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Herbal Remedies For Treating Menopause

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Updated August 20, 2009

  • Black cohosh
    May be helpful in the short term (6 months or less) to treat hot flashes and night sweats. It seems to be extremely safe, although studies have been small and brief, none longer than six months.

  • Chasteberry (also known as monk's pepper, Indian spice, sage tree hemp, and tree wild pepper)
    This may inhibit prolactin, a natural hormone that acts on the breast. It is touted for breast pain and premenstrual syndrome. There are very few studies in menopausal women. A study of women with premenstrual syndrome found they reported improvements in mood, anger, headache, breast fullness, but not bloating and other symptoms.

  • Evening primrose
    This plant produces seeds rich in gamma-linolenic acid, which some experts believe is the nutritionally perfect fatty acid for humans. Although evening primrose capsules are taken for breast pain, bladder symptoms and menopausal symptoms, there is little or no evidence that they work. The one high quality study of effects on hot flashes found that evening primrose was no better than placebo.

  • Dong quai
    A study aimed at reducing hot flashes found that dong quai was not better than placebo - although the 4.5-gram dose used in the study was lower than that typically given in Chinese medicine. The herb is potentially toxic. It contains compounds that can thin the blood, causing excessive bleeding, and make the skin more sensitive to sun, possibly increasing skin cancer risk.
  • Valerian root
    This has traditionally been used as a tranquilizer and sleeping aid. But the U.S. Pharmacopoeia, which sets manufacturing standards for medicines, does not support its use, and there have been reports of heart problems and delirium attributed to sudden withdrawal from valerian.

  • Ginseng
    Most of the many types of ginseng (including Siberian, Korean, and American, white and red), are promoted for relieving stress and boosting immunity. A study of menopausal women by the leading ginseng manufacturer found the product did not relieve hot flashes but did improve women's sense of well being. Analyses of ginseng products have found a troubling lack of quality control: some contained little or no ginseng, contained large amounts of caffeine, or were tainted by pesticides or lead.

  • Wild and Mexican yam
    There are no published reports that show wild and Mexican yam cream is effective in helping menopausal symptoms. The hormones in wild and Mexican yam do not have any estrogenic or progestational properties, so they are not expected to help women with these symptoms.

    Adapted from the Office on Women's Health in the Department of Health and Human Services.

    Publication Date: August 2001

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