Herbal Hormone Replacement

Black cohosh may substitute estrogen therapy

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Black cohosh medicinal history

In the late 1800s, a time when more and more Americans were getting health care from the growing practice of conventional medicine, women’s health issues began to be regarded as little more than psychosomatic manifestations of the female gender’s frail nature. Women seeking relief from menstrual cramps, hot flashes, or other “female problems” were often treated with a dismissive pat on the hand followed by the surgical removal of perfectly healthy organs.

In 1881, Lydia Pinkham, wife of a real estate broker, found thousands of women more than willing to spend $1.00 for her newly patented Vegetable Compound. The secret ingredient in her herbal tonic was guaranteed to cure “all those painful Complaints and Weaknesses so common to our best female population—particularly adapted to the Change of Life.”

Read: Hot Flashes

Not only did women give the Vegetable Compound a try, they found it actually worked—and worked well. Women no longer had to suffer with fiery hot flashes or drenching night sweats or the embarrassment of a condescending and clueless physician.

Native American women used black cohosh long before Lydia Pinkham decided to make it the backbone of her Vegetable Compound. Cohosh, an Algonquin word meaning “rough,” refers to the plant’s gnarly roots.

The Delaware, Iroquois, and Cherokee used black cohosh root as a tonic to treat painful menstrual cramps, menopausal problems, and pain after childbirth.

As European settlers made their way across the country, tribal grandmothers shared their black cohosh tonic with the pioneer women they met.

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