Every culture and every medicinal system across the world, be it traditional Chinese medicine or ayurveda, have testified to the benefits of thousands of herbs, one of them being black cohosh, scientifically known as Actaea racemosa.
Black cohosh was used by Native Americans for over two hundred years after they discovered how beneficial the root of the plant was in relieving menstrual cramps and multiple symptoms of menopause. Today, this herb is still widely recommended by doctors and herbalists to cure menopausal symptoms in not just women, but also in men, since so many symptoms of male menopause (also known as andropause) are found to mimic those of female menopause. The truth, however, is that there are very few studies to suggest the effectiveness of black cohosh for men; most of the recent scientific data leans toward black cohosh and women.
It is important to remember that like all other herbs used in traditional medicine, black cohosh can be responsible for causing some very serious side effects in both men and women, the most common one being liver inflammation and potential hepatitis development. In the case of individuals with cancer or those who are undergoing cancer treatment and taking cancer medication, black cohosh is strongly advised against.
12 Health Benefits Of Black Cohosh
Here’s a closer look at how black cohosh benefits men and women individually, some exclusive benefits for women, and some overall health benefits that are applicable to both genders.
1. For Weight Loss During Menopause
Women: Low estrogen levels during menopause triggers weight gain in roughly 90% of women. This means the body has to look for this essential hormone elsewhere. Because fat cells contain a high amount of estrogen, the body will automatically produce more of these. Ingesting black cohosh helps to raise the estrogen levels in the body, thus stopping the body from producing more fat cells to support its need for estrogen. This way, black cohosh helps in losing weight during menopause.
Men: Just as in menopause, andropause is marked by an accumulation of estrogen-containing fat cells. However, research regarding black cohosh helping men lose weight during andropause is unavailable.
High cortisol and low testosterone levels seem to be responsible for an increase in fat, especially around the midsection, and a marked decrease in muscle mass. The more the increase in body fat, the larger the hormonal imbalance, since it only converts the testosterone into estrogen. Therefore it is unlikely that black cohosh would help reducing weight during andropause since it would only increase the estrogen content in the body and do the opposite.
2. Fighting Weight-Related Illnesses
Women: Since black cohosh is effective in helping reduce weight during menopause, it also helps bring down the risk of illnesses that are caused by weight gain such as heart diseases, cardiac arrests and strokes, breast cancer, high cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Men: Since there is no research to prove whether black cohosh can help lose weight during andropause, it is also not known whether it could help fighting weight-related illnesses in andropausal men.
3. Relieving Menopause And Andropause Symptoms
Women: The estrogen-like compounds present in black cohosh is linked to reducing menopausal symptoms. Supplementing one’s diet with black cohosh in the form of pills or tea can be a good substitute for hormone replacement therapy, which many men and women seek out after andropause and menopause respectively. The use of black cohosh can also help in reducing hot flashes, night sweats, cramps, mood swings, and reduced stress levels for menopausal women.
Since a stark drop in estrogen levels is the main reason menopause in women black cohosh can greatly help in reducing menopausal symptoms.
Men: Since the symptoms of menopause in women and andropause in men are almost similar, black cohosh would be beneficial for relieving symptoms of andropause in men as well.
However, in this case, a certain amount of caution must be practiced while ingesting black cohosh since too much estrogen can actually worsen the hormonal imbalance in men.
4. Natural Labor Inducer
Being a natural analgesic, black cohosh, when eaten by pregnant women, contributes greatly to reducing pain during the labor process by stimulating powerful contractions. For this reason, it is often administered when women face weak contractions and slow, painful labor.
Caution: While it is known to help make the birthing process shorter and less painful, if taken during the early stages of pregnancy, it can induce a miscarriage by causing preterm uterine contractions.
However, there is a high chance of it causing an incomplete miscarriage where parts of the fetus can remain inside the uterus. This can cause sepsis. This infection can be life-threatening because it causes the body to respond by causing injury to its own organs and tissues.
Furthermore, black cohosh is always ingested with a mixture of specific herbs and should never be ingested by itself during pregnancy. The success of black cohosh is completely dependent on dosage and only a certified herbalist or skilled midwife would be able to administer the right amount and determine what other herbs it should be combined with. Hence, it is highly dangerous to self-prescribe this herb be it in the early or the later stages of pregnancy without prior consultation with a medical expert.
5. Fights Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovary syndrome is an endocrine (hormonal) disorder which causes decreased fertility, excessive growth of body hair, irregular, abnormal or absent menstruation, and obesity. It is caused by an overproduction of testosterone that causes a hormonal imbalance in the body. The estrogen-like compounds in black cohosh help reverse this imbalance by supplying the body with high amounts of estrogen, and can, therefore, be used as an effective remedy for PCOS.
