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    Can Botanicals Relieve Menopausal Symptoms? continued...

    Evening primrose oil is another botanical that is often used to treat hot flashes, although there is no scientific evidence to support this. Side effects include nausea, diarrhea, problems with the immune system, and blood clotting . Many women with other conditions, or those who take certain medications, should not take evening primrose oil.

    Dong quai is another botanical that is touted to relieve hot flashes and night sweats, and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. There is little scientific evidence to support this claim, however, and more studies are needed to determine its effectiveness.

    There are many other herbal supplements available -- none of which have been proven scientifically to relieve menopause symptoms. They include: fish oil, omega-3 fatty acids, red clover, ginseng, rice bran oil, wild yam, calcium, gotu kola, licorice root, sage, sarsaparilla, passion flower, chaste berry, ginkgo biloba, and valerian root.

    Can Supplements Help Conditions Linked to Menopause?

    Most women experience accelerated bone loss during menopause. This increases their risk of developing osteoporosis. Adequate calcium (1,200 to 1,500 mg/day) and vitamin D (400 IU/day) can help reduce the loss of bone. A study published in June 2012 in the journal Heart suggests that taking calcium supplements may increase the risk for heart attacks -- but not if the calcium source comes from the diet. If you think you may need to take a supplement to get enough calcium, check with your doctor first. Studies have shown that vitamin K, magnesium, and boron are among the nutrients that also play a role in maintaining bone health. Dietary sources of these nutrients are best, although they are also available in supplement form. Check with your doctor before taking any of these supplements; they are not appropriate for everyone.

    Menopause is also associated with an increased risk of heart disease. A heart-healthy diet is plant-based and low in fat. It is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, and nuts. These foods are also good sources of vitamin E, potassium, and magnesium, which may also provide heart health benefits. While food sources are best, supplementation may be recommended in select cases; check with your doctor to see if this applies to you.

    Omega-3 fatty acids are known to have a favorable effect on heart health by decreasing cholesterol, decreasing inflammation, thinning blood, and decreasing the growth of plaque. Supplement sources of omega-3 fatty acids include fish oil capsules and flaxseed oil. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, and sardines are excellent dietary sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Ground flax meal and walnuts are also good sources of omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids should not be taken before surgery and by those on blood-thinning medication such as Coumadin. Check with your doctor to learn if omega-3 fatty acid supplements are right for you.

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