Herbal alternatives for menopausal symptoms

November 1, 2010

Approximately 40% of women interviewed in the National Health Interview Survey used complementary and alternative therapies of some kind in the 12 months before taking the survey.

Approximately 40% of women interviewed in the National Health Interview Survey used complementary and alternative therapies of some kind in the 12 months before taking the survey.1 Of women in the midlife Study of Women Across the Nation (SWAN), this figure was nearly 50% at baseline and increased to 80% during the 6-year study.2

In a population-based survey, more than 35% of midlife women had used herbal, homeopathic, or naturopathic medicines, and approximately 12% used them to manage menopausal symptoms.3

Since the main findings for the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) were published in 2002 and in 2004,4,5 more women are choosing not to use hormone therapies (HT) for menopausal symptoms-the use of estrogen and progestin therapies (EPT) decreased by 46% and the use of estrogen therapy (ET) decreased by 28% in US women when comparing use in late 2002 with what had been used before.6

Nonhormonal HT for menopause that may not completely alleviate symptoms are commonly used; women who are perimenopausal and postmenopausal are among the highest users of herbal products. Among the top 10-selling herbal products in the United States in 2004, at least 4 of the 10 products have been used for menopausal symptoms: soy supplements, black cohosh, St John's wort, and ginseng.8

In spite of prevalent use of these products, approximately 70% of women using them do not inform their healthcare providers that they are using them.9