June 23rd 2016

Certain plant- and herbal-based therapies may be able to offer relief for women experiencing menopause symptoms.

Certain plant- and herbal-based therapies may be able to offer relief for women experiencing menopause symptoms.

A meta-analysis recently published inJAMArevealed that certain plant-based and herbal therapies can help induce modest reductions in certain menopause symptoms. Therapies thought to improve menopausal symptoms include the oral use of phytoestrogens such as dietary soy isoflavones and soy extracts, herbal remedies like red clover and black cohosh, and Chinese and other medicinal herbs.

The researchers identified 62 studies assessing these therapies that involved a total of 6653 women. Inclusion criteria included the presence of vaginal dryness, night sweats, and hot flashes.

The investigators observed that use of phytoestrogens was associated with a decrease in the number of daily hot flashes and vaginal dryness between the treatment groups, but not night sweats. Meanwhile, several herbal remedies, but not Chinese medicinal herbs, were associated with an overall decrease in the frequency of vasomotor symptoms.

Although the researchers noted that there “may be plausible biological argument for these associations with phytoestrogens and improved symptoms,” they stopped short of identifying a causal relationship.

“Because of general suboptimal quality and the heterogeneous nature of the current evidence, further rigorous studies are needed to determine the association of plant-based and natural therapies with menopausal health,” they wrote.

Notably, half of menopausal women report experiencing hot flashes, and 82% report night sweats. To self-treat these symptoms, 40% to 50% of women report using complementary therapies, including plant-based ones.

With that in mind, clinicians can recommend certain plant-based therapies or other nonpharmacologic remedies as an alternative to hormonal replacement therapy, which has been associated with certain negative side effects, including breast cancer and cardiovascular health issues.

For women experiencinghot flashesin particular, clinicians can recommend that patients try avoiding alcohol, coffee, and spicy foods, as well as hot baths and showers. Some women have found that exercise helps reduce the severity and number of hot flashes they experience.

When a womanreaches menopause, the risk of developing cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis can increase; therefore, it’s imperative that postmenopausal women discuss these issues, as well as preventive and treatment measures, with their clinicians.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the average age of menopause onset is between 50 and 52 years; however, most women begin to experience menopause symptoms between 44 and 55 years.

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