Does Black Cohosh Cause Weight Gain?

Black cohosh is a flowering plant native to North America, scientifically known as Actaea racemosa or Cimicifuga racemosa. It is also referred to as black bugbane, black snakeroot, baneberry, or fairy candle. The roots and flowers of black cohosh have been used in traditional Native American medicine for centuries.

The active compounds in black cohosh are believed to be triterpene glycosides, resins, and aromatic acid derivatives. These compounds are thought to have estrogen-like effects, making black cohosh a potential treatment for menopause symptoms.

Short Answer: There is no evidence to suggest that Black Cohosh can cause weight gain, although some (albeit limited evidence) it can do the opposite.

Menopause Symptoms and Black Cohosh

Menopause is a natural phase in a woman's life when her menstrual periods stop, typically occurring between the ages of 45 and 55. During this transition, women may experience a variety of symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and sleep disturbances.

Black cohosh has been traditionally used to alleviate menopause symptoms, particularly hot flashes and night sweats. Some studies have shown positive effects of black cohosh in reducing the frequency and severity of hot flashes, improving quality of life for menopausal women. However, other research studies have found no significant difference in hot flash reduction between black cohosh and placebo groups.

It should be noted that there is a wide variation in black cohosh active ingredient levels, and many of the studies were not standardized, meaning that some negative studies could easily be explained as having low levels of triterpene glycosides, which would result in negative results if the supplements were taken from such plants. This has been shown to be true of more well studied herbal compounds such as curcumin from turmeric, where we now typically dose the extracted compound itself or ginger where standardizing for the gingerol hydroxymethoxyphenyl resulted in more consistent and potent resutls.

To break this down a bit more, several clinical trials have been conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of black cohosh in treating menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, profuse sweating, insomnia, and anxiety. While the overall quality of these trials is low, the review of published data suggests that black cohosh may indeed be useful in alleviating these symptoms.

One of the most recent trials, however, found that black cohosh is not effective for treating menopausal symptoms in breast cancer survivors undergoing tamoxifen treatment. This highlights the importance of considering individual health conditions and potential interactions with other medications when using black cohosh.

The exact mechanism of action of black cohosh in treating menopause symptoms is not fully understood. It is believed that the plant's phytoestrogenic properties, which mimic the effects of estrogen in the body, may contribute to its potential benefits. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings and understand the underlying mechanisms.

Effects of Black Cohosh on Hormonal Balance

One of the key concerns when using black cohosh as a natural remedy is its potential impact on hormonal balance. Estrogen plays a crucial role in regulating various physiological processes in women, and any disruption in hormonal balance can have significant effects on their overall health.

Studies have shown mixed results regarding the effects of black cohosh on hormonal balance. [1] Some research suggests that black cohosh consumption may decrease luteinizing hormone (LH) levels, which can help alleviate menopause symptoms. LH is responsible for stimulating the ovaries to produce estrogen. By reducing LH levels, black cohosh may have a regulatory effect on estrogen production. [2]

However, the effects of black cohosh on estrogen levels themselves are not well-established. Some studies have reported no significant changes in estrogen levels after [3] black cohosh supplementation, while others have found slight increases in estrogen metabolites. Further research is needed to fully understand the impact of black cohosh on hormonal balance.

Black Cohosh and Weight Gain

Weight gain and changes in body composition are common concerns for women going through menopause. The decline in estrogen levels during this phase can lead to an increase in abdominal fat and changes in metabolism.

There is limited scientific evidence on the effects of black cohosh on weight gain in women. However, some studies have suggested that black cohosh extract may have a beneficial effect on body weight and fat accumulation.

In a study conducted on ovariectomized rats, black cohosh extract was found to reduce body weight gain and intra-abdominal fat accumulation. The rats treated with black cohosh extract gained less weight and had significantly lower levels of intra-abdominal fat compared to the control group. [4] 

These findings indicate that black cohosh extract may have potential benefits in preventing weight gain and reducing abdominal fat accumulation. However, more research is needed, particularly in human studies, to confirm these effects and understand the underlying mechanisms.

As for anecdotal reports on black cohosh causing weight gain this is likely as a result of people taking it during menopause and as a result of the menopause itself, or possibly a change in eating habits due to mood regulation. Black Cohosh itself does not cause weight gain.

