black cohosh flowerThe benchmark in complimentary medicines for regulating hormonal imbalances is a herbal medicine known as Cimicifuga Racemosa (Black Cohosh). Cimicifuga is one of the most scientifically proven herbal medicines in the world today. It has been proven to be effective in a range of gynaecological complaints. Cimicifuga regulates the hypothalamus pituitary axis, the master endocrine control system. When the hypothalamus pituitary axis is regulated, a profound and lasting affect can be achieved in hormonal balance.

Pharmacological studies have demonstrated Cimicifuga Racemosa contains substances with endocrine activity, causing a selective reduction of the serum concentration of pituitary luteinizing hormone (LH) and is able to bind to oestrogen receptor sites. It is assumed the active ingredient Triterpene Glycosides have the effect upon the hypothalamus-pituitary system which leads to secondary effects upon the reproductive and sympathetic/parasympathetic nervous systems.

Numerous studies have proven Cimicifuga racemosa to be effective in hormonal complaints associated with premenstrual syndrome and menopause.

In one such study Cimicifuga racemosa at a dose of 80mg per day was found to be effective in PMS, with freedom from symptoms in 84% of cases. This is a staggering percentage considering the complex mechanisms of development for hormonal disorders. Cimicifuga is also well known for its ability to effectively treat menopausal symptoms with dozens of clinical trials to substantiate the action. In fact Cimicifuga is the most popular complementary medicine for the treatment of menopause with millions of women worldwide benefiting from the hormonal regulatory affect.

Using the Hamilton Anxiety Scale HAMA Cimicifuga Racemosa was shown to improve Nervousness and irritability by 86.5 %, Depressive moods by 82.5% and sleeping problems by 76.8%. Stolze, H: Gyne 1, 14-16 (1982)

The true benefit setting Cimicifuga apart from other herbal medicines is the ability to treat a wide range of hormonal imbalance symptoms. Whether the imbalance is excessive or deficiency of progesterone, oestrogen, Luteinizing hormone or follicle stimulating hormone, Cimicifuga has a balancing affect due to its influence on the endocrine system. No other herbal medicine or conventional medicine is so versatile in its action. This regulating action can be demonstrated through the effectiveness of Cimicifuga in treating both menopausal symptoms and premenstrual symptoms where the blood hormone levels are completely opposite.

Safety Concerns

Recently there has been a large push to discredit the safety of the humble Black Cohosh and I can only conclude that pharmaceutical companies manufacturing Hormone Replacement Therapy HRT are behind the scare campaign because the research simply does not warrant the scare tactics.

Two large scale safety studies where concluded and found;

“Uncontrolled reports, postmarketing surveillance, and human clinical trials of more than 2,800 patients demonstrate a low incidence of adverse events (5.4%). Of the reported adverse events, 97% were minor and did not result in discontinuation of therapy, and the only severe events were not attributed to Cimicifuga treatment.” PMID: 12851513

“Adverse symptoms have been rare (5,4%), mild and reversible. Most of them included gastrointestinal upsets, rashes, headaches, dizziness and mastalgia. Nevertheless, single cases of serious adverse events, including acute hepatocellular damage, have been reported, but without a clear causality relationship.PMID: 18592868

There have been 7 reported cases of Liver issues in the past 10 years which when you consider the number of women taking Black Cohosh is such a small percentage that it should not even be a factor of consideration. Of these 7 cases there is a chance with any liver condition that it was preexisting or idiopathic which is 10% of liver conditions which means we simply dont know the cause.

In 20 years of using black cohosh I have only ever seen a few reactions largely based around digestive issues and allergic reactions, but it is so rare. Sure there is reason to be cautious with any natural or pharmaceutical medicine but when the links are so rare and unproven there should be an element of sense. If I felt there was any cause for concern with Black Cohosh I would never have used it in the Happy Hormones formula. The benefits of this amazing herbal medicine far out way any small incidence of reactions which in comparison with pharmaceuticals and HRT don’t even compare.

About Jeff Butterworth:

Jeff Butterworth B.App. Sc, N.D is a Naturopath with over 20 years experience specialising in treating hormonal disorders. Jeff developed the Happy Hormones program after discovering a unique way of treating hormonal disorders - by focusing on endocrine balance rather than hormonal levels - which gives long-lasting and dramatic results.