Back to top

Call 0333 444 1067 – Office Hours Mon-Fri: 9am-5pm

Rated 'Outstanding' by the CQC

Downloaded from www.mymenopausecentre.com

Direct URL: https://www.mymenopausecentre.com/blog/additions-and-alternatives-to-hrt-phytohormone-supplements/

View all blog posts

Additions and alternatives to HRT – phytohormone supplements

Phytohormone supplements are nature’s alternative to HRT. Here pharmacist, herbalist and nutritional consultant Davide Ferrilli reveals the best ones whatever your menopause symptoms.

Navigating the world of menopause supplements is often confusing and overwhelming especially when it comes to natural alternatives. So many women struggle to find reliable information and give up searching, struggling on with their symptoms instead.

However, it’s worth seeking them out: some herbal treatments can be a very effective alternative to Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) – especially phytohormonal supplements.

What are phytohormonal supplements?

These are herbal supplements that can boost female sexual hormones, usually due to the phytoestrogens they contain – weaker plant-based oestrogens which are similar to, but not quite the same, as those found in HRT.

What symptoms can phytohormonal supplements help with?

For many women, they can help ease hot flushes, night sweats, fatigue, anxiety, vaginal dryness and impaired sleep.

How long does it take for them to help with symptoms?

The benefits of these natural remedies increase over time as their activity builds up in your body, week after week. Therefore, if you take these you should give yourself at least one to two months to appreciate their full effects.

Furthermore, the effective daily dose for any herb may vary considerably depending on the supplement and your individual situation. As a result, the exact dose of a phytohormonal remedy cannot always be recommended upfront.

Some important things to flag

It is also important to flag that:

  • your individual reaction to herbal supplements can sometimes be unpredictable, especially when dealing with multiple preparations
  • herbs can interfere with some pharmaceutical treatments

Since every woman has different needs and a different medical history, speaking to a health care practitioner with expertise in supplementation (such as a registered nutritional specialist, a herbalist, a naturopath, or a doctor or a pharmacist with expertise in natural medicine), is always the best way to ensure that you are about to take the most appropriate and safest supplement(s) for you.

What phytohormonal supplements do I recommend?

Before we look at my top recommendations it’s important to call out that because all the remedies below have a phytohormonal activity, there is a lack of evidence of safety for use in women who have, or have had hormone-related cancer. They may not be the safest option for them. I’ll share information on non-phytohormone supplements that could help in my next blog.

BLACK COHOSH

This plant is well-known for its claimed effect on menopausal symptoms, especially hot flushes, sweating and sleep problems [1], although how it works is not yet fully understood.

It is not certain that black cohosh contains phytoestrogens. There have been suggestions that black cohosh may change how the neurotransmitter serotonin [2] behaves in the body and it may also have anti-inflammatory properties. As a result of these activities, it may decrease the severity of your menopause-related symptoms.

It must be avoided if you suffer from severe liver diseases, if you are taking tamoxifen, or have a hormone-related cancer history, because of its possible phytohormonal activity.

SOY

Soy contains isoflavones, powerful phytoestrogens which may help ease menopause symptoms, especially hot flushes[3], as well as protect bones. It may be particularly useful in the postmenopause, helping you reduce the risk of long-term issues such as osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease [4][5].

It is extremely important that you look after your gut flora while taking soy isoflavones as they are converted into their active form by your friendly tummy bacteria. Therefore, adding a good supplement containing probiotics, the good bacteria for your bowels, on top of a healthy diet, is a positive way to enhance the benefits of this herbal remedy.

Soy is not recommended if you are taking thyroid medication as it could impair its absorption. If you still wish to take soy, there should be as long a time interval as possible between taking the soy supplementation and the thyroxine.

There is a lack of evidence for the safety of soy supplements if you have hormone-related cancer history.

You should not take soy if you have been found to be allergic to it.

SAGE

This Mediterranean herb has a mild oestrogenic activity so works in a similar but less intense way than oestrogen because of the flavonoids it contains. Clinical studies suggest that taking 300mg of sage extract per day can decrease the severity of hot flushes after around eight weeks of supplementation[6]. Furthermore, sage has traditionally been used for excessive sweating – good news if you’re suffering from night sweats[7]. Lastly, this plant may help to improve your memory[8] and is packed with antioxidants, molecules that can help protect against cell damage.

Sage should be avoided if you are taking strong sedatives, or medication for diabetes or epilepsy, as it could alter their effectiveness, or if you have a history of hormone-related cancer.

RED CLOVER

Like soy, this is an excellent source of isoflavones, important phytoestrogens[9]. However, red clover’s isoflavones seem to be more concentrated and more effective in the short term than those from soy [10]. Therefore, a great option can be to try a combination of these two plants throughout your menopausal journey.

