Whether it’s puberty, periods or pregnancy, women are used to being challenged by thier bodies.
Hot flushes, night sweats and mood swings are just a few of the symptoms women have to contend with as we get older. But don’t despair, we’re here to tell you the menopause doesn’t have to be miserable.
Since ancient times, women have found ways to harness nature to help with the menopause and the discomfort it can bring. Some herbal remedies for the menopause are anecdotal or based on traditional use, and others are backed by solid science.
Either way, it’s your choice how you approach this time of change.
Read on to discover some natural menopause treatments that really work, plus the available evidence behind them.
You’d normally find sage in a recipe for stuffing, but sage preparations have been traditionally used as natural remedies for menopause for hundreds of years. Sage has been thought to help relieve a range of symptoms including hot flushes and night sweats. Now, there’s some scientific evidence to back up these claims.
In 2011, Swiss researchers discovered that women taking a daily tablet of fresh sage leaves experienced a reduction in hot flushes by 50% in four weeks. After continuing to take sage, hot flushes among the participants were reduced by 64% within eight weeks. (1)
According to the same study on sage, the helpful herb could reduce psychological symptoms of the menopause, such as mood swings, by 47%, too.
In the Swiss study, the women took a tablet made from fresh sage leaves, which are available at health food shops. Alternatively, you could make a sage tea using ready-made sage tea bags, or with loose, dried sage leaves in a strainer with boiling water poured on top and left to cool.
Not only this, vitamin E might also help relieve common skin issues such as itchy skin in menopause, both by being ingested and applied topically.
Vitamin E works to soothe skin issues by acting as an antioxidant, protecting the skin from environmental damage, strengthening the skin’s barrier against free radicals and holding moisturising properties. (3) You can find vitamin E in avocados, nuts and seeds, plant oils like olive oil, and in various skincare products such as creams, serums and oils.
However, intimacy is important at every stage of adulthood, and symptoms like vaginal dryness and vaginal atrophy (where the tissues of the vagina start to thin) aren’t great bedfellows for romance.
Over the counter creams can be a good option, but if you’d rather take a more natural approach, try the following:
This hardy shrub could be an effective natural remedy for menopause dryness, especially in women who can’t use oestrogen creams or suppositories.
Sea buckthorn oil is rich in fatty acids that may help maintain healthy cell barriers and promote elasticity. (7)
In a controlled trial by the University of Turku, Finland, women taking sea buckthorn oil every day for three months said they experienced less vaginal dryness, itching and burning, while additional tests showed the oil could help improve atrophy. (8)
To get immediate relief, you may be wondering about the best lubricant for menopause dryness. Many women swear by coconut oil. This thick, natural oil is safe for use on most skins and contains emollient properties. (9)
When it comes to menopause dryness, natural remedies appeal because you don’t want to risk causing irritation in delicate areas. However, remember that herbs can be potent and capable of causing skin irritation or even allergic reactions.
Of course, if you’re allergic to coconut you shouldn’t be putting it anywhere near your skin! Otherwise, perform a patch test on an area of sensitive skin and wait for 24 hours. If all seems well, try it out as a personal lubricant.
Coconut oil can also help relieve itchy skin in menopause. Try warming around half a teaspoon of coconut oil in your hands before rubbing it over your skin. It might feel greasy for a moment, but it soon sinks in.
It’s no secret your sex drive can take a hit during menopause. Luckily, there are natural ways to give it a boost.
This strangely-named herb comes from the leaves of the ancient maidenhair tree. A 2014 Iranian study found that women taking ginkgo biloba as an herbal remedy for menopause every day for 30 days felt more sexual desire compared with those taking a placebo. (10)
Ginkgo biloba has also been shown to help relieve some of the psychological symptoms of the menopause - including memory problems and mild anxiety. (11) So, ginkgo can restore your get-up-and-go in more ways than one!
Soy is an oestrogenic plant, which means it is able to mimic the effects of oestrogen in the body. (12) Soy has been widely studied for its impact on symptoms of the menopause, particularly hot flushes and night sweats. This is why it’s commonly recommended among herbal remedies for menopause.
A 2015 meta-analysis of quality medical studies concluded that phytoestrogens, including soy, could reduce the frequency of hot flushes by 11%. (13)Be aware that takes time for soy to take effect – experts suggest you may need to take it for at least three months before you start to feel the benefits. (14) You can consume soy either as a food such as tofu or soya milk, or in a supplement as soy isoflavones.
|Herb||Why might it help symptoms of the menopause?|
|Black cohosh||A review of studies on 1,400 menopausal women found that taking black cohosh for menopause reduced hot flushes and sweating by 25%. (15)|
|Agnus castus||The berry from this shrub has shown to help the PMS-like symptoms of the perimenopause. (16) Applied to the skin, its oil can help with night sweats and hot flushes. (17)|
|Red clover||It contains oestrogen-mimicking soya isoflavones. Evidence shows red clover can significantly improve symptoms in post-menopausal women. (18)|
|Evening primrose oil||
This yellow flower produces a rich oil which has long been associated with female health. Some studies have shown promising results for evening primrose oil for menopause symptoms including uncomfortable hot flushes. (19)
Always check the label and follow dosage carefully. As with all complementary and alternative medicine, do not rely on herbal remedies in place of proper care by a GP or medical professional.
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Last updated: 14 July 2020