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Menopause Health Center

Black Cohosh a Bust for Hot Flashes

Millions of women have taken black cohosh to reduce hot flashes and other menopause-related symptoms, but the most rigorous study of the herbal supplement ever conducted shows no evidence that it works.
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Dec. 18, 2006 -- Millions of women have taken black cohosh to reduce hot flashes and other menopause-related symptoms, but the most rigorous study of the herbal supplement ever conducted shows no evidence that it works.

The federally funded trial was designed to compare black cohosh to other herbal supplements, traditional hormone therapy, and placebo treatment for menopausal symptoms.

Hormone therapy was the only treatment that clearly reduced hot flashes, night sweats, and other related symptoms.

The study appears in the Dec. 19 issue of the journal Annals of Internal Medicine.

"Our finding that black cohosh did not work will be disappointing news to many women," researcher Katherine M. Newton, PhD, tells WebMD. "It would be nice to find a clearly effective alternative to hormone therapy."

Looking for Alternatives

Most women experience hot flashes and related symptoms around the time of menopause, which typically occurs between ages 45 and 55.

Hormone therapy involving estrogen or estrogen plus progestin is very effective for reducing hot flashes, but concerns about safety have caused millions of women to abandon the treatment.

Those concerns appeared to be bolstered late last week with the news of a dramatic drop in breast cancers among American women.

Although the reason for the drop is not yet clear, many experts speculate that it is related to the decline in hormone use following the 2002 publication of the Women's Health Initiative study, which found an increase in both breast cancers and heart problems among users.

Many symptomatic women turned to black cohosh and other herbal supplements when they stopped taking hormones, but few well-designed clinical trials have been done evaluating the effectiveness of these products.

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