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NCCIH Clinical Digest

for health professionals

Menopausal Symptoms and Complementary Health Practices

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February 2016
A middle-aged woman and a senior woman sitting on a couch

© Anna Chelnokova

A number of studies and systematic reviews on complementary health practices for menopausal symptoms have been published. There is limited evidence on the effects of mind and body practices for menopausal symptoms, but a few approaches hold promise. Scientists have found little evidence that natural products, such as herbs and other dietary supplements, are helpful. The long-term safety of phytoestrogens has not been established.

This issue of the digest provides highlights from current evidence on several frequently used complementary health approaches for menopausal symptoms, including phytoestrogens, black cohosh, DHEA, hypnotherapy and mindfulness meditation, acupuncture, and yoga. 

Modality and Summary of Current Evidence

Phytoestrogens (Red Clover, Soy)

Natural Product

Studies of phytoestrogens such as the isoflavones found in soy and red clover have had inconsistent results on relieving menopausal symptoms. Clinical practice guidelines issued in 2011 by the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists for the diagnosis and management of menopause state that phytoestrogens, including soy-derived isoflavonoids, result in inconsistent relief of symptoms. The guidelines advise that women with a personal or strong family history of hormone-dependent cancers, thromboembolic events, or cardiovascular events should not use soy-based therapies. Likewise, guidelines from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists state that phytoestrogens and herbal supplements have not been shown to be useful for treating hot flashes.

Read more about the evidence base of phytoestrogens for menopausal symptoms

Black Cohosh

Natural Product

Research suggests that there is overall insufficient evidence to support the use of black cohosh for menopausal symptoms.

Read more about the evidence base of black cohosh for menopausal symptoms

DHEA

Natural Product

A few small studies have suggested that DHEA might possibly have some benefit for hot flashes and decreased sexual arousal, although small randomized controlled trials have shown no benefit.

Read more about the evidence base of DHEA for menopausal symptoms

Hypnotherapy and Mindfulness Meditation

Mind and Body Practice

There is some evidence suggesting that clinical hypnotherapy and mindfulness meditation may help improve certain menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes.

A 2015 position paper from the North American Menopause Society recommends hypnotherapy for managing hot flashes but acknowledges that favorable evidence is limited.

Read more about the evidence base of hypnotherapy and mindfulness meditation for menopausal symptoms

Acupuncture

Mind and Body Practice

There is insufficient evidence to determine whether acupuncture is effective for managing symptoms of menopause.

Read more about the evidence base of acupuncture for menopausal symptoms

Yoga

Mind and Body Practice

There is insufficient evidence to determine whether yoga has a beneficial effect on menopausal symptoms. Two randomized controlled studies did find some benefit in reducing some symptoms associated with menopause.

Read more about the evidence base of yoga for menopausal symptoms

Scientific Literature

NCCIH Clinical Digest is a service of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, NIH, DHHS. NCCIH Clinical Digest, a monthly e-newsletter, offers evidence-based information on complementary health approaches, including scientific literature searches, summaries of NCCIH-funded research, fact sheets for patients, and more.

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is dedicated to exploring complementary health products and practices in the context of rigorous science, training complementary health researchers, and disseminating authoritative information to the public and professionals. For additional information, call NCCIH's Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-888-644-6226, or visit the NCCIH Web site at nccih.nih.gov. NCCIH is 1 of 27 institutes and centers at the National Institutes of Health, the Federal focal point for medical research in the United States.

Copyright

Content is in the public domain and may be reprinted, except if marked as copyrighted (©). Please credit the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health as the source. All copyrighted material is the property of its respective owners and may not be reprinted without their permission.

This page last modified February 23, 2016