Menopause, or the “change of life,” is a transitional phase that marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years. The change is usually gradual and generally occurs around age 50. Menopause is often accompanied by a handful of symptoms, which vary in intensity and duration from woman to woman. These symptoms ordinarily include:
- hot flashes
- vaginal dryness
- depression, in some cases
These symptoms are related to the dramatic decline and unpredictable oscillations in your body’s production of natural estrogens.
Most natural remedies for menopause prominently feature plant-based compounds called phytoestrogens. These estrogen-like chemicals bind with estrogen receptors on tissues located throughout your body to relieve menopause symptoms.
For centuries, various medicinal systems have employed herbs and supplements to help relieve these symptoms. These botanicals have been handed down to us from Native American herbal lore, traditional Asian medicine, and Indian Ayurveda. Today, scientists investigate their actual benefits.
Herbs and Supplements
Here are some herbs and supplements that have been proven to be both safe and effective:
Soy: Genistein and Daidzein
Soy contains phytoestrogen compounds called isoflavones. The two major soy isoflavones are genistein and daidzein. In a study by the Linus Pauling Institute, these and other soy components have been credited with helping reduce the following medical conditions, although some responses in the study were mixed and not totally proven:
- the risk of certain cancers
- blood lipid levels, which may lead to a reduced risk of heart disease
- post-menopausal osteoporosis,
- the frequency and severity of hot flashes during menopause
- weight gain after menopause
Although some studies suggest that black cohosh helps alleviate menopausal symptoms, other studies don’t. The National Institutes of Health state that this Native American botanical remedy may be helpful in the short term of six months or less, for controlling hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. Although preliminary evidence is encouraging, this has not been fully proven.
As with black soy and cohosh, study results are mixed, but a study in the Gynecologic Endocrinology journal does report that red clover helps alleviate menopause symptoms with few side effects and no serious health risks.
Lignans are a class of compounds obtained through fiber-rich foods, such as flaxseed and sesame. Like soy compounds, lignans are phytoestrogens. They activate in your body after they are converted in your digestive tract to a compound called enterolactone. Higher levels of enterolactone have been associated with a reduced risk of breast cancer in women.
The HMR lignan, also called 7-hydroxymatairesinol, is extracted from Norway spruce trees for sale as a nutritional supplement. In addition to significant breast cancer protection, HMR lignans may help improve blood lipid profiles in menopausal and post-menopausal women.
Some premenopausal women experience symptoms commonly associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS). For centuries, folk medicine practitioners have used the berry of the chaste tree to treat such symptoms. However, an article published in the American Family Physician suggests that chasteberry or its extract does indeed help relieve this symptom of perimenopause.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
When depression occurs during menopause, increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids may help. In a study published in Menopause, the Journal of the North American Menopause Society, omega-3s were shown to be useful in treating depression, especially depression associated with a transition to menopause. Increasing your intake of omega-3s, commonly in the form of fish oil, may also alleviate mood-related symptoms, such as irritability and anxiety.
These herbs and supplements offer a healthy, natural way to alleviate menopause symptoms. Although research on some of them is inconclusive, they have been effective for some women and have been used for hundreds of years. As always, check with your doctor before taking any.