Black Cohosh for Hot Flashes?

Natural herb shows promise by targeting the brain's thermostat.

By Colin Allen, published on September 1, 2003 - last reviewed on January 23, 2015

Black cohosh may someday be prescribed to reduce hot flashes. A
recent study suggests the herb seems to work as a safe alternative to
hormone replacement therapy. HRT, which has recently been linked to an
increased risk of diseases such as breast cancer and stroke, is thought
to be dangerous because it targets estrogen receptors. Cohosh, by
contrast, interacts with serotonin receptors, part of the brain's
thermostat.

"This alternative could work," says author Judy Bolton, a professor
at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

In her tests with rats, black cohosh did not interact with estrogen
receptors. Instead, it targeted the part of the brain that regulates body
temperature: serotonin receptors. Antidepressants--which are believed to
reduce to hot flashes--also influence this system.

Bolton warns that the study, published in the Journal of
Agricultural and Food Chemistry, is preliminary and should not be
overstated. A one-year clinical trial is now underway to show if the herb
actually reduces the number and intensity of hot flashes in women.

"We have a long way to go to determine if this is applicable to
people at all," she says.