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NCCIH Clinical Digest

for health professionals

Menopausal Symptoms and Complementary Health Practices: What the Science Says

February 2016

Clinical Guidelines, Scientific Literature, Info for Patients: 
Menopausal Symptoms and Complementary Health Practices

Natural Products

Phytoestrogens (Red Clover, Soy)

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.

Black Cohosh

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

DHEA

DHEA is a naturally occurring substance that is changed in the body to the hormones estrogen and testosterone. DHEA is manufactured and sold as a dietary supplement. 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.

Mind and Body Practices

Hypnotherapy and Mindfulness Meditation

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 any favorable evidence is limited.

Acupuncture

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

Yoga

There is insufficient evidence to determine whether yoga has a beneficial effect on menopausal symptoms.

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.

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