For some women, the symptoms of menopause are mild and disappear on their own. But for others, the discomfort lasts far longer, disrupting their lives.
With the availability of prescriptions, over-the-counter supplements, and natural remedies, numerous options exist to combat menopause symptoms. While most treatments are safe, some carry risks and should be discussed with a physician before starting treatment.
Suppose you’ve been experiencing uncomfortable symptoms for more than a few months but are not interested in prescription HRT methods. In that case, you might want to consider an alternative approach. However, many herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and some do not have scientific evidence to support their claims for alleviating menopausal symptoms. But plenty of women have had success with alternative medicine and swear by their results. So do your research first, then talk to your physician to decide which homeopathic remedy will work best. Here are some of the more popular options to consider:
Black Cohosh: The root of the black cohosh plant in North America is used to treat estrogen deficiencies and helps reduce night sweats, hot flashes, anxiety, and vaginal dryness associated with menopause. Usually sold in tablet form, black cohosh takes roughly four weeks before showing signs of relief from symptoms. Mild side effects include cramping, headache, vaginal spotting, stomach upset, and weight gain.
St. John’s Wart: A pretty plant with yellow flowers, St. John’s wort is an herbal remedy for uncomfortable symptoms experienced by perimenopausal and postmenopausal women. However, it is best known for treating mild to moderate symptoms of depression. It is usually sold in liquid or capsule form and takes 4-6 weeks before you’ll notice a reduction in hot flashes, night sweats, or depression. Side effects include insomnia, dry mouth, fatigue, headaches, dizziness, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, and a sensitivity to light. Talk to your physician before using St. John’s wort since the herbal supplement does not always interact well with other medications.
Acupuncture: This age-old practice from Ancient Chinese medicine involves inserting thin, metal needles through the skin at specific points on the body. It is said to alleviate chronic pain and reduce menopause symptoms of fatigue, night sweats, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and mood swings. It is considered a safe, cost-effective method for easing these symptoms and has little to no side effects. However, mild bleeding, bruising, or soreness may occur at the insertion site.
Vaginal Creams and Lubricants: Estrogen is responsible for keeping the vaginal area moist and flexible. When estrogen decreases, sex becomes uncomfortable. Several hormone-free, plant-based lubricants and creams are used for vaginal dryness relief that helps with intimacy during menopause. Most have no systemic side effects; however, some topical treatments have been known to cause slight skin irritation or a burning sensation lasting up to 10 minutes.
Soy Supplements: Daidzein is a compound found in soy that converts into the chemical equol. When ingested, equol has the same effect on the body as estrogen, which reduces the severity of menopause symptoms. It’s best used for decreasing hot flashes and has minimal to no side effects when taken in moderation for the short term. However, some patients have reported constipation, bloating, and nausea when taking soy supplements. Still, overall it is considered a safe alternative for menopause symptoms.
Yoga: This exercise is all about mindfulness, balance, structured breathing, and physical body poses that increase flexibility. During menopause and the natural aging process, muscle loss, reduced bone strength, and degenerating joints occur. Yoga relieves the aches and pains of aging and several symptoms of menopause, such as brain fog, depression, and anxiety. In addition, stretching and deep breathing exercises contribute to a sense of calmness and relaxation that helps patients combat the stress and insomnia associated with menopause.
Herbal Teas: Although there are conflicting opinions on the medicinal effects of herbal teas, many women have found that they helped decrease the severity and duration of their menopause symptoms. There are a variety of herbal teas available, but the most common ones used to combat menopause contain red clover, black cohosh, valerian, sage, Panax ginseng, licorice, ginkgo Biloba, fennel, or St. John’s wort. Since these herbal teas display hormonal effects similar to estrogen, they help reduce hot flashes, brain fog, low libido, insomnia, and fatigue and also work well as anti-inflammatories.
Aromatherapy: Aromatics were first used around 3500 B.C. for perfume, medicine, and religious purposes. Today, essential oils are used to treat physical and psychological problems. Lavender oil, in particular, has had moderate success in reducing menopausal symptoms of anxiety and hot flashes and also helps promote relaxation. Other essential oils that provide menopausal relief include clary sage, peppermint oil, geranium, basil, and citrus.
There are many more options for menopause relief, such as hypnosis, cognitive behavioral therapy, and for severe symptoms, vaginal laser therapy. However, if these seem too extreme, there are lifestyle changes you can make to help ease your discomfort. Your physician will likely recommend a healthy diet, regular exercise, limited alcohol intake, and no smoking, as well as relaxation and pelvic floor exercises to help ease you through menopause.