Nutrition Market

Black Cohosh as a Supplement Ingredient

What is Black Cohosh?

Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa or Cimicifuga racemosa) is a flowering plant native to eastern North America. It has a long history of use in traditional medicine to help women during menopause and menstrual problems. Today, the underground stems and roots of black cohosh are commonly used to make extracts or supplements in tended to support women’s health.

Black cohosh contains a number of natural compounds including triterpene glycosides, isoflavones, and various phenolic acids. These compounds are thought to be linked to black cohosh’s biological effects. It is frequently used in supplements aimed at hot flashes, irritability, night sweats, mood changes and other common menopausal symptoms.

How Black Cohosh Supplements Work

Researchers have looked extensively into how black cohosh works to help with menopausal symptoms. While the exact mechanisms of action are still being investigated, some key ways black cohosh may work include:

  • Binding and activating certain hormone receptors: Compounds in black cohosh seem to selectively bind receptors like serotonin receptors and estrogen receptors, which may help regulate signals related to changes in sex hormones.
  • Reducing inflammation: Some compounds in black cohosh demonstrate anti-inflammatory effects in the body and may help reduce inflammatory symptoms.
  • Influencing neurotransmitters: There is evidence that black cohosh influences levels of brain chemicals like serotonin, helping regulate neurotransmitters that affect body temperature and mood.
  • Vasodilation and regulation of vascular tone: Black cohosh appears to influence nitric oxide signaling in blood vessels and may promote vasodilation and perfusion, potentially relieving hot flashes.

So in several ways unique to this traditional women’s health supplement, black cohosh bioactive compounds seem to target certain pathways involved in common menopausal symptoms. More studies are still needed to fully understand how black cohosh provides relief.

Is Black Cohosh Effective?

A number of clinical studies have found favourable effects from black cohosh on menopausal issues:

  • In an analysis of over 12 placebo-controlled trials with over 1500 women, black cohosh significantly improved menopause symptoms compared to placebo after 3-12 months.
  • Multiple studies report black cohosh can help with hot flashes. A year-long trial in women with frequent hot flashes found it was linked to an average 82% reduction in hot flashes among women taking black cohosh.
  • Reviews note meaningful reductions in a wide range of menopausal issues including night sweats, irritability, sleep disruption, mood changes and emotional symptoms in studies where women used black cohosh for relief.
  • The evidence seems to suggest it works best after about 4 weeks of consistent use, with benefits increasing over 3-6 months. This may reflect time needed for black cohosh compounds to accumulate enough to have an effect.

Overall, while some small studies show mixed results, many clinical evaluations provide consistent evidence that black cohosh can safely alleviate moderate to severe hot flashes and other common menopause concerns - often matching results seen from hormone replacement therapy.

Is it Safe?

For most women, black cohosh side effects appear very mild when used short term. Digestive issues like stomach upset, constipation or diarrhea are occasionally reported. Two other side effects sometimes flagged in safety research include headaches and weight gain in some women taking black cohosh for over 6 months.

In various safety assessments, black cohosh does not seem to increase risk for estrogenic effects in breast tissue or impact clotting, bleeding or liver function when used as directed. It has also been studied specifically in women with a history of cancer treatment, showing promising safety results. Still, as with any supplement, there are some women who should use caution or avoid its use without medical guidance.

It is important for women to discuss black cohosh with their doctor before starting it, particularly if they have any chronic health issues, take medications that could interact, have scheduled surgery or procedures, or are pregnant or breastfeeding.

What to Look for in a Quality Black Cohosh Supplement

Black cohosh root preparations vary widely in quality and potency. Here is what to look for to choose a good black cohosh supplement brand:

  • 2.5% triterpene glycoside content: Reputable brands will standardize black cohosh extracts to provide at least 2.5% triterpenes (often 27-deoxyacteine). These compounds are linked to its benefits and represent bioactive markers of a properly prepared black cohosh supplement.
  • Full spectrum extract: Some standardised extracts are highly purified isolates - however evidence suggests some of the benefits come from a mixture of black cohosh components. Seek a full spectrum extract for comprehensive effects.
  • 60mg daily dose: Clinical trials showing benefits of black cohosh for menopausal women have used 60-160mg of extract daily, with 60mg being common. Ensure supplements provide around this daily dose.
  • Reputable brand: With many fly-by-night or synthetic replicas on the market, purchase from established nutritional supplement brands with rigorous quality testing protocols. This ensures herb purity, correct species verification, and avoidance of allergens or contaminants.

Reputable Australian brands meeting these standards are likely to produce reliable, effective and safe black cohosh supplements for women.

How to Take Black Cohosh

  • The clinically studied daily dosage for menopause relief is 60-160mg of black cohosh extract, split into at least two daily doses such as morning and evening. This provides stable levels of activity rather than spiking effects.
  • It may take 4 weeks before seeing big improvements, with ongoing benefits over 3-6 months. Be patient when taking black cohosh.
  • Take with food for enhanced absorption without stomach upset. If digestive discomfort occurs, reduce dosage for 1 week.
  • For hot flashes take daily over months for best effects. For occasional symptomatic use only, take when needed up to twice daily.
  • Avoid excessive estrogen load by alternating periods of use, for example take for 4 months then take 1 month off use if aiming for prolonged use.
  • Seek medical guidance before use if you have health conditions, scheduled procedures, take medications with interaction potential, or are pregnant/breastfeeding.

Using 60mg standardised black cohosh extract twice daily with food for 3-6 months provides the tested regime for safe, supportive effects on common menopause concerns in studies. Adjust duration depending on persisting symptoms and personal hormone status.

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