What about herbal remedies?There are many "herbal" products for sale that claim to help menopausal symptoms. These products are not regulated through the same government system as drugs, so there is little research to back up their claims. In addition, most have to be taken routinely, are not covered by insurance, and can become costly over time. Any herbal remedies for menopause should be thoroughly discussed with your health care provider. You should tell your provider if you are taking any other medications, since some of the herbal products can have harmful interactions with other drugs.
However, there are some products that seem to help some women. Soy and soy products have been used for the alleviation of menopausal symptoms due to their high concentration of phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are plant-derived compounds that possess estrogenic activity, and therefore could have some of the same effects as HRT, but their long-term safety has not been adequately studied. There is limited, and sometimes conflicting, research on the safety and effectiveness of many other popular herbal products that claim to help menopause, including ginseng, black cohosh, dong quai, and evening primrose.
Recently, the American College of Obstetricians (ACOG) issued the following guidelines on the most popular "alternative" medicines for menopause:
- Soy and
Isoflavones (plant estrogens found in beans, particularly soybeans)
High isoflavone intake (about 50 grams of soy protein per day) may be helpful in the short term (2 years or less) in relieving hot flashes and night sweats. Taken over the long term, it also may have beneficial effects on cholesterol and bones. While safe in dietary amounts, the consumption of extraordinary amounts of soy and isoflavone supplements may interact with estrogen and may be harmful to women with a history of estrogen-dependent breast cancer and possibly to other women as well.
May be helpful in the short-term (2 years or less) to treat mild to moderate depression in women (when given in doses of less than 1.2 milligrams a day.) A recent study showed it is not effective in treating severe depression. It also can increase skin sensitivity to the sun and may interfere with prescription antidepressants.