First, what is menopause? We know menopause is begun when estrogen levels begin to drop. Because the ovaries are slowing in their production of estrogen, many body functions are affected. Hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, weight gain and sleep disturbances can be quite annoying and disruptive to daily life.
Why does this happen? The hypothalamus inside the brain sends signals to the ovaries telling them how much estrogen to produce. As we age this mechanism begins to slow and the hypothalamus starts to decline in its signals to the ovaries to produce estrogen. As this declines the menopause symptoms increase.
What can be done to alleviate these symptoms?
Hormone replacement therapy.
HRT has long been the standard treatment for menopausal symptoms. However, in the past few years of increasing research it has been shown that hormone replacement therapy has important factors which may increase the risk of cardiac disease as well as possible risks of uterine and breast cancer.
The primary herb used to treat menopausal symptoms is Black Cohosh.
Over 200 years ago, Native Americans found that black Cohosh root was good for treating menopausal symptoms and also helped to relieve menstrual cramps. In Germany the government has approved Black Cohosh as an alternative to prescription estrogen hormone therapy. Research in Germany found that Black Cohosh improved both physical and psychological symptoms including hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, sleep disturbances and anxiety.
The phytochemicals in Black Cohosh have an effect on the endocrine system. It is thought that these substances mimic estrogen replacement.
Most of the current research shows that Black Cohosh acts on the neurotransmitters and inhibits inflammation. It does not appear to have actual estrogenic activity. Some studies have shown that Black Cohosh does not carry the risks of prescription hormone replacement therapy.
Black Cohosh should never be used during pregnancy or lactation. Do not take Black Cohosh if you are on birth control pills, tamoxifen, or hormone replacement therapy. Always talk to your doctor before taking any supplements. If you have an allergy to aspirin, do not take Black Cohosh.
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