While HRT is very effective, Dr Tong says soy, red clover and black cohosh, can also be very effective in relieving menopausal symptoms
Herbal and complementary medicines are a viable alternative to hormone replacement therapy for postmenopausal women who fear the possible side effects, according to new research.
Soy for instance, the most common plant containing oestrogen, can reduce hot flushes by more than half, says a scientist who carried out a review into previous studies.
Red clover, a legume also containing the female hormone, and black cohosh, a plant originating in the US and Canada, also ease symptoms.
Women's primary care specialist Dr Iris Tong, of Brown University, Rhode Island, who led the review, said: 'Up to 75 per cent of women use herbal and complimentary medicines to treat their postmenopausal symptoms.
'Therefore, it is vitally important for healthcare providers to be aware of and informed about the non-pharmacological therapies available for women who are experiencing postmenopausal symptoms and who are looking for an alternative to HRT.'
The menopause is associated with an oestrogen deficiency and can cause an increase in hot flushes, vaginal dryness, sexual dysfunction, frequent urinary tract infections, urinary incontinence and joint pain as well as sleep and mood disturbance.
About two in three postmenopausal women experience hot flushes and a fifth for up to 15 years, writes Dr Tong in the journal The Obstetrician and Gynaecologist (TOG).
Oestrogen deficiency can also lead to cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis and while many drugs are available, a number of non-pharmacological alternatives are sometimes preferred.
Dr Tong found HRT is the most effective treatment of hot flushes, improving symptoms in 80 to 90 per cent of women.
Oestrogen deficiency after the meonpause can cause sleep and mood disturbance, hot flushes and frequent urinary tract infections, amongst other things
But she says there are possible health risks associated with HRT such as links to breast cancer, blood clots, stroke and cardiovascular problems.
Dr Tong said due to these possible risks, other treatment options may be equally effective such as behaviour modification and herbal and complimentary medicines.
The review states that as many as 50 to 75 per cent of postmenopausal women use herbal options to treat hot flushes, and of the complimentary therapies, soy, red clover and black cohosh have been the most investigated.
Soy, found naturally in food and supplements, has shown a reduction in hot flush symptoms ranging between 20 to 55 per cent.
Dr Tong recommends it, as well as red clover and black cohosh, as there are no significant adverse side effects associated with them, as long as they are used in women with no history of breast cancer, are not at high risk for breast cancer and are not taking tamoxifen.
But she warns herbal medicines are not regulated in many countries, and therefore the contents of a given product may vary from sample to sample.
TOG's editor in chief Jason Waugh added: 'Postmenopausal symptoms can be very distressing and it is important to review the advantages and limitations of the non pharmacological treatments available as well as the pharmacological ones.
'Even simple behaviour modification can make a difference to postmenopausal symptoms, including keeping the room temperature cool, wearing layered clothing, relaxation techniques and smoking cessation.'
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2260315/Could-herbal-medicines-REALLY-good-HRT-menopausal-women.html#ixzz2HgNLwmee
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