Alternative and natural remedies to treating Menopause Symptoms
Updated: Jul 16, 2020
Alternative Natural Treatment for Menopause
As an OB/GYN, I am not sure which experience is harder—the onset of puberty or the beginning of reproductive loss. Both are fraught with uncomfortable symptoms. From menstrual cramps during puberty and beyond, to the unpredictability of the bleeding in the peri-menopause, it's all a mysterious and annoying process.
During peri-menopause, and leading into the menopause, a woman's hormone levels (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone) change and can rapidly fluctuate, leading to changes in the pattern of menstrual periods and other bothersome symptoms. Ultimately, the ovaries fail to make enough estrogen, and the pituitary in the brain tries to stimulate them to make more, which is why the FSH level elevates in menopause. FSH or follicle-stimulating hormone is a blood level measurement taken if there is a question of imminent menopause or to determine if there is enough ovarian reserve for conception. In general, fertility starts to wane in the mid to late 30s, and pregnancies are rare after 45, which is the beginning of peri-menopause. The average age of menopause is 51 but varies based on genetics, weight, other health conditions, and smoking. Soon, the periods stop altogether.
Some of the symptoms of menopause include:
Hot flashes and night sweats
Breast tenderness due to fluctuating estrogen levels
Loss of breast fullness- likely due to loss of collagen
So, what can you do about these signs and symptoms of menopause that doesn't involve drugs or hormones? Besides diet and exercise, is there anything else that can relieve some of these symptoms? While it is true that many symptoms will wane over time, it's still no fun when you are amid a tsunami of a hot flash with sweat in your eyes and cheeks on fire.
Let's review some options:
1. Alternative and complementary therapies such as acupuncture
2. Exercise regimens like yoga and low-impact aerobics
3. Herbal preparations like black cohosh and other phytoestrogens (plant-based) like soy and yams
5. Over-the-counter preparations like RePlens for vaginal dryness
6. Yoga, relaxation techniques like meditation
In a study by Li et al., 2019, nineteen randomized clinical trials were analyzed involving 2469 patients. When compared to menopausal hormone therapy (MHF), Chinese Herbal Medicine (CHM) had similar effects to menopausal hormone therapy on the total effectiveness and could significantly reduce the vasomotor symptom score. When compared to placebo, CHM could reduce MHF severity. However, there were no statistically significant changes to hormone levels, which isn't a bad thing per se. It just means that diseases like osteoporosis are not likely to benefit from CHM. The most popularly studied formula was Kun Tai capsule, and the most frequently prescribed herb was Bai Shao (Paeoniae Radix Alba, Paeonia lactiflora Pall).
Another study looked at the quality of life and hot flashes in those who took black cohosh or primrose oil and showed that black cohosh was more effective than primrose oil because it was able to reduce the number of hot flashes and improve the quality of life.
In addition, Passiflora incarnata L. has a positive effect on menopause symptoms such as vasomotor symptoms, insomnia, and depression, as shown in another study.
A study of 30 postmenopausal women who used Saliva officinalis produced results that indicated that there was a decrease in the severity of the menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women. Symptoms evaluated were of hot flashes, night sweats, panic, fatigue, and concentration.
One systematic review suggested a slight improvement in hot flashes and vaginal dryness with soy products, and small studies suggest that clinical hypnosis significantly reduces hot flashes.
There are non-hormonal therapies such as low-dose paroxetine, venlafaxine, and gabapentin that are effective alternatives for symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings. Irregular periods can be managed with natural progesterone applied vaginally or taken orally. Even birth control pills can safely be taken in the perimenopause for irregular cycles if nothing else works, but those are synthetic.
Meanwhile, Hot flashes are managed by a change in ambient temperature, lighter clothes, losing weight, and simple things like an ice pack to the back of the neck or even portable AC units that wrap around the neck.
Hill DA, Crider M, Hill SR. Hormone Therapy and Other Treatments for Symptoms of Menopause. Am Fam Physician. 2016;94(11):884-889.
Kim M, Lim HS, Lee HH, Kim TH. Role Identification of Passiflora Incarnata Linnaeus: A Mini Review. J Menopausal Med. 2017;23(3):156-159. doi:10.6118/jmm.2017.23.3.156
Mehrpooya M, Rabiee S, Larki-Harchegani A, et al. A comparative study on the effect of "black cohosh" and "evening primrose oil" on menopausal hot flashes. J Educ Health Promot. 2018;7:36. Published 2018 Mar 1. doi:10.4103/jehp.jehp_81_17
Dadfar F, Bamdad K. The effect of Saliva officinalis extract on the menopausal symptoms in postmenopausal women: An RCT. Int J Reprod Biomed (Yazd). 2019;17(4):287-292. Published 2019 May 28. doi:10.18502/ijrm.v17i4.4555
Li M, Hung A, Lenon GB, Yang AWH. Chinese herbal formulae for the treatment of menopausal hot flushes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2019;14(9):e0222383. Published 2019 Sep 19. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0222383
Leung PC, Siu WS. Herbal treatment for osteoporosis: a current review. J Tradit Complement Med. 2013;3(2):82-87. doi:10.4103/2225-4110.110407