cohosh or white cohosh. Although similar, these varieties can have very different effects in the human body, and consumption can be dangerous, particularly in pregnant women.
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