Complementary therapies have long been used throughout the world as a traditional approach to help manage the symptoms of the menopause.
These complementary therapies embrace many different approaches, including food supplements, herbal medicines, acupuncture, yoga, Reiki, meditation.
Here at Hormone Health, we will only use evidence based approaches to health. There is a variable amount of clinical data supporting these approaches, with herbal medicines and food supplements having the most significant portfolio of data.
Why consider complementary therapies during menopause?
Complementary therapies can be useful options when a woman prefers not to or cannot take HRT. Each woman should have a personalised plan to help treat the symptoms of menopause using health- screening, symptom diaries and their health history to help determine the right course of treatment. It may require several consultations to find the right balance of treatment over a period of months.
Health history plays an important part in the choice between complementary therapies and HRT. For example, women that have had, (or are at a higher risk of developing), breast cancer, are unlikely to take HRT until more research is completed on the safety of using estrogen-based therapies.
Herbal remedies for menopause symptoms
In Europe these have been re-classified as Traditional Herbal Medicines, which reflects the use of a herb to treat a specific condition and, through experience, has been shown to be safe when used in that specific way. Licensed products have a TUD (Traditional Usage Directive) license number on the pack . This is a guide when buying this group of products.
Unfortunately, food supplements are not licensed in this way, meaning the quality can vary dramatically, therefore it is best to seek a qualified professional to advise on a suitable product.
Black Cohosh for menopause symptoms
Black Cohosh is the most common herb used to treat menopause symptoms, such as hot flushes and night sweats. It is not as effective as HRT, but can help some women manage their symptoms. It is not understood how it works, but there is a theory that it may have a slight estrogenic action. Consequently, care should be taken if a woman has or is at risk of breast cancer, where estrogen effects are usually avoided. There have been some reports of liver toxicity, but these are rare, especially with a good quality licensed product.
Isoflavones for menopause symptoms
Isoflavones are also called Phytoestrogens, meaning they are estrogen-like compounds that originate in plants. The interest in these substances started when populations e.g. Japanese who consumed isoflavone rich foods (such as soy, beans, lentils, pulses) were observed to have fewer short term menopause symptoms than those populations, where their diet was poorer in these foodstuffs.
Dietary changes to incorporate these foods can contribute to a good lifestyle. If it is difficult to consume sufficient isoflavones by diet alone, supplements are also available.
There have been a number of clinical studies showing that isoflavone supplements may help manage hot flushes, night sweats, but as with black cohosh, they are usually not as effective as HRT.
Isoflavones have an estrogenic effect and their action appears to be selective for beneficial effects. However, they may not be advisable for all women, so checking with a menopause specialist is recommended.
Pharmacies and good health food stores will supply these products and their advice regarding a quality product is essential.
Other herbal remedies for menopause symptoms
Agnus Castus – may help with sleep disturbances and premenstrual symptoms.
St John’s Wort – can help relieve mood swings and depressive symptoms but has a number of potential interactions with medications which should be discussed with a healthcare professional.
At Hormone Health, we believe in providing evidence based advice covering both conventional medicines and complementary therapies in order to achieve a holistic approach to health optimisation.