Can a woodland herb called black cohosh help prevent osteoporosis in women?
10/24/2019 // Edsel Cook // Views

Women have long used black cohosh as an herbal remedy to support their reproductive health. A recent study adds more evidence supporting its use, revealing that the medicinal herb prevents osteoporosis, one of the most severe symptoms of menopause.

Millions of women around the world use black cohosh extract to help them manage the effects of menopause. In the European Union, health insurance programs make it available for women. Chinese researchers have conducted thorough evaluations of black cohosh and its medicinal use, with their results backing up anecdotal evidence of its use.

Black cohosh extracts relieve anxiety, depression, hot flashes, nervousness, vaginal dryness, and other menopause symptoms. It has no carcinogenic, cytotoxic, mutagenic, or teratogenic effects on humans. (Related: TCM found to decrease risk of bone fracture in osteoporosis patients.)

Testing the efficacy of black cohosh extract on osteoporosis

Osteoporosis remains a somewhat mysterious health condition. However, research has found a link between primary osteoporosis in women and low levels of the female sex hormone estrogen.

Bones remodel themselves continually. They break down old material and grow new bone. Their constant activity allows them to handle any changes in the weight they support, as well as to repair tiny fractures.

The estrogen levels of women plummet during the onset of menopause or after a hysterectomy. The deficient female sex hormone levels speed up the rate at which bones get broken down.

Meanwhile, the rate of bone growth remains static. Thus, bone breaks down faster than it gets replaced.


Conventional treatments for osteoporosis comes with many side effects. For instance, estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) makes it more likely to experience heart attacks and cancers of the breast, cervix, and uterus. Bisphosphonates and selective estrogen receptor modulators (SERMs) have their drawbacks.

Clinical trials have demonstrated that black cohosh extracts alleviate hot flushes and improve sleep in menopausal women. Further, Remifemin and other products can also improve irritability and moodiness associated with the condition.

Finally, the herb-based approach did not share any of the adverse effects of conventional osteoporosis treatments.

Black cohosh extract protects menopausal women against osteoporosis

Researchers from Peking University used female rats to simulate the conditions of menopause in human women. They pulled this off by removing the animals' ovaries.

Next, they gave Remifemin-brand black cohosh extract to the animals. They evaluated any effects on trabecular bone, a type that appears in weight-bearing bones like femurs and the lower spine.

Their results showed that black cohosh extract protected trabecular bone from osteoporosis. When compared with natural estrogen, Remifemin worked almost as effectively. Further, a single dose proved sufficient.

Remifemin worked slightly slower than ERT. In exchange, the herbal medicine doesn't have the adverse effects of the latter. Black cohosh extract achieved its highest effects in bones that supported the weight.

Last but not least, Remifemin did not reverse osteoporosis. It only prevented the onset of the condition. Other forms of black cohosh may or may not have the same limitation.

In their paper, the researchers summarized that Remifemin achieved the same results as the pharmaceutical drug estradiol valerate. It prevented fractures in trabecular bone, enhanced the biomechanical property of bones, and inhibited the re-absorption of bone.

They concluded that black cohosh extract might serve to prevent postmenopausal osteoporosis in women.

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