Menopause is a natural phase of a woman’s life, marking a transition from the child-bearing years to the next chapter.
If you are of menopausal age, you are sure to have many questions about this challenging time and will want to find out about the choices you can make around treatment for your symptoms.
Read on to understand more about menopause and the treatment options available, including nine natural remedies to alleviate your symptoms and help you continue to live life to the full.
Menopause refers to the point in a woman’s life when her periods stop and fertility ceases. Far from being an abrupt event, there will be a transition leading up to this point called the perimenopause.
You may start experiencing perimenopause in your late 30s, though more usually it occurs during the early 40s. It lasts around four years on average.
During this time the hormones estrogen and progesterone will decline and your ovaries will stop releasing eggs. You may experience a wide range of hormone-related symptoms including hot flashes, fatigue, mood swings, changes in your libido, bladder issues and aching joints.
You are considered to have reached menopause when you haven’t had a period for a whole year. You can find out for sure if you’re menopausal by discussing your symptoms with your doctor, who can also run blood tests for confirmation (1).
Conventional Menopause Treatments
For many years, women have been recommended conventional menopause treatments, many of which contain synthetic hormones to replace estrogen and progesterone.
While they can be effective in relieving many menopausal symptoms, it is worth learning about their side effects. Here we describe some of the most commonly used conventional menopause treatments:
HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy)
As the name suggests, HRT replaces the natural hormones you lose during menopause with synthetic female hormones. There is evidence that HRT can help alleviate many menopausal symptoms (2).
But be aware that HRT comes with side effects and increased risks, which can depend on the dose and type of hormones you are taking. It’s important to know that hormone replacement therapy runs an increased risk for stroke, cancer and cardiovascular problems whatever your dose or hormone type (3) (4) (5).
Low mood and depression can be symptoms of menopause due to hormone fluctuations. Low-dose antidepressants are a popular way to manage these symptoms, working by reacting with the chemicals in the brain that regulate mood (6).
If you take a course of low-dose antidepressants, then you should be aware of the possible side effects. These include insomnia, anxiety, sexual dysfunction, vomiting, nausea, weight loss or gain, headaches, diarrhoea or even increased suicidal thoughts (7).
Clodine Or Other High Blood Pressure Medications
Clodine (also known as Catapres and Kapva) and other high blood pressure medications can treat hot flashes, one of the most common and troublesome symptoms of menopause (8).
While these types of medications may be effective at relieving hot flashes, they also come with a range of side effects including fatigue, lethargy, dizziness and headache. More severe side effects can include chest pain, irregular heartbeat, hallucinations and trouble breathing (9).
This prescription drug can alleviate typical perimenopausal symptoms such as hot flashes when taken as an immediate-release oral tablet, and also helps with sleep quality when taken in its extended-release form. It can alleviate a range of other symptoms associated with menopause including anxiety, headaches and mood disorders (11).
Despite its ability to treat a range of menopausal symptoms, the drug comes with a range of side effects that include dizziness and unsteadiness (12). Its use is also not recommended for anyone with a history of substance abuse (13).
9 Natural Remedies For Menopause
While there is plenty of evidence that the traditional treatments for menopause symptoms discussed above can be effective, we’ve also seen that they bring with them side effects and health risks.
Now it’s time to take a look at some natural remedies for menopause, which tend to have fewer and less severe side effects, giving you a new lease of life as you work through this transitional phase of your life.
1. Maca Root
Maca root is also known as Peruvian ginseng and has been used by the indigenous people of the Andes region for centuries to help with issues such as infertility, sexual dysfunction, hot flashes, sleep disruptions and night sweats (14).
One double-blind study took 20 women with perimenopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. The women were split into two groups of 10 and underwent tests to measure their levels of estrogen and progesterone.
The women in group A were given 500mg of maca root while the women in group B took a placebo twice a day. Researchers found that at the end of the trial, the women in group A had much better-regulated hormones than the women in group B, and were experiencing fewer night sweats, hot flashes and discomfort (15).
2. Gymnema Sylvestre
This woody vine found in Africa, India and Australia goes by several other names, including Australian cowplant and “The Destroyer of Sugar”. This is a reference to its amazing ability to stop your tastebuds from detecting sweet flavours. It has a similar effect on your intestinal lining, preventing the absorption of sugars.
This means it can help control blood sugar and balance insulin release, making it an ideal supplement for diabetics, and thanks to its ability to block sugar cravings, it can also aid weight loss.
Many perimenopausal women find this an ideal supplement to take at a time when they might be struggling with hormone-based weight gain. A study (16) found that overweight participants ate less when they took Gymnema sylvestre before mealtimes.
What’s more, this invaluable natural remedy helps to cut down on your body weight without triggering the central nervous system. This means that it won’t disrupt sleep, stimulate cortisol (stress hormone) levels or increase stress.
