Facts about MenopauseHB Treatments

Women are no longer limited in their choices between enduring menopausal symptoms, or risking the side effects of estrogen drug therapy. Women face a perplexing dilemma starting around age 40 to 45. The amount of estrogen naturally produced by their body dwindles, causing a wide range of menopausal miseries, including hot flashes, depression, vaginal dryness, anxiety…. The menopausal decline in estrogen production is a direct cause of premature aging.

Based on life expectancy trends, women face the prospect of spending the last 1/3 to ½ of their lives in a state of hormonal imbalance. How to obtain the anti-aging benefits of estrogen without increasing the risk of cancer, arterial blood clots, and a host of nasty side effects may be well found in nature.

Plant derived estrogens provide safe and effective female sex hormone replacement therapy, and help alleviate menopausal symptoms.

The most widely studied plant component used to treat menopause is a standardized extract from the Black Cohosh. (Cimicifuga Racemosa).

Many women are plagued by menstrual cramps, premenstrual syndrome, or hot flashes at some point during their lifetimes. Known as Black Cohosh, the herb has been used by more than one and a-half million German women, according to one manufacturer of a Black Cohosh supplement. And the German Commission E, a government-sponsored panel that evaluates herbal therapies, has given Black Cohosh its stamp of approval, recommending it for treating PMS, painful menstruation, and menopausal problems.

At the turn of the century, U.S. medical doctors were of three general persuasions: They prescribed drugs, homeopathic remedies, or herbs. Allopaths used substances such as mercury; homeopaths preferred preparations made with highly diluted herbs and minerals.

The herbally oriented doctors were called the Eclectics, who learned about herbs through interactions with their patients. They observed reactions, both good and bad, of botanical medicines that had been used by Native Americans, including Black Cohosh, Echinacea, wild indigo, Osha, cramp bark, snakeroot, lobelia, and pokeroot. The Eclectics, taking their cue from Native Americans, prescribed Black Cohosh to treat "female complaints", including menstrual problems, hormonal imbalances, fibroid cysts, and false and true labor pains. They also recommended the herb to calm the nervous system, reduce pain after labor, or relieve painful, late menstrual periods. They combined it with cramp bark to ease menstrual cramps, and used it alone to treat neuralgia, rheumatism, arthritis, and headaches. Today, Black Cohosh remains on a European short list of proven remedies for "women's conditions". Thanks to the body of evidence that has accumulated during the past century. we now understand much more about the symptoms and syndromes for which Black Cohosh is proving beneficial and safe.

In the classic reference book Herbal Medicine (Beaconsfield, 1988), Dr. Weiss lists Black Cohosh as a treatment for conditions caused by lack of estrogens, such as depression associated with menopause. For that reason, Black Cohosh is often found in herbal formulas for regulating female hormones, especially those prescribed to reduce hot flashes, which can occur when estrogen levels drop too low.

Researchers have conducted many test tube and animal studies using Black Cohosh as well as a few human trials. In one controlled double-blind study, 110 menopausal women who complained of unpleasant symptoms and who hadn't taken estrogen replacement therapy for at least six months took a standardized Black Cohosh extract. According to the researchers, these women felt less depressed and had fewer hot flashes than those in the placebo group. The researchers theorize that Black Cohosh extract affects estrogen behavior by changing vaginal cells and suppressing the secretion of luteinizing hormone (LH), both indicators of an estrogenic influence. Sudden bursts of LH have been linked to the occurrence of hot flashes, night sweats, heart palpitations, and the drying and thinning of the vagina. At the University of Gottingen's Department of Clinical and Experimental Endocrinology in Germany, researchers report that Black Cohosh's impact on sexual hormones can be traced primarily to three compounds (formononetin, triterpenes, and aceteine). The Scientific studies show that Black Cohosh has a balancing effect on hormone production either by acting as a mild estrogen or regulating estrogen's production in the body. A fascinating study involved 60 women given either standardized Black Cohosh extract, Valium or Premarin (conjugated estrogen) for menopausal symptoms. The women in the Black Cohosh group were relieved of depression and anxiety more effectively than the women in the Valium or Premarin group. That study was published in a German language medical journal (Med. Welt 1984, 36 871-874).

Hot flashes correspond closely with a surge of luteinizing hormone released from the pituitary gland in response to estrogen deficiency. Black Cohosh was shown to suppress increased luteinizing hormone secretion in menopausal women, and this effect was specifically linked with a reduction in the incidence of hot flashes. Black Cohosh has shown estrogenic effects but it does not elevate estrogen levels in the blood. It appears to bind to estrogen receptors in order to mimic the hormonal effects of the weak estrogen estriol.

Black Cohosh has been referred to as being "estriol-like" because of the rejuvenating effect it exerts on the vaginal rather than the uterine lining.

Botanical background:

Black Cohosh, Cimicifuga Racemosa, is a perennial that grows up to five feet tall. It has sharply toothed palmate leaves and long white spires of small white flowers that attract flies and other pollinators. The plant will grow in full sun or complete shade, preferring rich deep soil. The roots are straight and dark brown. Fresh roots are dug in the fall and dried. When cut, the interior of the roots has the appearance of off-white, porous wood.

In addition, phytoestrogens from soy have been documented to reduce hot flashes and protect against such age related diseases as osteoporosis, heart disease and cancer.

Kenneth D. Setchell, of the Medical Center in Cincinnati confirmed the estrogenic activity of the principle soy isoflavones: daidzein, genistein, and glycitein.

At a 1996 conference in Brussels, titled the role of Soy in Medicine, there were numerous clinical studies presented showing that soy phyto-estrogens produced rapid and significant reductions in menopausal symptoms.

Dr. Fanti of the University of Kentucky found the protective properties of genistein seem to lie in the stimulation of bone formation, rather than estrogen'' effect of suppressing bone resorption.
A 6 month study at the University of Illinois was conducted to investigate bone density and bone mineral content in response to soy therapy. The results showed significant increases in bone density and bone mineral content among the women receiving the phyto-estrogens derived from soy protein diets compared with the control diet. Another natural therapy, extract of Licorice root, is a safe source of natural estrogen, as supported by numerous studies.

An extract from the Licorice root called glycyrrhetic (GA) acid stimulates the natural conversion of testosterone to estrogen in the body, and, as an antioxidant is often used to protect the liver and suppress viral activity in hepatitis patients. GA contained in the licorice root inhibits the clotting facto thrombin, thus reducing the risk of a heart attack or stroke. But also that GA is a safe source of natural estrogen.

The Chinese herb Dong Quai, a traditional Chinese medicine, have been successfully used to alleviate pre-menstrual syndrome and menopausal symptoms by helping to normalize hormone levels. And Dong Quai extract has shown a muscle relaxant effect. Scientists believe that one mechanism of action is to promote natural progesterone synthesis. Progesterone is even more important than estrogen for preventing and treating osteoporosis, because progesterone is directly involved in the production of bone forming cells called osteoblast.