Natural and Safe Treatments for Menopausal Symptoms

by Cynthia McMurray

Every woman will experience menopause at some point during her lifetime. While it is a very natural phase of a woman’s life cycle, it can also bring with it some uncomfortable and in some cases, serious, symptoms. Right now, it is estimated 6,000 women reach menopause every day in the US, that’s about 2 million women every year.

Menopause is essentially the time when a woman ceases to have a menstrual cycle. As a woman ages, her estrogen levels naturally decrease and her ovaries slowly stop producing eggs. A woman typically reaches this menopausal state between the ages of 35 and 50, although in 10 percent of cases, doctors are now finding women do not experience changes in their menstrual flow.

Prior to menopause, women go through a stage called perimenopause. During this time, a woman’s body begins the transition into menopause. Typically, perimenopause lasts anywhere from two to eight years, plus another year following her final period. Estrogen levels rise and fall at irregular intervals during perimenopause. A woman’s menstrual cycles may increase or shorten, and she could begin to have menstrual cycles in which she doesn’t ovulate, so she would be unable to become pregnant during this time. For the most part, a woman will start to notice signs of impending menopause sometime during her 40s, although in some cases, a woman may actually enter this cycle during her early or mid-30s. According to the North American Menopause Society, the average age for perimenopause is actually 47.5 years.

As a woman goes through this natural change, her body also undergoes a myriad of changes brought on by the gradual loss of ovarian function. This action triggers dramatic shifts in four hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle: estrogen, progesterone, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), and luteinizing hormone (LH). These hormonal changes can bring about numerous symptoms, which include a slowing of her metabolism, often resulting in weight gain, a loss in bone mass and strength, mood swings, fatigue, insomnia, forgetfulness, irritability, headaches, hot flashes accompanied by heart palpitations and dizziness, increased sweating, muscles aches and pains, water retention, vaginal dryness, a loss of muscle tone and changes to her breast size, shape and firmness and even depression. Not all women will experience every symptom and some women may experience more intense changes than others depending on a combination of her genetic makeup and lifestyle.

Post menopause typically brings some relief to symptoms. Once the body has completed the menopausal cycle and a woman has not had a period in over one year, symptoms tend to subside, although there are serious health risks linked to decreased estrogen levels. Post menopausal women are at higher risk for heart disease, osteoporosis, breast cancer and ovarian cancer for example. In 2000, there were 45.6 million postmenopausal women in the US, 39.9 million of which were over 51. According to the International Menopause Society, over half of all women over 50 will experience a bone fracture caused by osteoporosis. As well, menopausal women are 33 percent more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, a condition in women researchers are now linking to menopause.

By 2025, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates 1.1 billion women will be over the age of 50. This being the case, it is currently suggested a woman will actually spend 33 – 50 percent of her life in post menopause, so it becomes increasingly important she starts to take care of her body now, especially during the time leading up to post menopause.

Conventional medicine tends to look to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as a way to treat menopause. Synthetic estrogen and progesterone are typically used in an attempt to even out declining hormone levels. In many cases this therapy may reduce climacteric symptoms such as flushing, insomnia and sweating and osteoporosis but many women on synthetic estrogens may suffer from irregular vaginal bleeding and studies now show there is an increased risk of breast cancer and/or endometrial cancer when using HRT.[1] Other studies suggest HRT also dramatically increases a woman’s risk of heart disease and thrombosis especially in women who start the therapy years after menopause.[2]

As studies continue to uncover the risks of HRT, many women are now turning to natural HRT and menopause relief. Studies repeatedly show there are many herbs, vitamins and supplements that can help provide natural relief from vaginal dryness, hot flashes and other bothersome symptoms of menopause without the risks associated with synthetic HRT.

Saraca indica, for example, is a herbal menopause treatment shown to decrease symptoms of menopause through its natural steroidal properties. Shatavari, also known as asparagus racemosus, is a widely used herbal treatment for menopause. It is essentially considered an aphrodisiac or fertility enhancer in women and has beneficial effects on the female reproductive system during menopause. This natural herbal remedy also has considerable cooling effects on the body, which makes it an effective natural treatment for hot flashes.

Another helpful herbal treatment for menopause is actea racemosa or black cohosh. This natural treatment is widely used in Germany as a natural treatment for hot flashes, depression and sleep disturbances often experienced during menopause. Ashwagandha (withania somnifera) is a very popular herbal remedy for menopausal symptoms such as insomnia and mood swings. It is also known as Indian Ginseng. Other helpful herbs include bacoppa monnier (brahmi), Celastrus paniculata (jyotismati), Cyperus rotundus (Xiang fu), Centella asiatica (Gotu Kola) and aloe vera. There is also increasing evidence that nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D and wheat germ are effective natural treatments for menopause, especially for bone loss associated with decreased estrogen levels.

Today, women have more choices than ever when it comes to treating menopause symptoms. Evidence clearly shows synthetic HRT is increasingly dangerous and any benefits are far outweighed by the risk associated with this type of treatment. Natural remedies are just as effective for most symptoms and are clinically proven safe. When looking for a natural herbal treatment for menopause, look for a supplement that incorporates a variety of herbs and nutrients that will treat a wide range of symptoms. It is also important to find a supplement that uses the proper ratio of therapeutic properties of each specific herb so that it can be effectively assimilated by the body.

For more information about natural herbal treatments for menopause, visit:

[1] Koukoulis GN. Hormone Replacement Therapy and Breast Cancer Risk. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2000;900:422-8.

[2] British Medical Journal, 2007; 335: 239-44

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