The Cheerful Oncologist

A new study of 351 women aged 45-55 and suffering from perimenopausal hot flashes found the taking the popular dietary supplement black cohosh (Popular? Well, now I wouldn’t say that. Alcohol, cigarettes and anti-depressants are popular. I don’t see anybody spending a billion or two on media ads for this stuff…) was no more effective than placebo in reducing the number of episodes per day.

The yearlong study of 351 women suffering from hot flashes and night sweats found that those given black cohosh got about the same amount of relief as those who took a placebo. And those groups saw nothing close to the improvement in women on hormones. The study was conducted at Seattle-based Group Health, a health plan, and was published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Did you catch that? Women who took hormones – and I don’t mean the type that baseball players would eagerly expose their derrières for a quick hypodermic – did show improvement in their symptoms.

Women taking the herbal treatments saw hot flashes reduced by only about half an episode per day compared with those taking the placebo, the study found. Those who got hormone therapy [estrogen with or without progestin] reduced their hot flashes by about four episodes per day when compared with the placebo.

For those who remain skeptical about the results of this study, do not despair. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled crossover clinical trial from the Mayo Clinic published June 20, 2006 also showed that black cohosh was no better than placebo in relieving hot flashes. This makes one want to buy some shares of placebo, that’s for sure – the product seems to be just as good as more costly treatments for a variety of woes , although it could use some help from the advertising department. Placebo may be just as effective as our featured perrenial herb Cimicifuga racemosa , but it can’t compete when it comes to catchy brand names, for as every good nature-lover knows, Cimicifuga racemosa is not just called black cohosh – it is also known as rattlesnake root, bugwort, squawroot, black snakeroot, rattleroot, bugbane, rattleweed, rattletop and richweed – that’s right, pardner.

See what I mean? Wouldn’t you rather quaff a hearty mug of black snakeroot beer than choke down a wimpy pill called “placebo”? We need to work on this image problem – let me put on the old thinking cap and when I come up with a new slogan I’ll run it up the flagpole and see if anybody salutes it.


  1. #1 dr peg
    December 19, 2006

    You got me chuckling so hard over “biting the wax tadpole” and the tough man making the tender chicken that I forgot what your original post was about!

    Oh yeah, Black Placebo. Good for what ails ya.

  2. #2 Ali
    December 19, 2006

    I thought for sure you were going to work the word ‘kibosh’ in there. :)

  3. #3 The Cheerful Oncologist
    December 19, 2006

    Ali: The New York Post beat me to it. Here’s their headline on this story:


    Oh, they’re so clevvvvvvvvvvvvver!

  4. #4 Norma
    December 20, 2006

    I’m glad I finished up with HRT before they took it away from women. If only men had hot flashes for a month or two, we’d get some quick kiboshing of hot flashing.

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