Black Cohosh and Wild Yam Cream for Hot Flashes?
Answered by: Susan Eagles
Question from: Name not given
Posted on: September 23, 2003

I am 45 and taking black cohosh for hot flashes. My question is: can I use wild yam cream at night also? And St. John’s wort to help with memory and mood swings?

John R. Lee, M.D. in "What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause", tells of the use of progesterone in the body, and how progesterone creams may be used to decrease menopausal symptoms by helping to balance the sex hormones. Lee cautions that care must be taking in selecting a "wild yam" cream: The hormone progesterone can be converted from diosgenin in wild yams or soybeans. The diosgenin in wild yam is not the same as the hormone progesterone: it must be converted in a lab to progesterone before it is active as the hormone. Therefore, creams that state that they contain "wild yam" may not be as effective as creams that state that they contain progesterone. Read the literature carefully, or call the manufacturer to ensure that the cream contains progesterone. The progesterone content of the cream should be approximately 1.5 to 2 per cent.

Synthetic hormones, called progestins, progestogens or gestagens, are often used by pharmaceutical companies instead of progesterone converted from diosgenin. The synthetic hormones are not as effective, and come with many side effects.

Black Cohosh is often helpful in hot flashes. How it works is not well understood. Historically, it has been called estrogenic, but recent studies show that it has some estrogen promoting effects and some estrogen blocking effects. i.e. it has been found to work like Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator (SERM) drugs.

Because both black cohosh and progesterone creams work on balancing sex hormones, but work in different ways, I recommend that you use each remedy separately for a period of three months to see which works best for you. Because memory disturbances and mood swings are also related to the sex hormones, I suggest that you see how your hormone balancing affects you before starting on St. John’s wort. St. John’s wort can be used with wild yam cream or black cohosh.

Diet and nutrition are more important than herbs in helping hormone balance and hot flashes: avoid alcohol, smoking, soft drinks, processed and refined foods and hydrogenated oils in margarines, shortenings and baked goods; do eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds; include small portions of proteins in your daily diet: meat, fish, eggs and natural yogurt; use extra virgin olive oil in place of other salad and cooking oils in order to promote a balance of omega 3 and omega-6 fatty acids; drink plenty of water; ensure that digestion and bowel elimination are working efficiently.

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