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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Special Topics > Complementary Therapies for Menopausal Symptoms
      Category : Health Centers > Menopause

Complementary Therapies for Menopausal Symptoms

Alternate Names : Homeopathic Remedies for Menopause

Menopause is the time in a woman's life when she stops having menstrual periods permanently. It takes place around the age of 50 in most women. At the time of menopause, many changes occur in the body. These changes can cause symptoms, such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. Over the years, the changes also raise a woman's risk of serious health problems. These include:

  • the bone-thinning disease called osteoporosis
  • high cholesterol
  • heart disease
  • The most common treatment for menopause is to make up for the body's reduced production of estrogen. This is done by giving prescription medicines. This approach is known as hormone replacement therapy, or HRT. Complementary therapies for menopausal symptoms are those that supplement or replace HRT. These may include plant products and other alternative health treatments.

    What is the information for this topic?

    Eight of the most common natural alternative therapies are outlined below. Before taking or using them, a woman should discuss options with her healthcare provider. While these therapies may help with certain symptoms, there are no long-term studies to show their effects on osteoporosis, heart disease, or cholesterol levels in the body.

    1. Natural hormone replacement therapy (NHRT) uses compounds similar to hormones. These are found in soybeans and yams. The molecular structure of these compounds is modified to exactly match human hormones. The effects of these specially prepared therapies are not definitely known. They have not been shown in research studies to have the same beneficial effects as prescription HRT.

    2. Phytoestrogens are compounds that occur naturally in some plants, herbs, and seeds. Some of these compounds have properties like those of estrogen. Flaxseeds and soybeans contain phytoestrogens. They may be useful for some women in reducing hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. Further studies are needed to show if they really work to reduce these symptoms and what the ideal dose may be. Phytoestrogens may help improve cholesterol levels. However, they should not be used in place of medicines prescribed to treat high cholesterol. It is not known how phytoestrogens affect a woman's risk of osteoporosis.

    3. Herbal remedies are plants used for medicinal purposes. They are available over the counter without a prescription. Some may help reduce mild menopause symptoms. Some of these remedies may interact with other medicines and other complementary therapies. Herbs may also affect other health problems that a woman has. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not currently approve herbal remedies. Their quality and potency vary widely. Some of the common herbs that may be helpful for some women include:

  • black cohosh, also sold as Remifemin. The standardized product available in Germany appears to be helpful in reducing hot flashes, night sweats, headache, and vaginal dryness. Its effect on osteoporosis, cholesterol, and heart disease risk is not known.
  • chasteberry, which may help reduce hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness
  • ginseng with 4% ginsenosides, which may reduce fatigue and improve energy level. Ginseng may interact with other drugs, such as warfarin, a blood thinner. Women with high blood pressure should avoid ginseng.
  • valerian, which may help some women with anxiety, tension, or trouble sleeping. It is best to take valerian for only a short period of time. It may interact in dangerous ways with other medicines, such as those used for high blood pressure.
  • 4. Acupressure can help ease menopausal symptoms. There are four specific pressure points that are used.

    5. Biofeedback uses machines to help teach control of certain body functions. It may be useful for some women dealing with urinary incontinence, or involuntary urine loss.

    6. Vaginal lubricants ease vaginal dryness. Water-based products are best. Products that contain alcohol or perfume may cause irritation in some women. Oil-based products, such as Vaseline, can also cause irritation.

    7. Progesterone cream applied to the skin may counteract the negative effects of estrogen on breast tissue and uterine lining. The FDA does not regulate these products. That means they are not regulated and may or may not contain progesterone. Further study is needed to verify whether these products are effective.

    8. Regular exercise has many benefits. Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, can help slow bone loss from osteoporosis. Aerobic exercise, including biking or swimming, can lower the risk of heart disease. Activities such as these also improve a woman's overall sense of well-being.

    Author: Dr. Karen Wolfe, MBBS, MA
    Reviewer: Melissa Sanders, PharmD
    Date Reviewed: 09/13/01

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