One of the funniest scenes I've seen about menopause is from the movie “Sex in the City Two”. The oversexed character Samantha is determined to stop her body from entering menopause.
After customs confiscates her herbal supplements for menopause, she eats yams to suppress menopausal symptoms. Her hot flashes looked unbearable as she ate and smeared her body with yams.
Before we discuss yams, first a few words of caution about herbal supplements. Some supplements can interact with prescription medicine. It is important to contact your health care provider before you add a supplement to your daily regime.
In addition, supplements are not regulated like prescription drugs and research is minimal. So, please use caution when adding a supplement to your diet and remember that some supplements can take up to three weeks to kick in.
Here is a list of possible supplements for hot flashes:
-Evening primrose oil
Black cohosh, which is the extract of the root of the black cohosh plant, has received quite a bit publicity lately in regards to the possibility of minimizing hot flashes. The Huffington Post referred to two studies on black cohosh and hot flashes.
The Huffington Post stated that “a 2008 review concluded that there is insufficient evidence for black cohosh's effectiveness in treating menopausal symptoms. Another review published in 2010 found that unspecified black cohosh 'preparations' decreased hot flash symptoms by 26 percent.”
Kava which is the taro root and a Polynesian favorite for its calming effects (once you get past the taste of dirt). According to the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), “Kava may decrease anxiety, but there is no evidence that it decreases hot flashes.” Do take note, that kava cannot be sold in Canada due to health concerns.
Dong quai has been used to “treat gynecologic conditions for more than 1,200 years.” But two studies stated that the premise “that dong quai acts like estrogen in the body are not supported by research.”
A word of extreme caution about dong quai. NAMS cautioned that it “should never be used by women with fibroids or blood-clotting problems such as hemophilia, or by women taking drugs that affect clotting such as warfarin (Coumadin) as bleeding complications can result.”
In regards to red clover, limited and inconclusive results have occurred in several studies about red clover. However, one study suggested that red clover can help lower cholesterol in postmenopausal women.
Also, a placebo-controlled evening primrose oil study (in only 56 women) found no benefit over placebo (mock medication).Evening primrose oil has many side effects and “should not be used with anticoagulants or phenothiazines (a type of psychotherapeutic agent).”
Ginseng has shown some benefits when it comes to relieving symptoms of menopause, but not hot flashes. Ginseng “research has shown that ginseng may help with some menopausal symptoms, such as mood symptoms and sleep disturbances, and with one's overall sense of well-being.”
Now, back to Samantha and her yams. The Huffington Post wrote, “A 2001 [wild yam] study suggested that short-term topical use was free from side effects but provided little relief from menopausal flushing or night sweats.”
So, before you start smearing your body with yams, please contact your doctor regarding any possible interactions with other medication you are currently prescribed.
Macher, Michael. "Can Supplements Ease Menopause Symptoms?" The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 23 July 2010. Web. 31 May 2013.
"Natural Remedies for Hot Flashes." Herbal Remedies for Menopause, Menopause Information & Articles. Web. 31 May 2013.
Reviewed May 31, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith