Is black cohosh a flash in the pan?

Posted by on Mar 29, 2010 in bone health, exercise, herbal medicine | 3 comments

I am a true believer of black cohosh, that wonderful herb that for many women, simply stops hot flashes in their tracks. The clinical evidence in support of the effect of black cohosh on symptoms has also been pretty positive, except when it comes to bone health. Admittedly, I’m a bit in the dark on this one because I had never read anything associating the two…until now.

To examine the effect of black cohosh on bone density, researchers randomly assigned 128 postmenopausal to one of three regimens:

1) Six weeks of  highly intensive exercise directed towards protecting bone mass (e.g., strength training, aerobic activity) interspersed with 10 weeks of moderate intensity exercise (e.g. brisk walking)

2) The above program plus 40 mg/day black cohosh

3) Wellness program (light exercise for one hour a week, such as stretching, walking, balance)

Although exercise had a definite and positive effect on bone mineral density, taking black cohosh provided no additional benefit. However, women who were assigned to wellness only did experience a minor decrease in the bone density in their spine compared with women who exercised. Other variables, including lean body mass, heart disease risk and menopausal symptoms, were also favourably impacted by physical activity but again, not by the addition of black cohosh. The study was published in the online edition of Menopause.

Clearly, when it comes to bone density, exercise is the winner. Black cohosh does not appear to add any additional benefits, although it may ultimately prove to enhance any positive effects on menopausal symptoms, especially since previous clinical trials have been favourably in this regard.

Time will only tell. In the interim, keep moving and don’t rely on black cohosh to preserve your bone health.

As always, Reuters Health has done great reporting on this same study. I encourage you to check it out!


  1. 4-17-2010

    I was hesitant to try black cohash but as I was having 5-8 hot flashes a day I wanted to try something. Well, first day and no Hot Flashes still felt a start of warmth then it went away. I expected to see some results in a week or so but the first day I saw a reduction in my hot flashes. I would recommend this to anyone to try and see if you have the same results. I am amazed and enjoying the reduction in “flashes”.

    • 4-17-2010

      Jan. I think that standardized black cohosh is a miracle. Not enough women know about it or have been told about it – I know several women who’ve had almost complete relief from flashes after a few weeks of taking it. Of course, like any herbs, there are possible side effects but I am all for BC!

  2. 9-10-2012

    The beneficial effect of exercise on the cardiovascular system is well documented. There is a direct relation between physical inactivity and cardiovascular mortality, and physical inactivity is an independent risk factor for the development of coronary artery disease.

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