Botanical products

This term describes a group of herbal remedies which are used to treat the symptoms of the menopause.

These remedies are based upon natural plant based foods which contain substances known as ‘phytoestrogens’. These substances may imitate the effects of the female hormone oestrogen and function in much the same way inside the body.


An example of these botanical products is ‘isoflavones’:these are compounds found in soy based foods such as beans, grains and chickpeas.

They have a similar structure to oestrogen and as a result of that, can compensate for the drop in oestrogen during the menopause.

The benefits of isoflavones include:

  • Easing of menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes
  • Reduce the risk of osteoporosis
  • Reduce the risk of cancer
  • Reduce the risk of heart disease

They are also considered to have antioxidant properties.

But there are arguments against their use which claim that they have side effects and can interact badly with other forms of medicine. Plus not every woman who takes isoflavonoids will be able to convert these within her body to oestrogen.

Sources of isoflavones include soy milk, soy beans, fava beans, miso and tofu.

Types of complimentary remedies

The most popular remedies are:

  • Black cohosh (used to treat hot flushes and night sweats)
  • Red clover (used to treat hot flushes)
  • Ginseng (used to treat fatigue and insomnia)
  • Soy (used to treat hot flushes, night sweats, weight loss, insulin regulation, skin health, bone health and heart health)
  • Evening Primrose Oil (used to treat hot flushes)
  • Flaxseed (used to treat hot flushes)
  • Kava (used to treat anxiety)
  • St John’s Wort (used to treat depression)
  • Valerian (used to treat insomnia)

These are widely available and used by many people for a range of conditions which include the menopause. They are seen as a safe way of treating these symptoms compared to HRT and other similar forms of treatment.

Plus there is the added bonus of lowering cholesterol levels.

But there are arguments against their use.

There are medical experts who claim that there is little evidence to support the effectiveness of these products, and in some cases, they may do more harm than good.

They are viewed as causing a range of side effects which include nausea, stomach upsets and liver problems (black cohosh); blood clots, nausea and diarrhoea (evening primrose oil); diarrhoea (flaxseed oil).

Common sense tells us that if they are taken in small to moderate amounts then there is less risk than consuming large quantities which has been the case.

But, if you are thinking of using these remedies then learn as much as you can about them before making a decision. Read up about them, talk to others and ask for advice from your GP.

Look at the side effects as well as the benefits and try and separate the hype from the reality.

More research is needed to determine the safety and effectiveness of these products. Their long term use has not been fully assessed and as a result of this you are advised not to use these remedies to treat the symptoms of the menopause.

(Source: NHS Choices/Menopause)

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