AdobeStock 149275380Many women prefer to try herbal treatments to improve their menopause symptoms instead of taking prescription medications. Herbal products are not regulated in the United States as they are considered a dietary supplement. Some manufacturers employ strict quality control measures but many do not. Quality and strength of herbs may differ from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Overall, there is not enough clinical trial date to support the safety or efficacy for most herbal treatments advertised for relief of menopause-related symptoms. However, many of Dr. Hanna’s patients report relief of symptoms so she is not opposed to patients trying herbal treatments. She does ask that her patients be honest and alert her to what herbal treatments they are taking over-the-counter.

Black Cohosh: (Actaea racemosa, Cimicifuga racemosa)

Used by the Europeans for more than 50 years to treat menopausal symptoms including hot flashes. Studies have shown mixed results but many women state black cohosh decreases the frequency and intensity of their hot flashes. Black cohosh can be taken in capsules or tea. Side effects include gastrointestinal discomfort, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, frontal headaches and slow heart rate. There have been reports linking black cohosh to liver problems. Recent research suggests that black cohosh does not act like estrogen so it should not effect the breast or uterus.

Cranberry: (Vaccinium macrocarpon)

Used to prevent frequent urinary tract infections (UTI). Cranberry is thought to prevent bacteria from sticking in the urinary tract. Recommended dose is 500mg per day in women over 45 years old.

Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)

Studies have not found consistent or conclusive evidence that red clover leaf extract reduces hot flashes. As with black cohosh, however, some women claim that red clover has helped decrease their hot flashes. There are few side effects and no serious health problems have been reported.

Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis)

Used in Chinese medicine for 1200 years. Some women report it improves mild hot flashes. Dong quai can increase uterine bleeding and should never be used by women with fibroids, endometriosis, abnormal uterine bleeding, hemophilia or blood-clotting problems. It should also not be used by women taking drugs that affect clotting such as warfarin (Coumadin).

Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)

Was thought to improve dementia or mild cognitive impairment and slow the progression of Alzheimer's disease. Recent clinical studies at 120mg twice daily did not find benefits. In some studies it can improve anxiety. Common side effects are gastrointestinal distress and headaches.

Ginseng (Panax ginseng or Panax quinquefolius)

Used to improve mood symptoms, sleep disturbances and one's overall sense of well-being. It has not been found to be helpful for hot flashes. Side effects include breast pain, nervousness, insomnia, dizziness and elevated blood pressure. It should not be used If taking blood pressure medication or stimulants.

Evening Primrose Oil (Oenothera biennis)

Promoted to relieve hot flashes, breast pain and eczema but scientific studies are lacking. Side effects include inflammation, problems with blood clotting and the immune system, nausea and diarrhea. It has been shown to induce seizures in patients diagnosed with schizophrenia who are taking antipsychotic medication. Evening primrose oil should not be used with anticoagulants or phenothiazines (a type of psychotherapeutic agent).

Sage (Salvia officinalis)

Used to improve hot flashes and night sweats. Teas and capsules are most likely safe. Extracts and oils are not recommended due to their component, thujone. Thujone can cause vomiting, vertigo, kidney damage and convulsions.

Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)

Most commonly used for sleep disorders, especially insomnia (the inability to sleep). The most common dose for sleep is 400-900mg 2 hours before bed. Side effects include headache, stomach upset, mental dullness, excitability, uneasiness, heart disturbances, dry mouth, vivid dreams and insomnia. At higher doses, you may feel sluggish in the morning. The long-term safety of valerian is unknown.

The content is meant for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Please seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Barbra S. Hanna, DO, FACOG, NCMP
1604 North Main Street  •  Wheaton, Illinois 60187  •  630-480-0428