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Botanicals for Menopause - Do They Work?

By March 28, 2008 - 10:29am
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Some women just aren't comfortable using HRT. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has put together a list of alternative treatments and their researched effectiveness.


* Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa, Cimicifuga racemosa). This herb has received more scientific attention for its possible effects on menopausal symptoms than have other botanicals. Studies of its effectiveness in reducing hot flashes have had mixed results. A study funded by NCCAM and the National Institute on Aging found that black cohosh, whether used alone or with other botanicals, failed to relieve hot flashes and night sweats in postmenopausal women or those approaching menopause. Other research suggests that black cohosh does not act like estrogen, as once was thought. Black cohosh has had a good safety record over a number of years. Some concerns have been raised about whether it may cause liver problems, but an association has not been proven.

* Dong quai (Angelica sinensis). Only one randomized clinical study of dong quai has been done. The researchers did not find it to be useful in reducing hot flashes. Dong quai is known to interact with, and increase the activity in the body of, the blood-thinning medicine warfarin. This can lead to bleeding complications in women who take this medicine.

* Ginseng (Panax ginseng or Panax quinquefolius). The panel concluded that ginseng may help with some menopausal symptoms, such as mood symptoms and sleep disturbances, and with one's overall sense of well-being. However, it has not been found helpful for hot flashes.

* Kava (Piper methysticum). Kava may decrease anxiety, but there is no evidence that it decreases hot flashes. It is important to note that kava has been associated with liver disease. The FDA has issued a warning to patients and providers about kava because of its potential to damage the liver.

* Red clover (Trifolium pratense). The panel reported that five controlled studies found no consistent or conclusive evidence that red clover leaf extract reduces hot flashes. Clinical studies in women report few side effects, and no serious health problems have been discussed in the literature. However, there are some cautions. Some studies have raised concerns that red clover, which contains phytoestrogens, might have harmful effects on hormone-sensitive tissue (for example, in the breast and uterus). (See box below for more information on phytoestrogens.)

* Soy. The scientific literature includes both positive and negative results on soy extracts for hot flashes. When taken for short periods of time, soy extracts appear to have few if any serious side effects. However, long-term use of soy extracts has been associated with thickening of the lining of the uterus.

If you've tried any of these alternatives, what was your experience?

Add a Comment3 Comments

I got through menopause with estroven (actually walmart brand called estroblend reg strength) and wild yam progesterone cream. Guess I was lucky..all done by 47!

October 12, 2009 - 10:43am

I posted the following response under "HRT or Not to HRT" but am also posting it here b/c it addresses the question about whether Bioidenticals work or not. The answer for me is a resounding YES! They are literally saving my life! Please read the following:

"I initially posted my issues back in May and am pleased to report fantastic improvement. I found Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine (http://www.scnm.edu/index.php) which has a teaching clinic located in Scottsdale, AZ and I went there in June. First you see 2nd & 3rd yr students then their supervising physician; the exam is detailed and thorough.

My flashes and sweats were diagnosed as severe and my hormone levels non-existent. I was prescribed very low doses of compounded bioidentical estrogen and progesterone, tincture of sage, and pharmaceutical grade black cohosh. I was told to be patient for results and come back in 5 weeks. At 4 weeks I noticed little change but in the 5th week miraculously my symptoms began to decrease. At my appt. the doc said my improvement was terrific since I was so severe. Dr. Marchese also said I would continue to improve.

Now in my 6th week, my symptoms are 50-75% improved and decreasing rapidly. I'm at around 5 flashes a day (down from 15-20) and most are mild to moderate w/ flashes of heat but little sweats and no more chills. This is fantastic!!!! My life is nearly back to normal and I am no longer sleep deprived.

Dr. Marchese (mar-kay-zee) explained (my interpretation) that the estrogen receptors in the blood vessels searched for estrogen when I stopped HRT (after >20 yrs) and when not found flashes take place. Then the thyroid says WOW! your are too hot and tries to cool the body rapidly through sweat. By introducing the low level of bioidentical estrogen my body has calmed down. Now over time, she explained demand by the receptors will decrease and I will slowly lose need to take hormones.

All I can say is God Bless SCNM! It is VERY affordable and they know their business. If you live in the area, do not hesitate to use this clinic."

If anyone has any questions, please give me a holler.


July 20, 2008 - 1:01pm
EmpowHER Guest

Since I went off HRT in November, I have been using Black Cohash, Chinese Tea Pills prescribed by my accupunturist, and I started taking Effisoy approx 6 wks ago. I also tried homeopathic granules for several symptoms. To-date I am still suffering from difficult hot flashes and sweats. I do not soak out my clothes but I sweat a lot and am very uncomfortable. So, it does not look to me like any of the above work and am seeking other suggestions! Help!!!


May 3, 2008 - 4:15pm
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