|© American Botanical Council|
The American Botanical Council, an independent nonprofit organization, is making available to the public, a monograph or scientific review of the health benefits of a leading herb used by many women to treat symptoms of menopause.
The herb, black cohosh, known by its Latin names Actaea racemosa and Cimicifuga racemosa, is a native American herb with a long history of use. Black cohosh was used by Native American Indians for “female problems,” and was a major ingredient in Lydia Pinkham’s famous women’s tonic, sold for more than 50 years in the 19th century.
A special formulation of black cohosh was developed in the early 1940s in Germany as a natural agent for treating menstrual and menopausal symptoms. This herbal preparation has been used in the majority of the clinical trials that have been conducted. These studies support its safety and efficacy for treating the physical and emotional symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, irritability and occasional sleeplessness associated with menopause.
The product studied in most of the trials has been used in Germany since the mid 1950s and is currently marketed in the U.S. under the name RemiFemin® Menopause. The German government’s Commission E, a special committee of physicians, pharmacists and other scientific experts to evaluate and approve herbs, has approved black cohosh as a nonprescription medicine for treatment of various symptoms associated with menopause.
“As researchers, healthcare providers and menopausal women consider the implications of the recent reports by the National Institutes of Health and the National Cancer Institute that question the safety and long-term health benefits of hormone replacement therapy, the ABC monograph provides important information on the clinical data supporting black cohosh as a natural treatment option for menopause symptoms,” said Mark Blumenthal, founder and executive director of ABC.
“Now, more than ever, it is critically important for menopausal women to discuss treatment options – including reliable alternatives – with their healthcare providers,” said Mary Hardy, MD, director of the Integrative Medicine Medical Group at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. “The ABC monograph provides an excellent overview for clinicians as well as patients who want to better understand the science behind black cohosh,” she added.
Consumers and health professionals can find more information about the clinically documented benefits of black cohosh by logging onto ABC’s website at www.herbalgram.org. Included is an extensively referenced profile of black cohosh for health professionals containing a discussion of clinical data with a table summarizing clinical trials. For consumers the site has a one-page Patient Information Sheet that is based on information condensed from the larger scientific monograph. Both the scientific information and the patient information sheet are part of a new reference book, The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs, being published by ABC early next year. The book is accredited for continuing education for physicians, pharmacists, nurses, dietitians, and other healthcare professionals.
Dr. Hardy added that she does not recommend that women on HRT discontinue their hormone pills without consulting with their physicians. She also discussed the importance of choosing herbs based on individual symptoms and needs. “There is an increasing amount of evidence supporting the use of black cohosh as well as soy, red clover and some other dietary supplements in treating menopausal symptoms. Women should discuss with their doctors or other healthcare professionals who are knowledgeable about herbals which options may be appropriate for them,” she noted.
Dr. Hardy added that part of the problem is that many physicians have not been exposed to the scientific research on clinically researched alternatives “We as health professionals have a responsibility to evaluate the science on herbal dietary supplements in order to guide our patients appropriately. Reliable resources like the ABC Clinical Guide are an excellent way to review the existing research on various herbs, ” she said.
The American Botanical Council is the nation’s leading nonprofit organization addressing research and educational issues regarding herbs and medicinal plants. The 13-year-old organization occupies a 2.5-acre site in Austin, Texas where it publishes HerbalGram, a peer-reviewed journal on herbal medicine, and will publish a forthcoming book and continuing education course for healthcare professionals, The ABC Clinical Guide to Herbs, containing an extensive monograph on the safety and efficacy of black cohosh. Information contact: ABC at P.O. Box 144345, Austin, TX 78714-4345, ph: 800-373-7105. Website: www.herbalgram.org.