You've heard there are natural herbs for menopause that can really help: Yet during a recent survey, most women could only name 2 or 3 at most. And most sites that feature information don't seem to take into account one vital factor - whether or not the menopause symptom alleviating effects have been scientifically tested and proven.
So where's the proof? Which herbs do help combat the effects of menopause? Which should you take?
The latter is a decision only you can make, based on your own personal symptoms, problems and concerns (not to mention allergies, too)! But it helps if you know the basics about each herb popularly used in supplements to alleviate menopause symptoms and side effects.
Here is some concrete information about five particularly effective herbs for menopause; what they are, how they work and what they do...
1. Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa, Cimicifuga racemosa)
What Is It? - Belonging to the buttercup family, this hardy perennial herb grows wild across North America. Parts Used? - Rhizomes and roots. Existence of Formal Studies? - Yes. Numerous. According to one performed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, "black cohosh may be helpful in the short term (6 months or less) for women with vasomotor symptoms of menopause." Adverse Effects? - Adverse effects have been reported under rare circumstances, particularly where recommended dosage has been exceeded. Should never be combined with - or confused with - Blue Cohosh, a proven abortifactant.
2. Chasteberry (Vitex agnus castus)
What Is It? - Fruit of the Chaste tree. Inhibits prolactin release and binds to dopamine receptors. Parts Used? - Fruit Existence of Formal Studies? - Yes, multiple. A significant study implemented by R. Schellenberg of Germany's Institute for Health Care and Science noted a "50% reduction in symptoms" in the active group of a double-blind study involving 178. Strengths - Often used with success by PMS sufferers, it helps in combating mood swings. Anti inflammatory properties. Relieves bloating. Adverse Effects? - Can cause mild nausea and digestive irritation, so it is best used in enterically-coated capsules. (Reported by 7 women out of Schellenberg's group of 178.).
3. Damiana (Turnera diffusa, Turnera aphrodisiaca)
What Is It? - South American shrub Parts Used? - Leaves and stems Existence of Formal Studies? - Double blind controlled studies performed by the University of Hawaii School of Medicine in 1998 and again in 2002. 75% improvement noted in both study groups in its female participants' sexual libido. Strengths - Increases female libido, reduces vaginal dryness. Adverse Effects? - None reported, but Damiana should be used with caution by diabetics, since it has been known to affect blood sugar levels
4. Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
What Is It? - Common perennial field herb. Parts Used? - Isoflavones extracted Existence of Formal Studies? - Yes. 16 major studies, at last count. A typical result is that found by Barentsen and Van de Weijer of Universiteit Medical Centre in Amsterdam (Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology), citing "a significant reduction in hot flushes from baseline" in 44% of the active group in its double-blind study. Strengths - Reducing "hot flashes", night sweats, vaginal dryness, skin conditions. Adverse Effects? - One case reported by a woman combining it with Dong Quai and Siberian Ginseng. Has estrogenic activity, so those with cancer may wish to avoid it.
5. Sarsaparilla (Smilax Riparia)
What Is It? - South American vine belonging to the Lily family Parts used? - Root Existence of Formal Studies? - Studied by the Tokyo College of Pharmacy. Strengths - Stimulates female hormones, increases female libido. Anti inflammatory properties, purifies the blood by removing harmful microbial agents. Reduces pain and swelling. In an unrelated study, it was proven to inhibit viper venom at the Department of Physiology, University of Calcutta, India. Adverse Effects? - None reported.
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