Black cohosh - it's not just for women [Image: Schnobby - Wikimedia Commons]

Black cohosh relieves stress in women – and men

11 September, 2012

Natural Health News — Black cohosh is a well known ‘women’s’ remedy, but new research suggests it may have stress relieving properties that benefit both men and women.

The dried root of Cimicifuga racemosa, also known as black cohosh, has been widely used as a herbal supplement to treat menopausal symptoms including hot flushes, profuse sweating and irritability. In addition, its popularity has grown amongst women who wish to avoid hormone replacement therapy with its now proven link to stroke.

In a new study, however, scientists focused on the root’s other known benefit – stress relief.

In all 31 people – mostly men – participated in this double blind cross-over trial. Cross over means that during the course of the trial participants who took the active 200 mg black cohosh extract tablets were crossed over and also given a placebo and their responses checked again.

The participants were then subjected to a complicated and stressful mathematics test and their levels of stress  evaluated subjectively as well as biochemically.

The researchers report that not only did participants report that they felt less stressed, objective measurements also showed their bodies were less stressed.

Those taking black cohosh had decreased salivary levels of chromogranin-A – a chemical released by the body in response to stress –  compared with placebo treatment. Using electroencephalography to measure brain wave patterns, the researchers noted that those taking the black cohosh also recovered a peaceful state of mind more quickly after being stressed than those taking the placebo.

The ‘side effects’ of stress

Lifetime exposure to stress can have important consequences for health. Stress has been related to a number of ‘diseases of modern life’ including heart disease, stroke, atherosclerosis, diabetes, cancer and gastric ulcer.

Many conventional anti-anxiety medicines such as benzodiazepines have unfortunate side effects including dizziness, nausea memory loss, insomnia and depression.

No adverse effects were reported in this study and the researchers conclude that black cohosh was a useful treatment for stress-related disorders.

The research was published in the journal Biomedical Research.