What really works to prevent urinary tract infections, night sweats, irregular periods, migraines, cancer, heart disease, and more.
Lorie A. Parch
2 of 9 | BLACK COHOSH (Cimicifuga racemosa)
BEST FOR: Hot flashes and night sweats. "This herb is one of the best studied—and perhaps most popular—treatments for hot flashes, says Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., author of a review of botanical supplements for menopause published in the American Journal of Medicine. In fact, most studies have found it to be effective in reducing the hot flashes and night sweats associated with menopause, according to the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a division of the National institutes of Health (NIH). Despite all the research, however, no one is quite sure how it works. One long-held theory asserted that black cohosh exerted a positive estrogenic effect. (Declining estrogen levels are principally responsible for menopausal symptoms.) But newer data suggest that it may actually decrease levels of other hormones (including luteinizing hormone) that cause hot flashes, according to a research review published in the journal American Family Physician. Black cohosh isn't effective at relieving other menopausal issues, such as vaginal dryness, however. HOW TO TAKE IT: The recommended dosage is 20 milligrams twice daily. It's available as a fresh or dried root or in pill form; Lane P. Johnson, M.D., M.P.H., author of The Pocket Guide to Herbal Remedies, recommends the brand Remifemin, a standardized extract that has been used in more than 90 studies. SAFETY ISSUES: "Anyone with any kind of liver disorder or on any type of hepatotoxic medication" should put the kibosh on black cohosh, cautions Johnson. Typically, black cohosh is used on a short-term basis; the long-term safety is unknown. It should not be taken during pregnancy or while breast-feeding.