Other Proposed Natural Treatments
- Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)
- Dong Quai
- Evening Primrose Oil
- Gamma Oryzanol
- Grass Pollen
- Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins (OPCs)
- Pueraria mirifica
- Progesterone Cream
- Red Clover
- Royal Jelly
- St. John's wort
- Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Wild Yam
The hormonal changes of menopause can produce a wide variety of symptoms, ranging from hot flashes and vaginal dryness to anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Many of these symptoms are undoubtedly caused by the natural decrease in estrogen production that occurs at menopause; however, the human body is so complex that other hormonal factors undoubtedly also play a role.
Menopause is not a disease. It is clearly a natural process, but one that many women prefer not to experience. No longer do women accept as merely part of life the decrease in libido, pain during intercourse, years of hot flashes, and other uncomfortable problems that may accompany menopause. This raises an important point: How close to nature do we want to live? One of the most valued ideals of alternative medicine is the desire to trust nature, but sometimes we may want to draw a line. For example, in a state of nature, infant and maternal mortality is high. This process of survival of the fittest helps humanity as a species to be stronger, but it is not something that a compassionate society can tolerate. Thus, no matter what our ideals, we frequently find ourselves tampering with nature. The treatment of menopause is simply one example among many.
Estrogen-replacement therapy can alleviate many of the problems associated with menopause. However, it creates counterbalancing risks. The most frightening issue is the increased risk of breast cancer that appears to be associated with replacement estrogen. In addition, estrogen therapy can cause blood clots in the legs, and it appears to raise the risk of heart disease rather than prevent it (as previously thought). The decision whether to use estrogen-replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms should involve a careful examination of the risks and benefits in consultation with a physician.
Principal Proposed Natural Treatments
We do not know for sure whether any of these reduce the risk of osteoporosis. See the full article on Osteoporosis for more detailed information on natural ways to prevent bone loss.
Soy and Soy (or Other Source) Isoflavones
Both soy and red clover contain phytoestrogens (naturally occurring substances with estrogen-like actions) called isoflavones. It is thought that the isoflavones in these herbs may offer some benefits of estrogen with less risk. However, the current evidence base for this hypothesis is conflicting.
For more information, including dosage and safety issues, see the full Isoflavone article.
The bottom line: Black cohosh may be modestly effective for reducing hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause, but doubts remain.
For more information, including dosage and safety issues, see the full Black Cohosh article.
Other Proposed Natural Treatments
Pueraria mirifica Pueraria mirifica
Cynanchum wilfordii Phlomis umbrosa Angelica gigas
Estriol: A Safer Form of Estrogen?
For over a decade, some alternative medicine practitioners have popularized the use of a special form of estrogen called estriol , claiming that, unlike standard estrogen, it does not increase the risk of cancer. However, this claim is unfounded.
However, like other forms of estrogen, oral estriol stimulates the growth of uterine tissue. This leads to a risk of uterine cancer.
The bottom line: If you are considering using estriol, think of it as equivalent to any other form of estrogen.
- Reviewer: EBSCO CAM Review Board
- Review Date: 08/2013 -
- Update Date: 12/16/2013 -