Rhodiola rosea thrives in the cooler mountainous regions of Europe and Asia. Its 140 active ingredients are renowned for helping the body handle stress, fatigue, depression and anxiety. It has a beneficial effect on oxidative stress and contains biomarkers that can reduce inflammation and keep your hormones in balance (17).
One Russian study involving women experiencing hormone fluctuations and irregular menstrual cycles demonstrated rhodiola extract’s effectiveness in helping regulate perimenopause hormone levels.
The women received a dose of rhodiola extract once a day for two weeks. At the end of the trial, 25 participants out of the 40 original participants were experiencing normal menstrual cycles and 11 became pregnant (18).
4. Fennel Seed Extract
An unpleasant common symptom of menopause is hormonal bloating. Combined with fluid retention and digestive issues, it can make everyday life uncomfortable.
If you find yourself experiencing these symptoms, look to fennel as the “saviour” of your digestive tract. This aromatic plant is packed with compounds that relax your gastrointestinal tract, allowing gas to pass and bloating to ease.
This study (19) confirmed fennel’s anti-spasmodic and flatulence-reducing properties, showing that it provided relief to participants who were living with IBS, reducing their symptoms and improving their quality of life.
It’s also known for relieving the pain associated with menstruation and can be used in face creams to reduce hirsutism (excess hair growth) that can be triggered by fluctuating hormone levels in menopause.
Chasteberry comes from Asia's Chaste tree, an attractive tree with vivid purple flowers. It helps regulate hormone levels and has traditionally been used to alleviate hot flashes, nausea, abdominal discomfort or pain, and trouble sleeping (20).
In a randomised trial, 175 menopausal women with symptoms including hot flashes and night sweats were split into two groups. One group was given chasteberry extract and one group received vitamin B6 over the trial period of three months. By the end of the trial, 36.1 per cent of the women who were given chasteberry were symptom-free while only 21.3 per cent of the women who received vitamin B6 had no symptoms (21).
Ashwagandha – also known as Indian ginseng and winter cherry – is a herb that has been used in traditional Indian medicine for a variety of uses for over 3,000 years.
It can be valuable to menopausal women for its ability to manage anxiety and stress. In a randomised study, 64 participants with chronic stress were split into two groups.
One group received 300mg of ashwagandha twice a day for 60 days, and the other was given a placebo. The group that took ashwagandha had significantly lower stress and cortisol levels. As estrogen can be linked directly to stress, reducing these levels help to regulate fluctuations in hormones (22).
7. Chamomile Extract
Chamomile has been used as a natural remedy since ancient times. This flowering plant from the daisy family is famed for its ability to settle upset stomachs and relieve anxiety.
Chamomile is invaluable to women going through menopause as it can treat premenstrual tension, indigestion, stomach discomfort and gastrointestinal tract inflammation.
It also has a proven effect in helping women suffering from sleep disorders. This double-blind clinical trial study on 110 women (23) offered one group 400mg of chamomile extract twice a day for a month, while the control group was offered no intervention. It found that chamomile was effective in improving sleep quality and relieving sleep disorder in menopausal women.
8. Rosemary Extract
Rosemary is perhaps best-known for its use in cooking, enlivening dishes with its woody aroma. But it also has many health-giving benefits with an enormous range of uses.
Rosemary is known for its anti-inflammatory properties and is dense in antioxidants, which help neutralise cell-harming particles known as free radicals.
If you’re familiar with the play Hamlet by Shakespeare, you’ll know that Ophelia remarks, “There’s rosemary, that's for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember”. This is a reference to rosemary’s ability to aid memory.
There is also much scientific evidence (24) that it contains pain-killing properties and can be used to soothe menstrual pain during menopause.
Rosemary has a role in regulating estrogen levels in the body. While it helps to detox estrogens in the liver, it is also a key player in increasing estrogen levels where needed.
This study (25) found that as well as having an antioxidant effect on rats in the early post-menopause phase, the rosmarinic acid found in rosemary could also play an important role in preventing metabolic disorders due to estrogen deficiency, though it recommended that more research should be carried out.
This encouraging finding suggests that rosemary extract could play a important role in reducing estrogen build-up in the body, which can lead to weight gain and menstrual disorders such as heavy periods, severe PMS and endometriosis.
As it helps to balance estrogen levels, it can also be helpful in regulating estrogen dominance and managing conditions such as PCOS and other hormonal imbalances, fibroids, fibrocystic breasts and hot flashes.
Side Effects And Safety
While the natural remedies listed above on the whole tend to have only mild side effects like headaches and spotting, it’s always advisable to talk to your doctor before you start using them.
For many women, natural remedies are an effective way to deal with the symptoms that come with menopause, and a great alternative to the more traditional treatments available.
Once you’ve had the go-ahead from your doctor, why not try one or more of our nine natural remedies to help make your journey through menopause smoother and pave the way for a new and exciting phase of your life?
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