By Dr. Shrey Lakhotia, BDS
Black cohosh and constipation
Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa & Cimicifuga racemosa) is a perennial plant or herb which is native to North America.
It is a member of the buttercup family. It is sold as a dietary supplement targeting hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, but also constipation.
Even in ancient times, black cohosh rhizomes and roots have been used for the treatment of coughs, colds & constipation.
Black cohosh contains many important medicinal ingredients like triterpene glycosides, isoflavones, aromatic acids, tannins, resins, fatty acids, starches & sugars.
There is no proven effective dosage for black cohosh
Traditionally, doses of dried black cohosh root may be as high as 1 gram three times a daily. By comparison, the British Herbal Compendium recommends multiple doses of 40-200 mg daily for adults.
Due to a lack of scientific information, there is no recommended dosage for children.
In liquid form, the British Herbal Compendium recommends 0.4 to 2 mL at a 1:10 ratio of 60% ethanol as a daily tincture. Powdered black cohosh root or tea (1-2 gm three times a day) can also be used.
Black cohosh has been found to be beneficial to digestive health. It has been used by Native Americans to help with mild digestive problems like mild diarrhea or constipation.
Since the taste is bitter and sweet, these flavors aid in stimulating the digestive process and thus help to prevent constipation.
Black Cohosh and constipation - magnesium, an alternate treatment to constipation.
As reflected in the next point below, black cohosh may not be for everyone. In this case, it is a good idea to turn to magnesium to help with constipation relief.
Magnesium is a mineral that plays an important role in the human body.
Through osmotic action magnesium pulls water into the colon, helping stool to remain moist, soft and slick. Magnesium also balances out calcium’s colon tightening effect, thus helping to promote proper movement of stool through the colon.
A magnesium supplement may be the best option for long-term constipation relief.
Caution for Black Cohosh and constipation treatment. Black cohosh efficacy for constipation relief has not been scientifically proved.
Its usage is more based on traditional beliefs. The U.S. Pharmacopeia advises that black cohosh products be labelled with a cautionary statement: "Discontinue use and consult a healthcare practitioner if you have a liver disorder or develop symptoms of liver trouble, such as abdominal pain, dark urine, or jaundice."
The use of black cohosh during pregnancy has not been extensively studied and found not to be advisable for pregnant women. Its effects on breast tissue are poorly understood, making it a product to be avoided by women suffering from breast cancer.
Patients with liver disorders should avoid black cohosh. Liver troubles like abdominal pain, passage of dark urine or jaundice may occur while taking the supplement.
Black cohosh may contain oestrogen-like chemicals, with an effect of altering other agents believed to have estrogen-like properties. Black cohosh can also result in a greater likelihood of bleeding if a person is on medications for reducing the rick of blood clotting.
Black cohosh can cause blood pressure to be lowered. Therefore it should be used cautiously when taking other hypotensive agents.
Black cohosh can change the way the liver processes certain drugs. This can increase the amount of the drug that makes it into the blood stream, resulting in unintended consequences.
When one takes a medication they should first read the documentation that comes with it and talk with their doctor concerning potential drug interaction.
Black cohosh can interact with medicines used for the treatment of arthritis, cancer & osteoporosis, medicines belonging to the class of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), medicines used for inflammation, pain relief , disorders of the brain, intestines or stomach, medicines which inhibit blood clots and platelet aggregation, lower seizure threshold, widen blood vessels and also alcohol, antihistamines, cholesterol-lowering agents, oestrogens and salicylate-containing medicines like aspirin.
In conclusion, a magnesium supplement is a good alternative to black cohosh for constipation relief.
Note: As with any over-the-counter remedy, talk with your doctor before starting on a magnesium supplement. Supplemental magnesium may interfere with certain prescription medications. Those with kidney disease should not take a magnesium supplement unless instructed to do so by their doctor.