Monday, May 16, 2011

Can Supplements Help The Symptoms of Menopause?

Hot flashes, insomnia, mood swings, and the other symptoms of menopause can be unpleasant and difficult to manage. Hormone therapy (HT) can help in the short term, but long-term HT can increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer, stroke, and heart attacks.

Instead, many women opt for dietary supplements. But do they work? Supplements are rarely tested thoroughly, and their manufacturers make health claims that aren’t always backed up by science. Read our analysis on some popular menopausal remedies...

Black cohosh

What it is: The extract of the root of the black cohosh plant.

The evidence: Despite the plant’s widespread use, a 2008 review concluded that there is insufficient evidence for black cohosh’s effectiveness in treating menopausal symptoms. Another review published in 2010 found that unspecified black cohosh "preparations" decreased hot flash symptoms by 26%.

The bottom line: More evidence is needed to confirm the effects of black cohosh, both positive and negative. It has been linked to liver damage and other side effects, so as with all supplements, don’t take it without consulting a physician.

Dong quai

What it is: An herb, also known as Chinese angelica, that is said to mimic estrogen in the body.

The evidence: The use of dong quai for menopause symptoms has not been studied extensively, and the results have largely been negative. A controlled trial conducted in 1997 found that dong quai was no better than placebo in treating symptoms such as hot flashes; more recently, a 2008 study in Hong Kong found no significant difference from a placebo in the treatment of menopausal symptoms.

The bottom line: Claims that dong quai acts like estrogen in the body are not supported by research.

Evening primrose oil

What it is: Oil extracted from the seeds of a yellow-flowered plant. An omega-6 essential fatty acid (gamma-linolenic acid) is the active ingredient.

The evidence: According to a 2009 review in American Family Physician, only one placebo-controlled trial of evening primrose oil in menopausal women has been conducted. In the study, the women took eight capsules of the oil daily for six months, but the capsules were no better than placebo at treating menopausal flushing.

The bottom line: Evidence to support the use of evening primrose oil for menopause is still more

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