Black cohosh, a member of the buttercup family, has been traditionally used to treat menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes.
New research has determined that it may work by acting on human "mu" opiate receptors, which help to regulate body temperature.
Opiate receptors respond to opiates endorphins and morphine. The opiate receptor system also affects levels of sex hormones and neurotransmitters, and can cause responses including the regulation of pain, temperature and appetite.
Hot flashes may be caused by declining estrogen levels, which can change neurotransmitter levels. This causes the temperature regulation center of the brain, located in the hypothalamus, to function irregularly. The hypothalamic temperature setting can be controlled directly or indirectly by the opiate system.
Black cohosh is a perennial plant native to North America. It has been used by Native Americans to treat disorders including malaise, kidney ailments, malaria, rheumatism, sore throat, colds, cough, constipation, hives, gynecological disorders, and backaches, and also to induce lactation.
Black cohosh was listed in the United States Pharmacopoeia, the nation's official drug reference book, from 1820 to 1926. But then drug manufacturers began focusing almost exclusively on synthetic molecules that, unlike herbs, could be patented and used to make big profits. So research stopped, and medicinal plants like black cohosh were dropped from use.
But studies have shown that black cohosh is nearly as effective as estrogen, and far more effective than placebo pills, at treating hot flashes, and is also useful in managing the mood swings and irritability that may accompany menopause.
But if you decide to use it please be careful as black cohosh has been found to interfere with drugs and radiation treatments used in cancer therapy.
Now, cancer treatment is an entirely different issue, of course, and one that I typically don't focus on for a variety of reasons. But needless to say, there are a large variety of naturally based treatments that one could use for cancer in which black cohosh would not be a problem.
You may also want to consider carefully prescribed bioidentical hormone replacement therapy, especially if you have had a hysterectomy.
Here are some other safe and natural ways to optimize your hormone levels without taking hormone replacement therapy:
Vital Votes reader Luanne, from the <st1:country-region>Philippines</st1:country-region>, points out another alternative: