Hormones can begin plaguing a woman not long after she reaches her teens. Young women use pain killers and heating pads for relief, but when menopause symptoms begin, women need something more. From hot flashes to breast pain and cramping, women have suffered for centuries. Recently, HRT has been used to alleviate these ailments, but research has shown that the side effects are often worse than the cure. Using black cohosh as a dietary supplement has proven to be a liberating alternative.
Native Americans were the first to use the black cohosh root. The plant is tall and flowering, similar to the goldenrod, but the flowers are white. Also known as squawroot or black snakeroot, it's a member of the buttercup family. Native Americans discovered that the root could be used as a healing herb for maladies such as malaria, rheumatism, sore throats, colds, constipation, hives, backaches, and to induce lactation. In the 1800s, early Americans used it as a home remedy for fevers and to bring on menstruation; it was even thought to prevent miscarriage and minimize labor pains.
Modern research has shown that while it does not cure anything, black cohosh treats the unpleasant symptoms of PMS and menopause such as depression and minor aches and pains. It actually balances out luteinizing hormone levels and serves as a mild anti-inflammatory. Research has also shown that the herb is a mild sedative and decongestant.
In recent years, women have found black cohosh to be a natural treatment for the symptoms of PMS and menopause. Studies are still relatively new, but according to Stanley M. Cohen, MD, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Chicago, the herb may possibly cause the immune system to attack the liver. This is extremely rare, but women should tell their healthcare providers if they are taking it and ask for a liver function test.
With a medical professional's approval, black cohosh is worth considering as an alternative to HRT. Many women have found relief and better quality of life after taking it. When choosing a supplement, the standardized extract is recommended; this ensures that it includes the necessary ingredients for maximum benefit. This herb might interfere with oral contraceptives and other medications, and unless directed by a medical professional, women who are pregnant or nursing are advised not to take it.