Build Bone Health with Black Cohosh

The herb may strengthen bones in postmenopausal women.

If you’ve turned to black cohosh for help with hot flashes, you could be getting an added bonus—the herb may also help strengthen your bones.

 

Menopause and Bone Health

Bone health is always important, but especially so after menopause, when estrogen levels drop sharply. During the five to seven years after menopause, women can lose up to 20 percent or more of their bone density—putting them at risk for osteoporosis and subsequently, bone fractures.

There are a variety of ways to prevent bone loss and maintain strong bones, including consuming adequate calcium and vitamin D and participating in weight-bearing exercise. It turns out that menopausal women may inadvertently reach for a supplement that could help them in the fight against bone loss.

 

Black Cohosh

Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) is an herbal supplement that has become a popular alternative to hormone replacement therapy for the treatment of menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, mood disturbances, and vaginal dryness. The supplement is available over the counter in most health stores.

Researchers from Germany conducted a study in 62 postmenopausal women. The women were divided into three groups and received black cohosh, conjugated estrogen, or placebo for 12 weeks. At the end of the 12 weeks, the researchers took blood samples and vaginal smears from all participants. They found that the women who took black cohosh showed nearly four times as many markers of bone growth compared to the women in the other two groups. What’s more—the black cohosh increased the lubrication of the inner lining of the vagina, which can dry as a result of menopause.

The researchers concluded that black cohosh could help stimulate osteoblasts, which are the cells that help reform bone. The results are promising—but it’s important not to overdo it. About 20 mg of black cohosh per day is plenty. As with any supplement, it’s important to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor.

References:

Wuttke W, Gorkow C, Seidlova-Wuttke D. Effects of black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) on bone turnover, vaginal mucosa, and various blood parameters in postmenopausal women: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, and conjugated estrogens-controlled study. Menopause. 2006; 13(2): 185-196.

 

Fast Facts. National Osteoporosis Foundation Web site. Available at: http://www.nof.org/articles/3