As women age, they experience symptoms of oestrogen deficiency leading into menopause. Although prescription medications are available to replace falling oestrogen levels, they carry a number of risks. Many women instead choose natural treatments.
Symptoms of oestrogen deficiency can start several years before the onset of menopause and worsen as menopause begins and the ovaries stop producing eggs. These symptoms may include hot flushes, night sweats and irregular periods. Genitourinary symptoms such as vaginal dryness, diminished bladder control and decreased sex drive are common, along with mental conditions such as anxiety, depression and foggy thinking. Oestrogen deficiency also can contribute to osteoporosis.
Herbal supplements that help relieve the symptoms of oestrogen deficiency contain oestrogen-like plant compounds known as phytohormones. One of these supplements, black cohosh, was known as "squawroot" among American Indians because it was commonly used for female complaints. It remains the most commonly used herbal remedy for relief of symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats. It also may increase vaginal lubrication and stop irregular bleeding.
Red clover is high in coumestrol, an isoflavone with oestrogen-like properties. It may also contain other compounds thought to balance the hormonal system. Evening primrose oil has been used to treat symptoms of oestrogen deficiency that are similar to PMS, such as mood changes, anxiety and fluid retention, but also may help reduce hot flushes and vaginal dryness. It is high in omega 6 fatty acids, which can help protect the skin, cardiovascular system and brain functioning.
Dong quai is used in Chinese medicine to treat the symptoms of menopause. Also thought to increase circulation and protect the heart, it may increase the effectiveness of other herbal therapies. Soy products contain phytoestrogens that attach to hormone receptors in a similar manner to oestrogen. The presence of high amounts of soy in Asian diets is thought by some to be the reason women who live in Asia have lower rates of female-related cancers. Soy foods also may help protect against cardiovascular disease.
Some symptoms of oestrogen deficiency may actually come from a progesterone imbalance as progesterone levels drop along with oestrogen levels. Wild yam extract is a widely used phytoprogesterone herb that may act to replace oestrogen and progesterone.
Other Natural Remedies
Calcium and vitamin D supplementation are important in preventing osteoporosis. Kegal exercises may help increase vaginal strength and decrease urinary incontinence. They also may lead to an increased sex drive as vaginal tone is restored. Deep, slow breathing may help calm the nervous system and reduce the severity of a hot flush. Drink plenty of water to ensure that tissues are hydrated, which will help with skin tone and vaginal dryness.
- Medline Plus: Menopause
- Holistic Online: Hormone Replacement Therapy Herbs
- Prescription for Herbal Healing, Phyllis A. Balch, CNC, 2001