Table of Contents
Hot flashes, drenching night sweats, vaginal dryness and decreased libido are some of the irksome symptoms associated with menopause in women. During the course of a recent research, scientists have unearthed that plant-based therapeutic measures could prove to be invaluable in controlling the symptoms of menopause, especially hot flashes and vaginal dryness.
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is the principal mode of treatment currently being used to treat the menopausal symptoms. However, given the side effects associated with HRT, especially cardiovascular disorders and breast cancer risk, scientists have always looked for alternative therapeutic measures.
Plant Therapy: The Safe Treatment Modality for Menopausal Symptoms
Plant based therapies comprise of different measures, the most commonplace of which is the use of phytoestrogens-the chemicals that mimic the action of estrogen (the female hormone) in the body. Phytoestrogens are naturally found in soy and soy products as flavones. Phytoestrogens are also a part of linseeds (flaxseeds), sesame seeds, wheat berries, fenugreek, oats and barley etc. By exerting the same actions as estrogen, phytoestrogens help induce a pseudo pre-menopausal state, hence controlling the symptoms associated with it.
Other herbs like red clover and black cohosh and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are also effective plant-based remedies. This research has shown that a staggering 40-50% of the female population in the Western countries resort to alternative therapies, mainly plant-based therapies, for the management of the vasomotor menopausal symptoms.
This meta-analysis was carried out by Taulant Muka, M.D., Ph.D., of Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands and fellow researchers by thorough evaluation of the existing studies about the effectiveness of plant-based therapies. About 62 randomized clinical trials (based on data of 6,653 women) were included in this meta-analysis. The data was collected from electronic databases including Ovid MEDLINE, EMBASE, and Cochrane Central. The results of the study were later published in the June issue of JAMA.
It was demonstrated that regular use of phytoestrogens can help diminish the severity of menopausal symptoms, especially hot flashes and vaginal dryness. The frequency of the episodes of hot flashes was also found to be reduced. No significant effect of phytoestrogens was, however, observed on the complaint of night sweats. Chinese medicine was found to be less effective as compared to herbal medicine and phytoestrogens.
The Future Prospects
Even though hormone replacement therapy is still the mainstay of treatment of menopausal symptom, this meta-analysis is expected to pave way for recognition of plant-based therapies as effective treatment methods for menopausal symptoms in women.
This study calls for a need to carry out further research to establish the exact relationship between the use of plant-based therapies and the alleviation of menopausal symptoms since the existing data is quite heterogeneous in this regard.
Plant-based therapies have the added benefit of being devoid of the side effects that come in the wake of hormone replacement therapy. This study has encouraged the use of more natural therapeutic measures for treating menopausal symptoms. In the near future, phytoestrogens may emerge as the first line of treatment for menopausal symptoms.