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Treatments and herbal remedies that can help with menopause symptoms

Often known as the ‘second puberty’, menopause is anticipated by many of us with trepidation.

With its catalogue of symptoms, such as mood swings, hot flushes and night sweats, menopause can be an uncomfortable time. But there are plenty of conventional and alternative remedies that are proven to make it less so by easing the intensity and frequency of symptoms.

Herbal treatments for menopause

Bear in mind that it's best to consult an alternative health practitioner before taking herbs and supplements. Allow two to three weeks to see results.
Black cohosh
This plant has been used by Native Americans for centuries to relieve the symptoms of menopause. Studies have shown its potential as a remedy, but it may not be advised for women with oestrogen-related conditions like breast, ovarian or uterine cancer. Black cohosh interacts with some medications and other supplements, so it's best to get it prescribed by a pro.
Phytoestrogens
Also known as plant-based oestrogens, phytoestrogens are thought to help by increasing the effect of oestrogen on the body. Linseeds, sesame seeds, wholegrains, lentils and soy beans are all good sources.
Linseeds
Speaking of linseeds – studies show they can result in fewer hot flushes and reduced vaginal dryness. The most effective dose is thought to be 40g per day, split across two servings.
Licorice root
In a study, women who took 330mg of licorice extract three times a day for eight weeks reduced the severity and frequency of their hot flushes. However, if high blood pressure is a problem for you, you should give it a miss.
Valerian root
A 255mg dose three times a day for eight weeks was found to reduce the number and severity of hot flushes. It may also help you to sleep better.
Sage
Taking sage capsules may help reduce excessive sweating.

Pharmaceutical treatments for menopause

Talk to your doctor about hormones and other medications that might be right for you, such as:
Bio-identical hormones
Available through doctors and some naturopaths, these medications use plant hormones that mimic human ones like oestrogen and progesterone (unlike traditional hormone replacement therapies – see the box below – which use synthetically produced versions).
Oral contraceptives
These have been shown to reduce heavy bleeding, cramping and some of the effects of decreasing hormone levels, such as bone loss and endometrial and ovarian cancers.
Pills, patches, creams
Low-dose oestrogen pills, patches and creams can reduce severe hot flushes. Some antidepressants may also help.
Water-based lubricants
Apply before sex to reduce vaginal dryness.

What about HRT?

Seek expert advice

Although HRT can help some women, it may not be suitable for those who have a history of high blood pressure, severe migraines, blood clots, stroke, heart disease, and endometrial, ovarian or breast cancer. It's important to consider the risks before starting any treatment, so speak to your doctor, who will take your full medical history into account and decide if HRT is right for you.

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