Menopause is a natural phase that every woman goes through in her reproductive life, and it is not a disorder by any means. However, many women experience discomforting perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms. These can be night sweats, hot flashes, and vaginal dryness that can lead to pain during intercourse. Some women also experience mood changes and insomnia.
Menopausal symptoms have been attributed to the fall in estrogen levels in the body. Hence, hormone replacement therapy is often recommended. But it has got bad press lately because of the side effects associated with it. So, more and more women are turning to herbal and other natural treatments to handle their menopausal symptoms.
Herbal Remedies For Menopause
There are several herbs to choose from depending on your symptoms. However, you may want to consult your doctor before trying any of them because they are not without their side effects and can have harmful drug interactions with any medicines you may be taking.
There are mixed results about its efficacy in treating hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, and mood changes. The extract is prepared from the roots and underground stems (rhizomes) of Cimicifuga racemosa. The active ingredients are triterpene saponins, isoferulic acid and fukinolic acid.
The dose is 1 tablet (containing 20-mg of extract) twice daily, or alternatively, 1 cup of its decoction twice daily, or 10-50 drops of its tincture twice daily. Exercise caution in using it because some studies indicate that it can cause liver damage. Other side effects are headaches, weight gain, heaviness in legs and stomach complaints.
Flaxseed oil is obtained from the seed of Linum usitatissimum. The active ingredients are phytoestrogens called lignans and omega-3 fatty acids.
It can provide relief from hot flashes and breast pain. The dose is 1-2 tablespoons of the oil daily. It is safe at recommended dosage, though it can cause diarrhea and allergic reactions.
Ginseng has been found useful for sleep disturbances and mood swings, but it is not so helpful for controlling hot flashes. The extract is got from the root of Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng) or Panax ginseng (Chinese or Korean ginseng), which contains chemicals called ginsenosides and polysaccharides.
The dose is 1-2 capsules twice daily or 1 cup of its decoction twice daily. Some of its side effects are diarrhea, itching, nervousness and headache.
There is some evidence that red clover can decrease hot flashes and night sweats. This is attributed to its phytoestrogen content in the form of isoflavones.
The extract is obtained from the flower tops of Trifolium pratense. The dose is 1-2 teaspoons of its tincture daily, or 2-3 cups of its decoction daily. Tablets and capsules are also available. Those with platelet disorders should not use it.
Dong quai has been shown to be useful for controlling hot flashes. It is obtained from the root of Angelica sinensis. The active ingredients are phytosterols, flavonoids and polysaccharides.
The dose is 10-40 drops of its tincture once or twice daily, or 1 cup of its decoction twice daily. It is safe at recommended doses. People taking blood thinners should not use it.
Soy can be effective in controlling hot flashes and night sweats because it contains the phytoestrogens called isoflavones. However, it is effective only in women who produce an estrogen known as equol.
It is best to consume it in the form of tofu or soy milk, and not as tablets or powder. You can consume up to 20 g of soy daily. It is generally safe, but some may be allergic to it.
Other Herbal Remedies
Gingko biloba and St. John’s wort may help with the mental symptoms of menopause. Sage leaf extract may reduce the night sweats. Kava kava has fallen out of favour because of lack of evidence for its efficiency.