When some people use the term menopause alternative treatment, they include herbal remedies. Below I offer a description of the most popular ones. Read these carefully before deciding to try one of them. The names in parentheses are the botanical names of the herbs.
Ginseng (Panax ginseng or Panax quinquefollius)
Ginseng has been shown by research to offer some help with some menopausal symptoms, including mood swings and sleeplessness and can help ease anxiety in menopause. It has not been shown to be helpful with hot flashes.
Evening Primrose Oil (Oenothera biennis)
Although this herb is sometimes promoted as an aid to relieving hot flashes, the only known controlled study found it to be no more effective than a placebo. It also carries some possibly serious side effects. For example, it has been shown to cause nausea and diarrhea, problems with the immune system, inflammation, and blood clotting. It can cause seizures in patients who are taking medications for schizophrenia.
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
There have been numerous controlled clinical studies of Red Clover. Although it is promoted as a cure for the hot flashes of menopause, those studies concluded that there was no beneficial effect on hot flashes. The studies found no serious side effects or health problems in its use in humans. However, animal studies have indicated that it could have harmful effects on hormone-sensitive tissue.
Kava (Piper methysticum)
There is some indication that Kava can decrease anxiety in menopause. However, no benefit for hot flashes has been shown. It should be noted that the Canadian government has banned the sale of Kava because of its association with liver disease. While the FDA has not banned Kava, it has issued warnings to patients and providers because of the potential for liver damage.
Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa, Cimicifuga racemosa)
Some women have reported good results with black cohosh as an aid to controlling hot flashes. There have been a number of scientific studies of this herb, and the results have been mixed. One time fears that black cohosh acted like estrogen and affected the uterus and breasts have been put to rest. Used for years, it has a good safety record. Reports linking black cohosh to liver problems have not been proven.
Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis)
Used as Chinese Medicine for over a thousand years, Dong quai was not found to be effective against hot flashes in the only controlled study. Bleeding problems can be a result when Dong quai is used by women who also take blood thinners such as Warfarin (Coumadin). It should never be taken by women with hemophilia or women with fibroids.
In summary, there can be risks involved with herbal therapy. It can interfere with prescription drugs. The purity and quality can vary from one manufacturer to another. They are not regulated by the FDA. You should inform your health professional about any herbal remedies you use. Educate yourself.
Although the scientific community is doubtful about herbal remedies for menopause, some women have successfully used herbal treatments for their symptoms.