6. Treats Infertility
Infertility in women is associated with a naturally low level of estrogen in the body. The estrogen-like compounds present in black cohosh provides feedback to the brain regarding the necessary amount of reproductive hormones needed for ovulation. This pushes the brain to release healthy amounts of luteinizing and follicle stimulating hormones that act on ovaries and cause them to release eggs for fertilization. Thus, black cohosh can greatly help in solving infertility in women.
7. Promotes Healthy Skin
Lowered estrogen levels during menopause can wreak havoc in the body year after year. This causes various skin problems such as rashes, acne, itchy, dry skin, wrinkles, and crow’s feet. By keeping the body’s estrogen levels in check, black cohosh may improve the overall skin texture and is, in fact, one of the top 3 benefits majority of the women talk about when asked about the benefits of black cohosh.
8. Acts An An Antispasmodic
Black cohosh acts as a potent antispasmodic for both men and women. It can help inhibit cramps and pains related to muscle strain, injury, and chronic nervous tension, thus aiding in the normal functioning of muscles and nerves.
9. Fights Inflammation
The salicylic acid found in black cohosh almost directly mimics the effect of aspirin on the body, thus making it a potent natural anti-inflammatory substance. When ingested regularly, black cohosh root can help fight arthritis and osteoporosis in both men and women. This particular property of black cohosh also makes it a good cure for sore throats, high blood pressure, and congestion.
10. Prevents Blood Clots
Black cohosh also acts as a powerful vasodilator in both men and women. Thus, it can greatly help in reducing the stress on the cardiovascular system, further decreasing the risk of blood clots that could cause strokes or heart attacks.
11. Promotes Digestive Health
Black cohosh has been linked with a strong alterative action, which means that it can boost the efficiency of nutrient uptake and speed up the elimination of waste products, thereby reducing the risks of constipation and related conditions such as gastric ulcers. This digestive capacity of black cohosh can also help to fight flatulence, bloating, cramping, morning sickness, and nausea in both men and women.
12. Cures Sleeplessness
Black cohosh is a potent natural sedative and can guarantee long, restful sleep. Hence, it is often recommended for men and women suffering from insomnia, chronic anxiety, stress, and disturbed sleep.
Caution: Do not take black cohosh if you’re already on sleep-inducing medication, as the natural components of this herb are quite potent and may cause dangerous side effects when combined with other medicines.
Active Components Of Black Cohosh
Black cohosh is full of active ingredients such as serotonin-like compounds, as well as certain components that mimic estrogen in the human body. Furthermore, black cohosh is packed with tannins, triterpenes, essential fatty acids, isoflavones, and certain starches. The combined activity of all these compounds together makes this an extremely beneficial herb to add to your weekly regimen for both treatment and preventative measures.
How To Take Black Cohosh
Black cohosh is usually ingested in the form of pills, tea, and sometimes even in tincture form.
- Black Cohosh Pills – In the case of pills, it is mixed with other ingredients such as calcium, soy, and lemon bioflavonoid complex.
- Black Cohosh Powder – The root and the leaves are usually ground together to produce a fine, dry powder.
- Black Cohosh Tea – Black cohosh tea is usually made from the dried thick knotty roots and leaves of the plant. These can be found in powdered, or cut form, either in tea bags or in loose form.
How To Prepare Black Cohosh Tea
Traditionally, black cohosh tea is made by boiling 1 teaspoon of black cohosh dried roots and leaves per cup of water for roughly 20 – 30 minutes. Since it can be a little too bitter to taste, it is recommended to sweeten it with a little sugar or honey.
How Much Black Cohosh Should You Take?
There is no clear-cut standard dosage for black cohosh. However, experts suggest a dose of 15 to 30 mg a day for the concentrated extract of this herb. Other forms of black cohosh may suggest that you take roughly 200mg a day.
Black cohosh dosage amount really depends on a variety of factors such as the specific use of the herb, the manufacturer (in the case of pills), additional ingredients, and the form in which it is taken. Also, bear in mind that it is dangerous to compensate a missed dose with an extra amount during the next dosage time.
It is recommended to consult with your doctor or herbalist to reach a fixed dosage amount. Do not try to self-administer this herb.
Final Word Of Caution: Despite the diverse range of benefits of black cohosh for health, there have been reports of this herb causing liver damage, particularly when ingested over a long period of time. Also, if not taken in the right quantities, some people may complain about side effects like nausea, dizziness, headaches, constipation, and diarrhea.
Black cohosh is not recommended for people suffering from any kind of cancer or undergoing chemotherapy as it may interact with those drugs and cause harmful side effects.
Therefore, before adding this powerful herbal agent into your daily or weekly regimen, it is very important to discuss the decision with a medical professional.