The symptoms of menopause can sometimes be frustrating, interfering with your ability to sleep, think clearly and generally enjoy life. Understandably though, many women are reluctant to take HRT to relieve their symptoms. In this article, we touch on some herbal alternatives to help manage Menopause.
Soy contains natural plant oestrogens (phytoestrogens) called isoflavones. These isoflavones have a mildly oestrogenic effect in the body, which can help to relieve menopausal symptoms. In Japan, where the dietary isoflavone intake is among the highest in the world, research has found that hot flushes are lessened when menopausal women consume soy foods.
To harness the benefits of soy isoflavones in your diet, increase your consumption of soy-containing foods such as soybeans, tofu, tempeh, miso, and soya flour. For a higher phytoestrogen intake, soy isoflavones can also be consumed in supplement form. Several placebo-controlled trials using standardised soy extract for the management of menopausal symptoms have shown that compared to placebo, soy extract leads to improvements in hot flushes, night sweats and vaginal dryness.
It may also support cardiovascular health by helping to maintain healthy cholesterol levels.
In Western herbal medicine, sage has traditionally been used to help diminish the intensity of hot flushes and night sweats and is regarded as a nutrient tonic for menopausal women.
Western herbalists traditionally regard vervain as a strengthening and relaxing tonic for the nervous system, with a mild mood-supporting action. These qualities mean that it may be useful in reducing the impact of menopausal symptoms such as headaches, insomnia and nervous tension.
Black cohosh is native to North America and has traditionally been used in Native American medicine to treat gynaecological disorders and a range of other conditions. Clinical trials indicate that it may also be of benefit for menopausal symptoms such as mild anxiety, mood swings, vaginal dryness and headaches. In very rare cases, the use of black cohosh has been associated with liver failure.
If you experience yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes, dark urine, nausea, vomiting, unusual tiredness, weakness, stomach or abdominal pain and/or loss of appetite, you should stop using it and see your doctor. It is not recommended for use by pregnant or lactating women.