Menopause: Herbs that can ease the transition

Because they tend to work gently without severe side effects, natural menopause herbal supplements have been on the rise, and many women have found relief from their menopause symptoms by using them. The main herbs used to treat symptoms of menopause are called adaptogens which means that if you have a low level of one hormone or have an excess of another the herb will have a balancing effect on your hormones and your body.


Agnus Castus


Agnus Castus is one of the most important herbs you can take at the menopause, especially at the peri-menopause, because it works as an adaptogen, which means it helps to balance your hormones. It appears to stimulate and normalise the function of the pituitary gland which controls and regulates the hormones in the body and is a potent remedy for mood swings and hot flushes.


Black Cohosh


Black cohosh is an herbal remedy that has been used for centuries in helping to alleviate menopause symptoms, especially hot flushes, night sweats and vaginal dryness. You probably heard about the negative reports on black cohosh but these need to be looked at carefully.  The European Medicines Agency (EMEA), reviewed all the evidence worldwide and concluded that there were only four cases where black cohosh might have caused a liver problem and this needs to be weighed up against an estimated 9 million treatment days of black cohosh used each year.


The National Institutes of Health in the US believes there’s no case to answer and their website states that black cohosh has few side effects and that ‘liver damage has been reported in a few individuals using black cohosh, but millions of people have taken the herb without apparent adverse health effects. There is no scientific evidence to show that the herb causes liver damage.’ 


Also worryingly, researchers have found that some black cohosh products on the market contain an Asian species of black cohosh which is cheaper than the North American black cohosh.  Compared with the species cultivated in North America, the Asian variety has different chemical properties and may have different effects on the body.  So make sure you get a high quality brand (I use an organic black cohosh combination in the clinic called Black Cohosh Plus, which also contains dong quai – see the Resources page).

Dong quai


This is actually a Chinese herb but it is widely available.  It can be used for long periods of time because it is a tonic herb. It nourishes the liver and is said to help ease menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes and vaginal dryness.  It is widely used among Chinese women because of its reputation as a libido and energy booster and has been dubbed “the female ginseng.”




Another one of the most popular natural menopause remedies is isoflavones. The isoflavones contain phytoestrogens, which are thought to mimic the function of the female hormone estrogen, thereby possibly reducing hot flushes and some other menopause symptoms. I would suggest that, as the research stands only use the phytoestrogens in food form, such as soya, lentils, linseeds (flax), chickpeas etc and not as supplements.  (For more information on this see my book ‘The New Natural Alternatives to HRT’.)


Milk thistle


At menopause milk thistle can be an important herb because it helps boost liver function and makes sure old hormones are being excreted efficiently.  (Organic milk thistle is contained in the Black Cohosh Plus – see the Resources page).




This herb has been used for thousands of years to ease insomnia and improve sleep quality.


Suggested supplement plan


  • A good multivitamin and mineral supplement that includes boron, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin B complex, magnesium and calcium (like MenoPlus)
  • Omega 3 oils – like fish oil (e.g. Omega 3 Plus which contains good levels of both EPA and DHA)
  • A combination of organic herbs e.g. black cohosh, dong quai, and milk thistle. 


WARNING:  Nutritional supplements are fine to take with HRT but I would not recommend taking herbs as well.  If you are taking HRT, you should not need to take herbs to help with the symptoms because the HRT should be doing that.  If the HRT is not working then you need to see your doctor about changing the dose or the product.

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