Which Natural Supplements Help Treat Menopause?
Menopause supplements are used to treat the wide variety of symptoms related to menopause, including hot flashes and night sweats, mood swings, difficulty sleeping, and other common symptoms. It’s important to remember that while menopause can sometimes produce unpleasant symptoms, it is a completely natural biological process, and you can still stay healthy, vibrant and sexually active through middle age and well beyond by maintaining a healthy diet, getting quality exercise, and by using natural supplements for treating the symptoms of menopause.
In this article I’ll discuss those natural menopause supplements which are good alternatives to hormone replacement therapy, including those which are safe to use and those which can prove to be helpful during this transition period to ease the severity of symptoms and their duration.
Some of the best menopause supplements include:
- Black Cohosh
- Red Clover
- Wild Yam
- St. John’s Wort
- Evening Primrose Oil
- Vitamin D
- Dong Quai
- Natural Progesterone Creams
- Adaptogen Herbs
- Maca Root
Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa, Cimicifuga racemosa) is derived from the North American black cohosh plant roots, and is one of the most researched supplements for menopause. Besides helping to relieve the symptoms of menopause (especially hot flashes), numerous studies have shown that it could help improve sleep quality, decrease hormonal imbalances linked to diabetes and fibroids, and may even help boost fertility in younger women without menopause.
However, the results have been mixed, as other studies haven’t shown the same benefits.
Recommended dosage is 80 milligrams 1–2 times daily. One precaution: Although black cohosh has demonstrated a good safety record, be careful about using it if you have liver problems, as there have been reports that this supplement may be linked to liver issues – however, further research needs to be conducted to verify this.
A lot of women take red clover (Trifolium pratense) claiming that its natural plant-based estrogens helps to ease the symptoms of their menopause, such as hot flashes, difficulty sleeping, weight gain, osteoporosis and bone loss, heart problems, and joint inflammation. However, at this point the jury is still out since the results from research studies have been mixed.
Although there was once concern that its use could be linked to uterine cancer, recent research has not demonstrated this to be the case. However, it’s always a good idea to speak with your doctor is you have any questions or concerns regarding your supplementation.
Supplements and lotions produced from certain species of wild yam have become popular treatments for menopause as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy. A few of the natural compounds found in wild yams are similar to estrogen and progesterone, although it’s possible that they may not behave as such in humans.
At this point there is no conclusive clinical research which shows that wild yam can ease the symptoms associated with menopause.
For centuries, ginseng has been used to boost energy and enhance sexual arousal. Some research has shown that the various types of ginseng could help to improve your quality of life during menopause.
Ginseng (Panax ginseng or Panax quinquefolius) has demonstrated an ability to elevate mood and improve sleep. However, research hasn’t shown that helps with physical symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes.
The recommended dosage is 600–1200 milligrams daily.
St. John’s Wort
St. John’s wort is a poular treatment that has been used for more than 2,000 years for reducing anxiety and mild symptoms of depression, and as a sleep aid. However, it could also have an extra benefit for women experiencing menopause.
Some research shows that St. John’s wort can enhance mood, reduce inflammation, and regulate the mood swings linked to menopause, especially when combined with black cohosh.
Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil (Oenothera biennis) is often taken to ease hot flashes. However, what little research has been done showed no benefit compared to placebo.
Some possible side effects when using evening primrose oil include inflammation, issues with immunity and blood clotting, nausea, and diarrhea. Patients diagnosed with schizophrenia and taking antipsychotic medication may also be at risk for seizures when taking evening primrose oil.
As a result, this supplement should not be taken along with anticoagulants or phenothiazines (a class of psychotherapeutic medications).
Once hormone levels begin to drop after menopause, bone loss can pose a serious problem . It’s vitally important to get enough calcium. Women who are under the age of 51 should get 1,000 milligrams of calcium per day. Women who are 51 and older should get 1,200 milligrams a day.
Note: It’s always best to get your calcium through healthy food sources. If you need to take supplements in order to meet your daily requirement, take smaller amounts of no more than 500mg with meals during the day.
This will make absorption much more efficient.
