Menopause  Alternative Therapies to Ease Symptoms

Today, women are seeking herbal and nutritional therapies to ease hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause. While many herbal remedies may help ease those discomforts, these therapies have not been proven to reduce risk of heart disease or osteoporosis. If you're considering alternative therapies, talk to your health care provider. Note, though, that not all doctors feel comfortable recommending herbal or nutritional therapies for symptoms of menopause.


Female Herbs

These leading female herbs, deemed safe by the FDA, appear to balance estrogen in the body when the human hormone level becomes too low or too high. They are available dried, as capsules or tinctures, or in teas:

  • Dong quoi (Angelica sinesis) -- To quell hot flashes and regulate hormonal production. Investigators have confirmed dong quois pain-relieving, antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory activity.
  • Ginseng -- A tonic that increases energy and endurance.
  • Feverfew -- To relieve migraine headaches triggered by perimenopausal hormone fluctuations.
  • St. Johns wort -- Scientifically shown to relieve mild depression and anxiety.
  • Valerian -- To promote sleep and relieve anxiety.
  • Motherwort -- To relieve vaginal dryness.
  • Wild yam -- Regarded as a progesterone-producing herb to ease hot flashes and breast tenderness.
  • Garlic -- Whether eaten or taken in deodorized capsules, may lower harmful lipids and protect the heart.

These alternative therapies also may ease symptoms:

  • Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) roots and stems -- Reduces hot flashes and relieves depression and vaginal thinning. It is the main ingredient in Remifemin, a widely used German product, and in "menopause" teas and capsules. Note: do not use if you might be pregnant or are having heavy bleeding.
  • Vitex or chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus) fruit -- May regulate progesterone levels that contribute to fluid retention, bloating, breast tenderness, headache and fatigue. It is often included with black cohosh in menopausal products. Note: do not use this if you might be pregnant.

Soybeans

Interest in soybeans has been sparked by the theory that a soy-rich diet may explain why Asian woman don't experience symptoms of menopause. Lab studies reveal soy can significantly boost the high-density lipoproteins that protect the heart -- a significant finding given that heart disease is the leading cause of death in post-menopausal women. Soy also may prevent bone loss.


Tips on Natural Herbs

Natural isn't always safe. Some herbal remedies may have harmful side effects in people with certain medical problems. Stop taking herbs and see your physician if you develop uterine bleeding, a rash or any adverse reaction.

  • Seek guidance. Contact a licensed herbalist or talk to your health care provider if you are considering alternative therapies.
  • Seek reputable herbal preparations. Herbal products are not uniform. To make sure the ingredients you want are in the jar, read labels to learn genus and species, known active ingredients and the amounts.
  • Results may not be instant. It can take about six to eight weeks for most herbs to work.
  • Start with a lower dose. There is a therapeutic dosing range that may vary with each individual, just as there is with drugs. If the dose is three capsules three time a day, you may want to start with one capsule three times a day.
 
               

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