Complementary treatments for menopause

Most studies show that alternative treatments for the menopause are little better than placebo. Here is some of the better evidence for that.
Menopause Int. 2012 Mar;18(1):20-7. doi: 10.1258/mi.2012.012001.

Alternative and complementary therapies for the menopause.


Northwick Park & St Marks Hospital (NPMH), NW London Hospitals NHS Trust, Watford Road, Harrow, HA1 3UJ, UK,


Despite a re-evaluation of risks in recent years, hormone replacement therapy is still surrounded by controversy. Almost 30% of women in a recent survey sought a natural approach to combat climacteric symptoms. Nevertheless, a large proportion of patients felt that they wanted a good safety profile and strong evidence base for treatment. This article seeks to review the evidence supporting non-hormonal approaches to treatment. There is only conflicting evidence at best to support alpha-2 agonists, e.g. clonidine and limited evidence for dihydroepiandrosterone and natural progesterones. There is limited randomized controlled trial data for gabapentin, selective norepinephrine re-uptake inhibitors (SNRIs) and selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), many of these studies being related to breast cancer patients. Of the herbal medicinal products, the largest evidence base rests with phytoestrogens. A Cochrane Database review looking at all types of phytoestrogens, e.g. red clover extracts, dietary soya and soya extracts concluded that there was no evidence to support improvement in climacteric symptoms and the meta-analysis of a 178 studies on soy products was inconsistent. Nevertheless, other studies disagree. Mammographic density is not affected by soy or phytoestrogen products and recent in vitro work shows only a weakly proliferative effect of soy isoflavone on breast cancer cells and evidence that soy isoflavone blocks the proliferative effect of estradiol on these cells. There are no studies looking at clinical outcome measures for cardiovascular disease but a number of studies looking at biochemical markers including arterial wall stiffness and apolipo protein B. Recent studies have also looked at the effects of red clover isoflavone on mood and depression, using specific depression rating scales. Finally, it is important to note that herbal medicinal products should not be used without caution. Some may produce quite marked side-effects in high doses and others can interact with pre-existing medication. A strategy for which patients are suitable for herbal medicinal products is reviewed.

GMS Health Technol Assess. 2012;8:Doc03. doi: 10.3205/hta000101. Epub 2012 May 7.

Alternative methods for the treatment of post-menopausal troubles.


CAREM GmbH, Sauerlach, Germany.



Menopause is described as the transition from the reproductive phase of a women to the non reproductive. Changes in hormone levels might lead to complaints and health consequences especially during peri- and postmenopause. Hormone therapy has a potential damaging health risk profile and is recommended for temporal limited therapy for acute vasomotor symptoms only.


The present HTA-report aims to assess the effectiveness and the cost-effectiveness of alternative treatment methods for women with postmenopausal symptoms in Germany regarding patient relevant endpoints (reduction of symptoms and frequency of adverse events and improvement of quality of life).


A systematic literature search was carried out in 33 relevant databases in September 2010. Citations were selected according to pre-defined criteria and were extracted and evaluated.


In the systematic research 22 studies are identified for the effectiveness evaluation, 22 primary studies and one review. High doses of isolated genistein reduce the frequency/intensity of hot flashes while low doses of genistein show no significant effect. Intake of isoflavone extract such as genistein, daidzein, glycitein in various combinations does not have an effect on improvement of cognitive function or vaginal dryness. The effect of black cohosh and hop extract for menopausal complaints cannot be determined since results are heterogenous. The combination of isoflavone, black cohosh, monk’s pepper, valerian and vitamin E has a positive effect on menopause symptoms. Ginkgo biloba shows no significant effect on menopause symptoms and cognitive improvement beside mental flexibility. Acupuncture has a significant influence on hot flashes especially in severe cases.


No final statement can be drawn regarding the effectiveness of alternative treatment methods due to qualitative shortcomings of included studies and a general limited availability of studies in this field. Furthermore, the generalization of the present HTA is limited due to the inclusion of only postmenopausal women.

J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Aug;15(8):853-62.

Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste-Tree/Berry) in the treatment of menopause-related complaints.


Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) University, Bundoora, Victoria, Australia.



The origin of the current practice of administering Vitex agnus-castus in menopause-related complaints is uncertain, but appears to be relatively recent. Here we review the evidence for this application of Vitex based on evidence from pharmacological studies and clinical research.


The mechanisms of potential relevance in the context of menopause are explored with reference to the current understanding of the endocrinology and neuroendocrinology of menopause and associated symptoms.


We conclude that, while evidence from rigorous randomized controlled trials is lacking for the individual herb in this context, emerging pharmacological evidence supports a role for V. agnus-castus in the alleviation of menopausal symptoms and suggests that further investigation may be appropriate.

[PubMed – indexed for MEDLINE]

Acupuncture for menopausal hot flushes
Cochrane Reviews,

08/06/2013  Evidence Based Medicine  Clinical Article

Dodin S et al. – Hot flushes are the most common menopausal vasomotor symptom. Hormone therapy (HT) has frequently been recommended for relief of hot flushes, but concerns about the health risks of HT have encouraged women to seek alternative treatments. It has been suggested that acupuncture may reduce hot flush frequency and severity. To determine whether acupuncture is effective and safe for reducing hot flushes and improving the quality of life of menopausal women with vasomotor symptoms. Authors found insufficient evidence to determine whether acupuncture is effective for controlling menopausal vasomotor symptoms. When they compared acupuncture with sham acupuncture, there was no evidence of a significant difference in their effect on menopausal vasomotor symptoms. When they compared acupuncture with no treatment there appeared to be a benefit from acupuncture, but acupuncture appeared to be less effective than HT. These findings should be treated with great caution as the evidence was low or very low quality and the studies comparing acupuncture versus no treatment or HT were not controlled with sham acupuncture or placebo HT. Data on adverse effects were lacking.

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