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19 December 2006
Black Cohosh Effects All In The Mind?

In the most definitive study of its kind, Herbal Alternatives for Menopause Trial (HALT) researchers have found that black cohosh is not an effective treatment for hot flashes and night sweats in women. The study showed that menopausal symptoms decreased by 30 percent over 12 months irrespective of whether women used black cohosh or a placebo (dummy pill).

Black cohosh is a perennial herb member of the buttercup family, which is commonly used by women to alleviate the symptoms associated with menopause. "About 80 percent of women who go through menopause experience hot flashes," said the study's lead author, Katherine M. Newton.

"Many women are looking for alternatives to hormone therapy which is the most proven remedy for hot flashes, and many are using alternative medicines," says Newton. "The most commonly used alternative is black cohosh."

To test black cohosh, the HALT team assigned 351 women aged 45 to 55 to one of five groups that ingested either stand-alone black cohosh, 3 formulations of black cohosh with hormone therapy plus counseling, or a placebo. The team found that the hormone therapy provided the most relief to women, which alleviated up to four symptoms per day more than the placebo. However, the hormone arm of the trial was stopped in 2002 after it was discovered in other studies that the combination hormone therapy they were using (estrogen plus progestin) increased risk for breast cancer, heart attacks, strokes and blood clots.

In spite of this, the HALT team completed their studies on alternative herbal remedies, which showed that black cohosh was no more effective at treating menopausal symptoms than a placebo. "It's disappointing that we didn't find black cohosh to be an effective remedy," lamented Newton. But she added that the results will now allow women to make an informed choice. "Thousands of women, probably hundreds of thousands of women, buy products that contain black cohosh to help relieve their menopausal symptoms."

Source: American College of Physicians

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