One of the most widely used herbal supplements on the planet, valerian root extract is often used to treat sleep problems such as insomnia. It also may help with other menopausal symptoms. In a study published in a 2018 issue of the journal Women and Health, 60 postmenopausal women were randomized to ingest either a 530 mg capsule of valerian twice per day or an oral placebo twice a day for two months; by the end of the study, the women who took valerian had a significant decrease in the severity and frequency of their hot flashes, compared with the placebo group. Otherresearch published in Complementary Therapies In Clinical Practice has shown that valerian supplements can help with sleep disorders.
4. St. John’s Wort
An herbal plant that’s known for having antidepressant effects, St. John’s wort may be helpful for various menopausal symptoms. In a small study in the August 2019 issue of the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine, researchers found that postmenopausal women who took St. John’s wort three times a day for two months experienced a decrease in the frequency and intensity of their hot flashes and a significant improvement in their moods.
“St. John's wort has been out there for a long time as a potential treatment for depression,” Santoro says. While “it does not have strong medical evidence to suggest that it is effective, because it is low cost and generally low risk, I don't discourage patients from trying it.”
3. Soy Isoflavones
Research on the subject published in June 2016 in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that women who took soy isoflavone supplements had a 31 percent reduction in the number of daily hot flashes as well as improvements in vaginal dryness. A study from Sweden published in the journal Menopause found that postmenopausal women who took 60 mg of isoflavones per day for three months experienced a 57 percent reduction in their hot flashes and a 43 percent decrease in night sweats. The perks are believed to stem from the estrogen-like effects of isoflavones, compounds that are abundant in soybeans.
Keep in mind, though: “Onlyabout 30 percent of U.S. women can metabolize soy foods and supplements in a way that allows them to utilize the specific soy metabolite known as S-equol, which likely helps relieve hot flashes,” notes Tara Allmen, MD, a gynecologist in New York City and author of Menopause Confidential: A Doctor Reveals the Secrets to Thriving Through Midlife. The upshot: There’s little harm in trying these supplements but no guarantee that they’ll make a difference for all women.
It hasn’t been found to help with hot flashes, but some studies suggest that ginseng, which comes from the root of several plants in the Panax genus, may help alleviate mood symptoms, sleep disturbances, and sexual problems that are associated with menopause. In fact, a study published in the August 2019 issue of the journal Complementary Therapies in Medicine found that after postmenopausal women took 500 milligrams (mg) of Panax ginseng twice a day for four weeks, their sexual functioning — such as their sexual desire, arousal, lubrication, orgasms, and satisfaction — improved significantly.
1. Black Cohosh
While the results of studies on the use of black cohosh for menopausal symptoms have been mixed, there is some evidence that supplements of this herb can help. For example, a study in the March 2018 issue of the Journal of Education and Health Promotion found that postmenopausal women who took black cohosh every day for eight weeks experienced a decrease in the number and severity of their hot flashes.
Another perk: Black cohosh is now believed to be safer than it used to be. As the North American Menopause Society notes, “Recent research suggests that black cohosh does not act like estrogen, as once thought. This reduces concerns about its effect on hormone-sensitive tissue” in the uterus and breast. “In general, because of the low risk of harm and relatively low cost, I do not discourage patients from trying it because even if they get a placebo effect from it, they may get a [positive] effect,” Dr. Santoro says.