Complementary, Alternative Medicine May Offer Relief from Menopausal Symptoms

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Complementary medicine offers some options that are outside the realm of regular medicine, but which have, in some cases, been found to be really effective in easing menopausal symptoms. Therefore, I think it’s worth it to explore the options that we have as women that can help us deal with this transition in life.

    The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine of the National Institutes of Health recommends four things for women to know if they are considering using a complementary health practice to deal with menopausal symptoms.

    1.    Mind and body practices – think yoga, hypnosis, tai chi, acupuncture and qigong – may actually help reduce the frequency and severity of symptoms, such as hot flashes, joint pain, muscle pain, stress, sleep disturbances and mood disturbances.

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    2.    Researchers have found little evidence that natural products such as black cohosh, soy isoflavone supplements, DHEA, red clover, kava or dong quai help with menopausal symptoms. So what are these products? The first one is black cohosh, which has had mixed evidence as far as improving physical and psychological menopausal symptoms. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that because of these mixed findings, some doctors will only recommend short-term use of this herb to help relieve hot flashes. By short term, they mean less than six months of usage. Another type of natural product is soy isoflavone supplements. A meta-analysis by the North American Menopause Society found mixed results of the effects on midlife women. These isoflavones seem to be modestly effective in dealing with menopausal symptoms. They recommend furthermore studies to understand whether these supplements are really helpful. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone that some researchers have helpful for menopause symptoms when taken in low doses. The study on this particular hormone is a small one, so larger studies are needed to confirm these findings.  Red clover is a wild plant that is part of the legume family. These plants contain isoflavones that produce estrogen-like effects in the body. However, research has been mixed that red clover helps reduce menopausal symptoms. Kava, a plant that is found in Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia, has been associated with muscle relaxant and anticonvulsant effects.  It is believe d to help ease anxiety, irritability, tension, nervousness and sleep disruption. Again, research has involved small groups so larger studies need to be done to determine if kava is beneficial for menopausal women. Dong quai has a long history of being used as a spice, tonic and medicine in China, Korea and Japan. It is often used in traditional Chinese medicine in combination with other herbs. Very few studies have been done on the efficacy of dong quai in humans. However, some lab tests suggest that it may reduce pain, open blood vessels and stimulate and relax the uterus. There also have been mixed results as to its ability to relieve menopausal symptoms.

  • 3.    You risk side effects when taking natural products for menopausal symptoms. Furthermore, these products can have an interaction with medications, supplements or other botanicals.  Black cohost can be problematic for women who have a liver disorder. It also can cause you to develop issues with your liver, including dark urine, jaundice and abdominal pain.

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    4.    Be sure to describe any complementary health practices that you use to your physicians.

    So what should you do? I’d suggest starting with the mind and body practices described in Number 1. Give them some time in order to see if they work. If you’re interested in taking any of the treatments listed in Number 2, talk to your doctor to make sure there aren’t any potential side effects from medications you’re already taking or health issues you already have.

    Primary Sources for This Sharepost:

    CBS News. (2011). DHEA hormone eases menopausal hot flashes, boosts sex life: Is it safe?

    Hudson, T. (2007). Lesser known botanicals for menopause symptoms.

    National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (2013). 4 things to know about menopausal symptoms and complementary health practices.

    University of Maryland Medical Center. (2011). Black cohosh.

    University of Maryland Medical Center. (2013). Dong quai.

    University of Maryland Medical Center. (2013). Red clover.

Published On: September 24, 2013