Other Potential Benefits of Black Cohosh

While black cohosh is primarily known for its potential effects on menopause symptoms and weight gain, there have been suggestions of other potential benefits. However, the scientific evidence supporting these claims is limited, and more research is needed to establish their efficacy.

Black Cohosh and Fertility

Some studies have explored the potential use of black cohosh in improving fertility, particularly in combination with fertility drugs such as Clomid (clomiphene citrate). Preliminary findings suggest that black cohosh may enhance the effectiveness of fertility treatments, increasing the chances of ovulation and pregnancy in women with infertility issues. However, larger and more rigorous studies are needed to confirm these effects. [5]

Black Cohosh PMS and PCOS

Black cohosh has been suggested for use in various other women's health conditions, including polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), fibroids, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and menstrual cycle regulation. However, the evidence supporting these uses is limited, and more research is needed to determine the efficacy and safety of black cohosh in these conditions. [6]

Some studies have suggested that black cohosh supplementation may increase the chances of getting pregnant in women with PCOS who are undergoing fertility treatments such as Clomid. Additionally, it has been proposed that black cohosh may help regulate menstrual cycles in women with or without PCOS. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings and establish optimal dosages.

Mental Health and Sleep

There is some preliminary evidence to suggest that black cohosh may have positive effects on mental health, particularly in menopausal women. One study found that black cohosh supplementation was associated with significant improvements in psychological symptoms in menopausal women, although it had no effect on anxiety. More research is needed to fully understand the effects of black cohosh on mental health. [7,8] There are generally much better natural sleep aids however.

Black cohosh may also have potential benefits in improving sleep disturbances associated with menopause. One study reported that black cohosh supplementation improved sleep duration and quality in menopausal women. However, larger studies are needed to confirm these findings and understand the underlying mechanisms.

Black Cohosh Safety

While black cohosh is generally considered safe for short-term use, there are some precautions to be aware of. It's important to consult with a healthcare provider before starting black cohosh supplementation, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking medications.

Black Cohosh Side Effects

Common side effects of black cohosh supplementation may include upset stomach, cramping, headache, rash, feeling of heaviness, vaginal spotting or bleeding, and some people have reported unintended weight gain. These side effects are generally mild and go away once supplementation is stopped.

In rare cases, black cohosh has been associated with liver damage, including hepatitis. However, it is unclear whether black cohosh itself is the cause or if it is due to other factors in the supplements. Signs of liver damage may include abdominal pain, dark urine, and jaundice. If you experience these symptoms, it is important to stop using black cohosh and seek medical attention.

Who Shouldn't Take Black Cohosh

Black cohosh should be avoided in individuals with liver disorders or hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer. It is also not recommended for use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding due to limited safety data.

Long-term studies on black cohosh are lacking, and it is generally advised to use black cohosh for no longer than six months to one year. If you have any concerns or questions about using black cohosh, consult with a healthcare provider.

Dosage and How to Take Black Cohosh

Black cohosh is available in various forms, including capsules, liquid extracts, and teas. However, there is no standardized dosing recommendation for black cohosh, and dosages can vary depending on the brand and formulation.

To date, only one standardized black cohosh extract has been clinically tested. The current recommended dosage ranges from 40-80 mg per day and up to a total of 160mg. It is important to note that it may take 4-12 weeks of consistent treatment before any therapeutic benefits become apparent.

Interactions with Medications and Other Supplements

Black cohosh may interact with certain medications and supplements, although more research is needed to fully understand these potential interactions.

Preliminary evidence suggests that black cohosh may interact with medications such as amiodarone, fexofenadine, glyburide, and statins [9]. If you are taking any of these medications, it is important to consult with your healthcare provider before using black cohosh.

While black cohosh is generally considered safe when used appropriately, it is always recommended to seek professional medical advice before starting any new supplement or medication.

Does Black Cohosh Cause Weight Gain?

Black cohosh extract has been traditionally used as a natural remedy for menopause symptoms and other women's health conditions. While there is some evidence to support its potential benefits, more research is needed to fully understand its effects on weight gain, hormonal balance, and other related factors.


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