Medical Herbalist Yeli Williams, BSc Hons, MSc, MNIMH, explores this question below…
Can herbal medicine help with perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms?
Yes! This is a question I get asked all the time, menopause is not an illness but a natural process, yet for some women this transition can be hugely challenging. Symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats, painful joints, brain fog, low mood, anxiety, poor sleep or fatigue can leave women struggling to cope with daily life.
Declining oestrogen levels are behind the symptoms that many women experience during perimenopause (the years preceding menopause) and menopause. During this phase the ovaries become less active and produce less oestrogen. To compensate, the adrenal glands start working harder often resulting in fatigue compounding the impact of other symptoms. HRT is commonly prescribed to replace oestrogen but many women prefer options that support the body’s natural processes during this transition and this is where simple self-help measures, herbal medicines and nutrition can make a huge difference.
What can I do to help myself?
A tablespoon of freshly ground flaxseed a day (which is a phytoestrogen that helps to naturally balance oestrogen levels in the body),a few cups of sage tea (which help to reduce the frequency and severity of hot flushes), wearing natural fibres (which help the body to regulate heat more effectively) and eating a healthy unprocessed diet (including other phytoestrogens such as tofu and tempeh) can all go a long way in reducing milder symptoms. (Ref 2, 3, 4, 6) If however, your symptoms are more troublesome then consulting a herbalist for a bespoke mix can literally be a transformative experience.
How can herbs help?
Herbs commonly used during menopause include black cohosh, wild yam and even hops – though this isn’t a reason to up your beer intake! (Ref 1, 2, 3, 4) Other herbs such has St John’s wort can be really helpful to balance the mood and manage other symptoms. (Ref 1, 5) Adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha and rhodiola can over time help to support the adrenal glands to reduce fatigue. (Ref 7,8) These herbs are often used with faster acting herbs such as valerian and passionflower which along with sage can improve sleep quality and help reduce hot flushes and night sweats. (Ref 2, 3, 6)
There are also many additional herbs that are used to support women during menopause. Some frequently used herbs are contraindicated in certain common health conditions or with certain prescribed or over the counter medicines, so consulting a qualified herbalist will ensure that you are taking a safe and effective bespoke mix of herbs in a single, convenient and easy to take format.
Yeli practices Western herbal medicine and combines traditional herbal knowledge with a modern scientific approach to diagnosis and treatment. She is a full member of the National institute of medical herbalists (NIMH) with many years of experience in supporting and empowering people towards good health. You can find her at the Elysian centre on alternate Thursday mornings. Find her contact details, and more information about her, on her practicioner page.
Ref 1 Climacteric. 2021 Apr;24(2):109-119. Review & meta-analysis: isopropanolic black cohosh extract iCR for menopausal symptoms – an update on the evidence. C Castelo-Branco et al.
Ref 3 Front Pharmacol. 2021 May 20;12:644103. Estrogenic Plants: to Prevent Neurodegeneration and Memory Loss and Other Symptoms in Women After Menopause. Valentina Echeverria et al.
Ref 4 J Diet Suppl. 2020 Dec 17;1-15. Efficacy and Safety of Nutraceutical on Menopausal Symptoms in Post-Menopausal Women: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trial. Teerapong Rattanatantikul et al
Ref 5 Complement Ther Med. 2019 Aug;45:109-113. The effect of Hypericum perforatum on postmenopausal symptoms and depression: A randomized controlled trial Alieh Eatemadnia et al
Ref 6 Electron Physician. 2017 Nov 25;9(11):5826-5833. A review of effective herbal medicines in controlling menopausal symptoms. Rahele Kargozar et al.
Ref 7 J Obstet Gynaecol Res. 2021 Dec;47(12):4414-4425. Effect of an ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera) root extract on climacteric symptoms in women during perimenopause: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Sriram Gopal et al
Ref 8 Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2020 May 21;13(5):102. Actaea racemosa L. Is More Effective in Combination with Rhodiola rosea L. for Relief of Menopausal Symptoms: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study Lali Pkhaladze et al.