The Effects of Black Cohosh in Weight Loss

Black cohosh reviews speak highly of the supplement. But according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), few studies have been conducted, and most of them are of low quality. Can it really help weight loss, or does it cause weight gain?

Black cohosh reviews speak highly of the supplement. Credit: Foodcollection RF/Foodcollection/GettyImages

What Is Black Cohosh?

The NCCIH says black cohosh is a plant native to North America, a member of the buttercup family. While Chinese and Native American herbalists have used the plant to treat a number of ailments, there is little research to support many of the reported health claims.

In clinical trials, people have used black cohosh for as long as a year without serious harmful effects. The most commonly-reported side effects were rashes and upset stomachs. It's important to pay close attention to the quality and type of supplement you're using, as some commercial black cohosh supplements have been found to contain mixtures of black cohosh and other herbs not listed on the label.

Do not confuse black cohosh with blue cohosh. It has different effects and may not be safe for regular use by humans. There have been reports of using a combination of both blue and black cohosh to induce labor. However, using it this way was linked to severe adverse effects for at least one newborn baby.

Read more: Estrogenic Foods to Avoid

Black Cohosh Uses

According to the Cleveland Clinic, black cohosh is used to relieve symptoms of menopause, but has not been FDA approved for any purpose.

According to a September 2012 systematic review of multiple studies published in Intervention, there is not enough evidence to support the use of black cohosh for menopausal symptoms such as weight gain. The review calls for additional research to study the effect of black cohosh on other important aspects of women's health, such as sexuality, bone health, and overall quality of life.

A February 2013 systematic review of multiple studies published in Integrated Cancer Therapies sought to determine how black cohosh influenced the risk of breast cancer. The study found that current evidence does not support an association between increased breast cancer risk and the use of black cohosh.

It also found that there is not enough evidence to support black cohosh being an effective treatment for reducing hot flashes in breast cancer patients. The study's authors say that additional research is needed, because of conflicting results and safety issues.

There is a distinct lack of research on black cohosh and how it relates specifically to weight loss or weight gain. Online, you may find black cohosh reviews from users who swear by it for weight management during menopause.

Read more: How Evening Primrose Oil Can Make Menopause More Comfortable

Black Cohosh Interactions

When it comes to black cohosh interactions, the risk of interactions with the herbs and medicines you may already be taking seems to be small. The NCCIH is funding research to learn more about these possible interactions.

The Cleveland Clinic writes that black cohosh interactions may occur with fertility treatments, as well as with medications known as atorvastatin and cisplatin. It's critical to inform your doctor about all the medicines, non-prescription drugs, dietary supplements and herbs that you use to treat yourself.

You should also let them know if you smoke, drink alcohol, or use any kind of illegal drug, because some of these may cause further black cohosh interactions, and may contribute to, or worsen, black cohosh's side effects.

Black cohosh's side effects include:

  • Allergic reactions, particularly if you are allergic to buttercups
  • Problems breathing
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness

One of the major black cohosh side effects to keep an eye out for is liver damage. If you experience dark yellow or brown urine, light-colored stools, loss of appetite, or yellowing of the skin or eyes, the black cohosh supplement you are using may be damaging your liver, and you should seek medical attention right away.

If you choose to use this supplement, pay close attention to black cohosh reviews and product labels, to ensure you're getting a high quality product. Always check with your doctor before making major changes to your diet or lifestyle.

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