Ineffective Herbal Treatments
For many women, menopause is no big deal and they make it through unscathed. But for some 10-20% of menopausal women, the symptoms are dreadful. These women suffer from hot flashes and night sweats, spending a great deal of time in extreme discomfort.
Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT, is the conventional treatment that is prescribed for menopausal women during this time. This treatment really works and affords a great deal of relief from menopause symptoms. But many women are concerned about the slight risk this treatment brings with it for heart disease and breast cancer.
In recent years, Black Cohosh, an herb whose roots are in Native American medicine, has been thought to be a safe and effective alternative to HRT by naturopaths and the women who frequent them. Now, however, a new study has shown that Black Cohosh even in combination with other herbal therapies does little or nothing to reduce hot flashes and night sweats.
In this study, researchers looked at 351 women in their late forties and early fifties to determine the effects of the herb on their menopause symptoms. Lead author of the study, Seattle's Katherine Newton, said she was disappointed to learn that Black Cohosh and other natural treatments are ineffective and cannot supplant conventional HRT. The study's results were published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Black Cohosh is a member of the buttercup family, and grows in the United States and Canada where it has long been found in the pharmacopoeia of the Native Americans who employed the herb to treat gynecological disorders and other illnesses. Many women have used the herb as a treatment for night sweats and hot flashes.
The participants in the study were divided into five groups. One group was treated with the herb; a second group was given a combination of the herb along with other natural ingredients such as oats, alfalfa, licorice, pomegranate, and Siberian ginseng; a third group took the same combination supplement as the second group but added soy-based supplements; a fourth group was treated with conventional HRT; and a final, fifth group took a placebo.
Only the women in the fourth group, those on conventional HRT showed a significant reduction in the number and severity of hot flashes, while the groups treated with Black Cohosh responded no different than those on the placebo. But not everyone was satisfied with the results of this study. The executive director of the American Botanical Council disagrees with key points in the results of this research. His opinion is that the study's structure was flawed and the results cannot therefore be considered a definitive pronouncement on natural herbs like Black Cohosh for the treatment of menopause symptoms.