It’s no secret that for some women, the road from perimenopause to menopause can be fraught with unpleasant symptoms. These include not only the infamous hot flashes and night sweats, but also mood swings, trouble sleeping, brain fog, and sexual problems.
For those who are unwilling or unable to take hormone therapy (HT or HRT) or other prescription medication for this discomfort, over-the-counter (OTC) supplements may be the best solution. The problem is this: it is not easy to know which ones may be useful for which symptoms.
Also, it is important to remember that these substances are not regulated by the FDA and are classified as ‘dietary supplements’, which means that there is really no way to guarantee the purity of your manufacturing.
In general, it is best to be very careful with the things you buy and only use products that have the Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) label. It is not the same as the FDA standard, but it is better than nothing.
Supplements to treat menopausal symptoms.
With that said, take a look at five scientifically proven supplements that help alleviate various symptoms of menopause:
1. Black cohosh.
While the results of studies on the use of black cohosh for menopausal symptoms have been mixed, there is some evidence that supplements of this herb can help.
For example, a study published in March 2018 found that postmenopausal women who took black cohosh every day for eight weeks experienced a decrease in the number and severity of their hot flashes.
Today it is speculated that black cohosh is safer than it used to be. Recent research suggests that black cohosh does not act like an estrogen, as was once thought. This reduces concerns about its effect on hormone-sensitive tissue in the uterus and breasts.
It has not been found to help with hot flashes, but some studies suggest that ginseng, which comes from the root of several plants in the Panax genus, may help relieve mood symptoms, sleep disturbances, and sexual problems associated with menopause.
In fact, a study published in August 2019 found that after postmenopausal women took 500 milligrams (mg) of Panax ginseng twice daily for four weeks, their sexual performance, such as their sex drive, arousal, lubrication, orgasms, and satisfaction: improved significantly.
3. Soy isoflavones.
A research on this topic published in June 2016 found that women who took soy isoflavone supplements had a reduction of 31 percent in the number of daily hot flashes, as well as improvements in vaginal dryness.
A study conducted in Sweden found that postmenopausal women who took 60 mg of isoflavones per day for three months experienced a 57 percent reduction in their hot flashes and a 43 percent decrease in night sweats.
The benefits are believed to come from the estrogen-like effects of isoflavones, compounds that are abundant in soybeans.
However, keep this in mind: in the US only about 30 percent of women are able to metabolize soy foods and supplements in a way that allows them to utilize the specific metabolite of soy known as S-equol, that can help relieve hot flashes.
The result: trying these supplements is harmless, but there is no guarantee that they will make a difference for all women.
4. St. John’s Wort.
St. John’s wort, which is an herbal plant known to have antidepressant effects, can be helpful in treating various symptoms of menopause.
In a small study published in August 2019, researchers found that postmenopausal women who consumed St. John’s wort three times a day for two months experienced a decrease in the frequency and intensity of their hot flashes and a significant improvement in their moods.
St. John’s wort has long been around as a possible treatment for depression. While there is no strong medical evidence to suggest that it is effective, being inexpensive and generally low risk, there is no reason not to try it.
Valerian root extract is often used to treat sleep problems such as insomnia and is one of the most widely used herbal supplements on the planet. It can also help with other symptoms of menopause.
In a study published in 2018, 60 postmenopausal women were randomized to take a 530 mg valerian capsule twice a day or an oral placebo twice a day for two months; At the end of the study, the women who consumed valerian had a significant decrease in the severity and frequency of their hot flashes, compared to the placebo group.
Consult your doctor: better safe than sorry.
With any of these over-the-counter supplements, you may want to tell your doctor that you are interested in taking them before taking them. This way, you can rule out the possibility of an adverse drug interaction or an unwanted effect on a medical condition you have.