Flaxseed and flaxseed oil may be able to help some women experiencing mild symptoms of menopause. Flaxseed is loaded with lignans, which help to balance female hormones.
It should be noted that not all research has demonstrated these hot flash-relieving benefits, however.
Vitamin D is just as vitally important to bone health as calcium. In fact, your body can’t absorb calcium without vitamin D.
Most adults should get 600 IU per day, and those who are 70 or older should get 800 IU per day. Vitamin D is found in a wide variety of foods and supplements, but you can also get it from exposure to the sun.
Note: Even though your body produces vitamin D through exposure of your skin to the sun, even short exposure can lead to skin damage. It’s probably a good idea to focus on diet and nutritional supplements if you’re not getting enough Vitamin D.
For centuries, dong quai (Angelica sinensis) has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for treating issues related to women’s health. However, the very little research that has been conducted was unable to conclusively demonstrate this.
Dong quai should not be taken by women with fibroids or blood-clotting issues like hemophilia, or by women taking medication that affects clotting since bleeding complications can occur. Because of potential risks, which may even include cancer when taken long-term, consult with your doctor before taking it.
The production of the hormone DHEA naturally decreases in our bodies after age 30. There is some research which shows that DHEA supplements can ease some of the symptoms of menopause, including low sex drive and hot flashes.
However, the evidence is inconclusive since other studies have not shown the same benefits. There is also some concern that taking DHEA long-term or in high doses might increase the risk of breast cancer.
Did you know that menopausal women in the United States are more than eight times more likely to experience hot flashes compared to women in Asian countries. One reason could be the amount of soy in the Asian diet. Research has shown soy to be at least somewhat effective in easing hot flashes.
Soy foods (including tofu and soy nuts), as well as phytoestrogen supplements (plant-based estrogen-like compounds), are sometimes used to ease mild hot flashes. Studies aren’t conclusive, however.
Natural Progesterone Creams
Progesterone creams are a natural method for decreasing the symptoms of menopause, including reduced bone density, fibroids, and vaginal dryness. It has a wide variety of benefits, even for younger women, including improving fertility, decreasing PMS symptoms, and prevention against endometriosis.
Applying progesterone in a topical cream form enables you to control and adjust the amount of progesterone administered to your body with every use.
Dosage is about ¼ teaspoon (or 20 milligrams) applied to the skin and forearms 2–3x daily.
Vitex, or Chasteberry, has been clinically proven to ease hot flashes. It’s also shown to have several of the same hormone-balancing benefits as black cohosh, assisting to regulate hormones linked to sleeping difficulty, irregular periods, fibroids, and changes in the skin.
Studies show that vitex increases levels of luteinizing hormone, modulates prolactin and helps to decrease the release of follicle-stimulating hormone, all of which aids in balancing the ratio of progesterone to estrogen, and gradually increasing the levels of progesterone.
Adaptogens are a type of plant that offers protection from a variety of conditions, including those produced by high stress levels. Some examples of adapotogens include ashwagandha, certain mushrooms, rhodiola and holy basil.
Studies show that they can help enhance thyroid function, reduce cholesterol levels, decrease anxiety and depression, protect against brain cell degeneration, and balance blood sugar and insulin levels.
Also classified as an adaptogen herb, maca root has been used for centuries to diminish the effects of stress and aging upon the body by reducing cortisol levels. Maca root can also help to reduce hot flashes, prevent low energy and fatigue, ease restlessness, prevent weight gain, and boosting libido and energy.
The recommended dosage is 1000–2000 milligrams per day.
Naturally, with most treatments there are potential risks involved. Most people usually take herbal treatments in the form of supplement pills rather than a preparation sourced directly from the herb by a knowledgeable herbalist.
Bear in mind that herbal supplements aren’t as strictly regulated as prescription drugs. The quantity of the herbal ingredients, quality, safety, and purity may not be consistent between brands, or even between different batches of the same brand.
Herbal supplements might also interact with prescription drugs, potentially causing significant changes as a result of an unsafe interaction. To be on the safe side, let your physician know about any herbal supplements you’re considering and make sure to stop taking all supplements for at least 2 weeks prior to any planned surgery.