Healthy Articles Archive

Herb Focus: Black Cohosh

Gabriella Clarke is a qualified medical herbalist and a member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists. She teams centuries of tradition with modern science and practises from her clinic in the heart of the Chilterns in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire.

This female-friendly herb can help with PMS and menopause symptoms, but has a range of other benefits, too...

What is it?
Black cohosh is a tall perennial plant and is a member of the buttercup family and is native to North America. It actually has white flowers, whilst the name is thought to relate to the black roots, the part used medicinally.
Medical herbalists commonly prescribe black cohosh for  symptoms related to female hormone imbalance.

How can it help?
Menopause - studies have found it to be useful in the early stages of menopause for hot flushes, with further research finding it may target the brain's serotonin receptors, which help regulate body temperature. It may also with help night sweats, bloating, vaginal dryness and mood swings.

PMS - Black cohosh may help with  painful periods and premenstrual depression and anxiety.

Arthritis and rheumatism - It's perhaps less well-known that black cohosh has a tradition of use in arthritic conditions, especially when joints are swollen and painful. This is likely to be down to the fact that it contains salicylic acid, which has pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects.

Migraine - Anecdotal evidence suggests the herb may lessen  the tendency for migraine headaches, especially when hormone-related.

Anxiety - It has a calming effect on the nervous system and may help to reduce anxiety and nervous tension.

How much do I need?
It's important to stick to the manufacturers' guidelines as strengths can vary between products. Don't take it for longer than six months - if your symptoms persist, visit your GP or medical herbalist. Avoid it if you're on the Pill or HRT, as it may affect how they work, and don't give to children. Steer clear, too, if you're sensitive to aspirin.

Some people have side effects including indigestion, nausea and headache, so always start with a low dose. Check with your doctor before taking it, and if you notice any adverse effects stop using it and seek medical advice.

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