Herbal therapies recommended for menopause

Jan. 27, 2013 at 12:28 PM
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PROVIDENCE, R.I., Jan. 27 (UPI) -- Herbal treatments for postmenopausal symptoms can be recommended as an alternative to hormonal replacement therapy, a U.S. researcher says.

Review author Iris Tong of The Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Province, R.I., Rhode Island, said up to 75 percent of women use herbal and complimentary medicines to treat their postmenopausal symptoms.

"Therefore, it is vitally important for healthcare providers to be aware of and informed about the non-pharmacological therapies available for women who are experiencing postmenopausal symptoms and who are looking for an alternative to HRT," Tong said in a statement.

HRT is the most effective treatment of hot flushes, improving symptoms in 80 percent to 90 percent of women, but there are possible health risks associated with breast cancer, blood clots, stroke and cardiovascular problems, Tong said.

The review, published in The Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, found as many as 50 percent to 75 percent of postmenopausal women used herbal options to treat hot flushes. Complimentary therapies, soy, red clover and black cohosh were most investigated.

Soy, the most common plant containing estrogen -- found in food and supplements -- was found to reduce hot flush symptoms from 20 percent to 55 percent of women in the studies. Red clover, a legume also containing estrogen, and black cohosh, a plant originating from the eastern United States and Canada, were also reported to ease postmenopausal symptoms.

The author of the review recommended herbal treatments as there are no significant adverse side effects associated with them, as long as they are used in women who do not have a personal history of breast cancer, are not at high risk for breast cancer and are not taking tamoxifen.

However, the review notes that herbal medicines are not regulated in many countries, and therefore the contents of a given product may vary from sample to sample.

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