Why do some people do it?
September 2006, Warren Matthews
Black Cohosh is a very popular ingredient used by millions of women worldwide to help control menopausal symptoms. It has been used traditionally for hundreds of years. However, in spite of this very positive history, experts considered the evidence supporting the concerns about possible liver damage to be flimsy indeed.
You may remember that in our 9th August issue of Xtend-15sec-News that we published an article warning about the risks of taking Black Cohosh as it may cause liver damage.
We suggested that the ‘warning’ was very questionable given the excellent safety record of Black Cohosh.
Black Cohosh is a very popular ingredient used by millions of women worldwide to help control menopausal symptoms. It has been used traditionally for hundreds of years. However, in spite of this very positive history, moves were made by several governments, including UK and Australia to require warning labels on products that contain Black Cohosh.
Experts considered the evidence supporting the concerns about possible liver damage to be flimsy indeed. The evidence which the various governments relied upon was based on two cases of liver toxicity in which the patients were taking Black Cohosh. One of these cases required a liver transplant.
It was reported that neither patients used alcohol or drugs so therefore Black Cohosh was blamed.
In fact, the authors of one case report specifically stated:
“The patient did not drink alcohol or use illicit drugs, and was not taking any medications, including other herbal medications, acetaminophen, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs”
It would seem that the patient took her own case report seriously and saw an opportunity to capitalise on her misfortune so in conjunction with her husband she initiated a law suit against the manufacturer of Black Coshosh.
The law suit was brought before the US District Court in Nebraska earlier this month (8th Sept 2006).
The complainant alleged that the Black Cohosh she took for 5 months caused her liver damage and thus the need for a liver transplant…and she had ‘expert’ witnesses to prove this claim.
‘Experts’ provide evidence…
One of the ‘expert’ witnesses was her own physician who was also one of the authors of the report that condemned Black Cohosh and thus contributed to the knee jerk reaction against this nutrient throughout the world.
Well…it turns out that this ‘expert’ admitted in court that he had never even heard of Black Cohosh before treating this patient.
But…even worse, the testimony revealed that the woman regularly consumed wine, used Advil® (ibuprofen, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) on a regular basis, and had been prescribed Valtrex®, a drug that lists “liver enzyme abnormalities; hepatitis” as a reported adverse reaction.
Wow…that sure wasn’t mentioned in the case report…
The other ‘expert’ was a toxicologist Michael Corbett MD. Even though he claimed a causal link between Black Cohosh and liver toxicity he also admitted that he had not conducted any animal or human tests to establish this.
Interestingly the court concluded in its ruling: “The research has consistently held to the contrary, that black cohosh is non hepatoxic,”
Damage has been done…
Even though this case was dismissed, a great deal of damage has been done.
This sort of situation is not new. I have seen similar things over past years in which an excellent nutrient has been condemned first by the media, and then followed through by governments…based on the most circumstantial and flimsy evidence.
In all cases that I am aware of, in which a natural ingredient has been accused of causing harm, it turns out later that the patient has also been taking a pharmaceutical drug, and more often than not the very side effects that the patient experiences was one of the potential adverse reactions listed on the drugs data sheet!
But…the media tends to ignore these very important facts and instead points the finger at the natural supplement.
When it comes to safety issues there is certainly not a ‘level’ playing field in so far as drugs and natural supplements are concerned. In order for governments to either withdraw drugs from the market or, even post a warning about them there has to be multiple deaths over an extended period of time, and decisive evidence that the drug was to blame.
There are many drugs on the market including common OTC ones that can cause liver damage. You need to be very careful about your use of drugs, even these common ones. I will do an article specifically on this subject in the not to distant future.
In summary, for now, if you use Black Cohosh and you find it helpful, continue to use it. But…like all nutrients don’t use it in excess of what is recommended! Remember, that when it comes to nutrients that you ingest, more is not always better….unless, they are vegetables out of your own garden.
In good health.