In recent years, herbs have become increasingly popular in the treatment of a variety of symptoms associated with menopause. These herbs, including black cohosh and dong quai, have been used to treat menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. However, a recent study has put into question the efficacy of the use of herbs to help manage the symptoms of menopause. Are herbs really useful in treating menopause? And do the benefits of using certain herbs outweigh the possible risks associated with their use?
Using Herbs for Menopause Relief
Herbs are used to treat menopause because they are believed to help regulate estrogen levels, as well as to reduce the severity of common symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes.
There are two types of herbs that are used in the treatment of menopause symptoms: estrogenic herbs (those containing estrogen chemical structures) and non-estrogenic herbs (those that don’t contain estrogen). Both are used to alleviate menopause symptoms and improve overall health.
Testing the Efficacy of Herbs for Menopause
Recent findings suggest that herbs may not be as effective in treating menopause as previously thought. One study, for example, found that herbs such as black cohosh, ginseng and chaste tree—medicinal herbs traditionally used to alleviate menopause symptoms—had no effect on study participant’s symptoms or their overall health.
Another study found that dong quai did not affect the growth of endometrial cells lining the uterus or hormonal blood levels, both major physical changes that take place during menopause.
On the other hand, proponents of herbal medicine promote the benefits of herbs in treating menopausal symptoms and in improving women’s overall health.
While herbs have received mixed reviews when it comes to their efficacy, this article will explore both the benefits and risks associated with using herbs for menopause.
The Benefits of Herbs
The following herbs are purported to have a variety of benefits in alleviating menopause symptoms:
- black cohosh: an estrogenic herb said to reduce cramps, congestion and hot flashes
- wild yam: a medicinal herb containing anti-inflammatory properties that reduces the risk of menopausal arthritis
- chaste tree: this herb helps to balance hormones, and can help ward off depression
- dong quai: its purported healing properties include reducing estrogen deficiency
- gingko biloba: decreases fatigue and depression and improves memory
- sage: containing plant estrogens, sage can help reduce night sweats and hot flashes
Ineffective Herbs for Menopause
Adversely, some studies found that the following herbs were ineffective in alleviating menopause symptoms:
- wild yam: often used in progesterone cream, some studies found that while extracts of this plant purportedly reduce the risk of arthritis, it had no effect on bone mass density or in reducing the risk of depression
- dong quai: ineffective against hormonal blood changes or against changes in the endometrial lining of the uterus
- black cohosh: found to be ineffective against night sweats and hot flashes
- ginseng: also had no visible improvement in minimizing night sweats and hot flashes
- chaste tree: similarly, chaste tree was found to be ineffective in reducing hot flashes and night sweats
While experts state that study findings do not suggest that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is necessarily more effective in treating menopause symptoms, it is always advisable to discuss any menopause treatment with your doctor first.