Phytoestrogens are weak estrogens that occur naturally in certain plants. Supplementation with these substances help boost estrogen levels in a similar spirit to hormone therapy. These plant based estrogens come in two main types:
Recently, western science has become interested in phytoestrogens as they noticed that Asian cultures with a high intake of soy and other phytoestrogens have a noticeably lower incidence of menopausal related symptoms.
Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa or Actaea racemosa) is a popular European herbal supplement that has recently gained notice in the US. Black Cohosh is native to North America and was originally used by Native American peoples in the treatment of gynecologic disorders. Tablets are formed from preparations of the plant’s roots and stems.
In 8 published studies of black cohosh, the herb has been shown to be effective in treating menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, and sleep disturbances with minimal side effects such as stomach aches and headaches. Additionally, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology support use of Black Cohosh for the relief of menopausal symptoms.
Soy products are a popular dietary component in Asian cultures. Scientists believe soy isoflavones help treat menopause related symptoms by binding to estrogen receptors. Fourteen clinical trials have shown soy supplementation to be effective in reducing hot flashes and other common symptoms of menopause. Additionally, the American Association of Family Physicians has stated that “Soy has been found to significantly reduce the incidence of hot flashes associated with menopause.”
Dong Quai is an aromatic herb that is a prime ingredient in many Chinese herbal mixtures. It is considered the “female ginseng” due to it’s reported benefits for female reproductive hormonal health. While western clinical trials have not been done on Don Quai efficacy, it is believed the Dong Quai’s reported effectiveness in treating hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms is due to presence of phytoestrogens and a natural form of the anti-oxidant vitamin E.
Other Herbal Remedies
For some women, vitamin supplements have also been effective in providing temporary relief from mild hot flashes.