The most common symptom of menopause, "hot flashes" characterized by sudden waves of body heat, decreased by 53.4 percent among women who took the black cohosh-St John's wort combo in the trial, while psychological, or "psyche", symptoms reportedly dropped by 56.4 percent.
The effect of these herbal medicines was observed among a sample of women experiencing menopausal symptoms with a "pronounced psychological component" in a study conducted by a Berlin botanical consulting company Analyze & Realize and published in the February issue of Obstetrics & Gynecology (Vol. 107, pp. 247-255).
The favorable results of the fixed combination of extracts bring new light to relieving menopausal symptoms through alternative methods without controversial hormone replacement therapy.
The study, conducted under Dr Joerg Gruenwald, gave herbal tablets or placebo pills to approximately 300 women over a 9-month period and compared the results. One tablet contained on average 3.75 mg of black cohosh native extract and 22.5 to 41.25 mg rootstock, to 70 mg St John's wort native extract and 245-350 mg herb.
Black cohosh is widely used to ease the symptoms of menopause, while St John's wort is used to help with mild depression. Together, the study concluded, the herbal medicine mix can be very beneficial in treating menopausal complaints with a psychological aspect such as depression.
With pharmaceutical companies experiencing plummeting sales for their hormone replacement therapies, the results of the black cohosh and St John's wort trial points the way to potential for herbal supplements to take over a segment of this market.
There are 42.5m women in the US between the ages of 40 and 59, according to the US Census Bureau 2006 population estimates. The onset of natural menopause occurs between the ages of 40 and 58, with a median of 47.5 years, says the American Menopause Society.
Once the standard therapy for menopausal symptoms in the US, hormone replacement therapy became the center of controversy in July 2002 when a National Institutes of Health study showed that taking hormone replacement therapy could increase the risk of heart attack, stroke or breast cancer.
In July 2005 the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a United Nations agency, changed the classification of hormonal menopause therapy from "possibly carcinogenic to humans" to "carcinogenic to humans".