Use with Caution!
Keep in mind that herbal supplements and natural remedies for menopause are not as closely regulated as prescription drugs. The amount of herbal product, quality, safety, and purity may vary between brands or even between batches of the same brand. Herbal therapies may also interact with prescription dugs, resulting in dramatic changes in the effect of the botanical, the drug, or both. To be safe, tell your healthcare provider about all botanical therapies you are considering.
(Actaea racemosa, Cimicifuga racemosa)
This herb has received quite a bit of scientific attention for its possible effects on hot flashes and provides menopause relief. Studies of its effectiveness in menopause relief have produced mixed results. However, some women report that it has helped them. Recent research suggests that black cohosh does not act like estrogen, as once thought. This reduces concerns about its effect on hormone-sensitive tissue (eg, uterus, breast). Black cohosh has had a good safety record over a number of years. There have been some reports linking black cohosh to liver problems, but this has not been proven.
In five controlled studies, no consistent or conclusive evidence was found that red clover leaf extract reduces hot flashes. As with black cohosh, however, some women claim that red clover has helped them. Studies report few side effects and no serious health problems with use. But studies in animals have raised concerns that red clover might have harmful effects on hormone-sensitive tissue.
Dong quai has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat gynecologic conditions for more than 1,200 years. Yet only one randomized clinical study of dong quai has been conducted to determine its effects on hot flashes, and this botanical therapy was not found to be useful in reducing them. Some experts on Chinese medicine point out that the preparation studied was not the same as they use in practice. Dong quai should never be used by women with fibroids or blood-clotting problems such as hemophilia, or by women taking drugs that affect clotting such as warfarin (Coumadin) as bleeding complications can result.
Research has shown that ginseng may provide some menopause relief, such as mood symptoms and sleep disturbances, and with one’s overall sense of well-being. However, it has not been found to be helpful for hot flashes.
Evening Primrose Oil
This botanical is also promoted to relieve hot flashes. However, the only randomized, placebo-controlled study (in only 56 women) found no benefit over placebo (mock medication). Reported side effects include inflammation, problems with blood clotting and the immune system, nausea, and diarrhea. It has been shown to induce seizures in patients diagnosed with schizophrenia who are taking antipsychotic medication. Evening primrose oil should not be used with anticoagulants or phenothiazines (a type of psychotherapeutic agent).