Women that have shunned the traditional route of treating menopausal symptoms by taking hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and thought they were taking better care of their bodies by going down the herbal road, may be in for a bit of a shock. It was revealed last week that the herbal supplement black cohosh root, which is typically used to treat the symptoms of hot flushes, night sweats and other common problems associated with the menopause, could actually be linked to liver damage.
Black cohosh root has long been a favourite of women who have not wanted to take HRT for whatever reasons as many people believe that by taking a herbal preparation the risks are minimised. But health watchdogs have now warned of the potential danger of this particular supplement after one woman became so ill that she needed a liver transplant. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) was so concerned about products containing black cohosh, a native American plant, that they have now issued a warning. Richard Woodfield, the MHRA’s head of herbal policy, said: “It is important people with a history of liver problems do not use black cohosh herbal products.”
The unidentified woman, is thought to have developed liver failure after starting to take the herbal supplement but we do not have confirmation of how much she consumed before becoming ill. Black cohosh is the second most popular herbal ingredient in the UK and is used to treat symptoms of the menopause such as hot flushes, night sweats, poor sleep, mood changes and irritability. It is readily available in capsules in most high street chemists, health food shops and supermarkets.
Worryingly, the MHRA said it had received a total of 53 reports of adverse reactions suspected to be associated with the use of black cohosh products, with the majority concerning damage to the liver. Black cohosh is registered as a herbal medicine with the MHRA under its Traditional Herbal Registration scheme, which was introduced last year to impose more stringent controls. But in some cases, the MHRA has found it being sold as a food supplement at more than 50 times the recommended dose. It is recommended therefore that you consult your doctor before you start on any course of herbal supplements.