Alternative Treatments for Menopausal Symptoms

If you’ve experienced hot flashes because of menopause, you may be wondering if alternatives to hormone replacement therapy might work for you. Read on to learn about some options.


Flaxseed, a plant-based estrogen source high in omega-3 fatty acids, seems to improve mild menopausal symptoms, but dose is important. The National Institutes of Health says that 40 milligrams of flaxseed daily seems to reduce hot flashes and night sweats in women with mild symptoms, but a lower dose of 25 grams per day doesn’t seem to work.

Black cohosh

Black cohosh is an herb that is routinely used throughout Europe to treat hot flashes. Only a few researchers have been able to prove its safety and effectiveness. Some studies have shown that it is safe to use for short periods of time but studies of its long-term effects are still unknown.


When it comes to hot flashes, scientists have documented both positive and negative results for soy extracts. When taken for short periods of time, soy appears to have few serious side effects. Long-term use, however, is potentially associated with thickening of the lining of the uterus—benign hyperplasia—that can lead to cancer.

Some women should not take phytoestrogens like soy, including:

  • Those with a history of diseases affected by hormones, such as breast, uterine, or ovarian cancer; endometriosis or uterine fibroids.
  • Women taking birth control pills or selective estrogen receptor modulators, such as Tamoxifen, or other drugs that increase the amount of estrogen in the body.

Vitamin E

Researchers haven’t been able to prove the effect of vitamin E on hot flashes, although some women feel relief when they take it. For these women, 400 international units (IU) a day seem to help.

A few warnings

Supplements can be risky for some women:

  • Women taking anticoagulant drugs should not take dong quai as it can cause bleeding complications.
  • Kava has been associated with liver disease.
  • The long-term effects of taking DHEA are not known and could possibly increase one’s breast cancer risk.

Supplements do not take the place of prescribed medications. Before beginning to take any supplement, tell your health care provider and give him or her a list of your other medications. Dietary supplements can sometimes interact with other prescription and over-the-counter drugs.


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