Though many women turn to black cohash, wild yam and soy products to alleviate symptoms of menopause, the North American Menopause Society reports that there is little scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of these “natural” remedies. As many as 30 percent of women nationwide rely on acupuncture or natural products to relieve symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes, sleep problems and mood swings. These products and services are heavily marketed in the United States as alternatives to hormone replacement therapy.
UC San Francisco professor Maida Taylor claims women are often “suspicious” of hormone therapy. Many rely on alternative remedies that are “viewed and promoted, in many instances, as providing all the benefits of hormones without any of the attending risks,” Taylor notes. However, she says botanicals have been linked to several health risks such as heart problems and severe withdrawal symptoms. Natural products are also not subject to the same regulation as prescription drugs, which may mislead consumers as to their actual content and effect. Concerns surrounding their effect will be addressed in the near future. According to Taylor, well-designed studies of herbal remedies have doubled in the last few years, and research is currently being funded on several botanical products.