When a woman reaches her mid 40s to mid 50s, her ovaries stop producing eggs, triggering hormonal fluctuations and the beginning of menopause. Estrogen and progesterone levels decrease, and menstruation becomes irregular and less frequent. Menopause is a natural process and happens gradually over several years until menstrual periods have stopped completely. Women may experience hot flashes, depression and irritability with the shifting hormone levels that occur during menopause.
Estrogen protects against bone loss and heart disease, and doctors sometimes prescribe hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, to replace estrogen lost during menopause. HRT also relieves hot flashes and other symptoms. However, a study conducted by the Women’s Health Initiative found that the health risks of HRT often outweigh the benefits. Instead, many women are choosing natural remedies including herbs to help with the symptoms. However, some of these can interact with medications and many of the herbs contain plant estrogens, so talk to your doctor before starting herbal treatment.
Chasteberry, also known as vitex, is an herb that grows in the Mediterranean region. Vitex affects hormone secretion by the pituitary gland. In a handout for midlife patients, the University of Virginia Health System recommends chasteberry for hot flashes, depression and hormonal imbalance.
Dong quai is a member of the celery family and contains iron and vitamin E. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, studies have not confirmed its effectiveness in treating menopause, but some women have found that it helps their hot flashes.
Siberian ginseng is not a true ginseng but has similar properties. It is a shrub that grows in Asia, and its roots have been used in China and Russia for hundreds of years as a performance enhancer and to help the body adapt to stress. The University of Virginia Health System recommends Siberian ginseng for depression and fatigue.
Black Cohosh Root
The Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center reports that black cohosh helps prevent osteoporosis and enhances bone formation. It is also helpful in treating hot flashes, vaginal dryness, irritability and depression, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.
The leaves of the ginkgo biloba tree contain powerful antioxidants. Gingko extract can help the mental fogginess and memory loss that women sometimes experience during menopause. It may improve cognitive function by acting as a vasodilator, increasing cerebral blood flow.
About this Author
Kate Comings has been a medical transcriptionist since 1978 and has been writing informational pieces in the hospital setting for 12 years. Comings holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from University of California, Santa Barbara.