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Black Cohosh Ineffective in Treating Menopause

Herbal supplement no more effective than placebo in well-designed trial

TUESDAY, Dec. 19 (HealthDay News) -- The herbal supplement black cohosh alone or combined with other supplements is ineffective at reducing the frequency or severity of menopausal symptoms, according to the results of a randomized, controlled trial published in the Dec. 19 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Katherine M. Newton, Ph.D., from the University of Washington in Seattle, and colleagues studied 351 women who were either postmenopausal or in menopausal transition and who had at least two vasomotor symptoms per day. The women were randomly assigned to black cohosh, a multibotanical with black cohosh and nine other ingredients, a multibotanical plus dietary soy counseling, estrogen plus or minus medroxyprogesterone acetate, or placebo for one year.

None of the three herbal interventions had any effect on the frequency or intensity of vasomotor symptoms compared with placebo, apart from significantly worse symptom intensity after 12 months with the multibotanical plus soy intervention. In contrast, hormone therapy significantly reduced the frequency and severity of symptoms compared with placebo.

"The study is a well-designed, adequately powered randomized controlled trial that makes an important contribution, albeit one that will disappoint women who have been hoping for an effective, safe alternative to estrogen," states the author of an accompanying editorial. However, the editorialist notes that women in the placebo group had a 30 percent reduction in the severity and frequency of symptoms, suggesting some women "may not need treatment at all."

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