Herbal Treatments for Postmenopausal Symptoms
Menopause is a natural stage in a woman’s life that is associated with estrogen deficiency and an increase in genitourinary symptoms (sexual dysfunction, vaginal dryness, urinary incontinence and frequent urinary tract infections), hot flushes, joint pains, and disturbances in sleep and mood.
Among these symptoms, hot flushes are one of the most common, affecting approximately two-thirds of postmenopausal women, 20% of which may be affected for up to 15 years.
Long term health issues such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease may also result from estrogen deficiency. Pharmacological agents such as hormone replacements are commonly used to treat postmenopausal symptoms, but many non-pharmacological options are likewise available. A review of treatments shows that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is most effective in treating hot flushes but possible health risks such as breast cancer, stroke, and heart disease have been associated with this form of treatment.
Iris Tong, Director of Women’s Primary Care at the Women’s Medicine Collaborative, The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Rhode Island, reviewed other treatment options used by postmenopausal women and found that herbal and complementary medicines may be recommended as alternatives to HRT. She found that up to 75 percent of women use herbal options such as soy, red clover and black cohosh for postmenopausal symptoms. These herbal remedies contain estrogen and are readily available in the market.
The review, which was recently published in The Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, recommends the use of herbal treatments since they have no significant side effects associated with them, as long as women have no history of breast cancer, or are not at high risk for breast cancer, and are not taking tamoxifen.