A prospective observational study was carried out in 50 breast cancer patients on tamoxifen, an anti-estrogen therapy that can also induce or worsen menopausal symptoms. All 50 women were post surgery, 87% of them were post radiation treatment and approximately half of them had received chemotherapy as well. Each patient was treated with an isopropanolic extract of black cohosh (1-4 tablets, 2.5 mg) for 6 months. Symptoms were recorded before therapy and after 1, 3 and 6 months using the menopause rating scale (MRS II).
Results: The total MRS II score for women while on black cohosh treatment reduced from 17.6 to 13.6, a statistically significant reduction. Symptoms of hot flashes, sweating, sleep problems, and anxiety improved, but vaginal dryness and body aches/pains did not change. Twenty two patients reported adverse events, but none were linked with the black cohosh; 90% of the women reported the tolerability of the black cohosh extract as very good or good.
Commentary: This is one more positive study using black cohosh extract for menopausal symptoms and even more meaningful, women on tamoxifen can have more problematic menopause symptoms and so a significant benefit of black cohosh is especially needed. Readers will also want to be reminded that we do have safety data on black cohosh in breast cancer patients—there is no estrogen in black cohosh, no phytoestrogens in black cohosh, no ability to stimulate breast cancer cells and laboratory data showed that black cohosh inhibited proliferation of estrogen receptor positive breast cancer cells and augmented the anti-estrogen effect when using black cohosh with tamoxifen. Black cohosh is clearly the first choice herb for menopause symptoms in breast cancer patients, and in breast cancer patients on tamoxifen.
Rostock M, Fischer J, Mumm A, et al. Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) in tamoxifen-treated breast cancer patients with climacteric complaints – a prospective observational study. Gynecol Endocrinol. 2011 Jan 13;