Red clover can be very good for helping with hot flushes, vaginal dryness and bone loss due to its phytohormonal activity[11]. Usually, you should be able to appreciate these effects by taking at least 80 mg of red clover isoflavones per day.

However, it must be avoided if you are on prescription anticoagulants due to their mild blood thinning effect, or if you have had hormone-related cancer.

LIGNANS (FLAX SEEDS OR NORWAY SPRUCE)

Lignans are an extremely interesting class of phytoestrogens. They are usually extracted from flax seeds or the Norway Spruce tree.

Lignans can help with hot flushes, bone loss, vaginal dryness, and mood and memory disorders[12], thanks to their phytohormonal activity.

Recent research suggests that lignans may also play some positive protective role on breast and female hormone-sensitive tissues in post-menopausal women [13][14] – though further studies are needed to clarify this and the clinical relevance that this may have.

Lignans are not recommended if you have a hormone-related cancer history, due to their phytohormonal activity.

SHATAVARI

This plant is traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine as a booster for female health. It contains phytoestrogens and can have a positive effect on all menopausal symptoms[15], especially on hot flushes and vaginal dryness. This plant can also help regulate your body’s systems, so can improve your resistance to stress and reduce anxiety[16].

You will be able to best leverage the benefits of Shatavari by taking 500-1000 mg of its root extract per day.

Shatavari is not recommended if you have a hormone-related cancer history, as it contains phytoestrogens, or if you are taking strong diuretics, as it may increase their effect and, therefore, the possible risk of dehydration.

AGNUS CASTUS (VITEX) or CHASTE BERRY

Commonly used for premenstrual syndrome (PMS), this herb contains mild phyto-progestogens, molecules similar to progesterone, the other important female hormone alongside oestrogen.

If you are still having periods, taking a good quality extract of agnus castus (from 20mg to 40 mg daily), either throughout your cycle or preferably in the last 14 days, can help you ease your premenstrual symptoms[17], especially during the perimenopause, when PMS can worsen[18].

Agnus castus can also be very useful for postmenopausal women[19] since it can aid sleep and relaxation. For this purpose and in this scenario, it should be taken every day, preferably at night.

Always speak to a qualified healthcare practitioner

In conclusion, since every woman is unique, and there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ rule when dealing with health, it is always highly recommended to speak with a healthcare professional expert in natural remedies before starting your journey with phytohormonal supplements. In this way, you will be able to receive not only personalised advice on the best menopausal supplementation for you, but also all the nutritional and lifestyle tips to best support your general wellbeing in this new important phase of your life.

 

Davide Ferrilli (MSc Pharm, PG Master in Herbal Medicine, MGPhC, MANP, MGNC) is a Registered Pharmacist, Nutritional Consultant, Herbalist and member of the Association of Naturopathic Practitioners. Davide strongly promotes a holistic vision of health, especially for chronic disorders. Whilst practicing as a pharmacist, he studied Herbal Medicine, gained a Diploma as Nutritional Consultant and attended a 2 year course in Bioenergetic Nutrition according to Chinese Medicine. He runs HealisticYou, where he offers personalized holistic consultations and promotes his original nutritional method (PEF). Davide also collaborates with like-minded psychotherapists and healthcare professionals both in Italy and in the UK. His science-based approach is focused on personalized nutrition, supplementation and lifestyle, combining Western and Eastern medicine.

Book a consultation

Whether you want to discuss your symptoms, create a treatment plan that's right for you, understand some test results or have a check-up, the highly experienced doctors in our menopause clinic are here to help you.

Book now

References

  1. Taghreed ShamsManinder Singh SetiaRobert HemmingsJane McCuskerMaida SewitchAntonio Ciampi. Efficacy of black cohosh-containing preparations on menopausal symptoms: a meta-analysis. Altern Ther Health Med. 2010 Jan-Feb;16(1):36-44.

  2. Ruhlen RL, Sun GY, Sauter ER. Black Cohosh: Insights into its Mechanism(s) of Action. Integr Med Insights. 2008; 3: 21–32. Published online 2008 Aug 27.

  3. M-N ChenC-C LinC-F Liu. Efficacy of phytoestrogens for menopausal symptoms: a meta-analysis and systematic review. Climacteric. 2015 Apr;18(2):260-9. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2014.966241. Epub 2014 Dec 1.

  4. Mark Messina. Soy foods, isoflavones, and the health of postmenopausal women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jul;100 Suppl 1:423S-30S. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.113.071464. Epub 2014 Jun 4.

  5. Aysegul AtmacaMichael KleerekoperMiyase BayraktarOmer Kucuk. Soy isoflavones in the management of postmenopausal osteoporosis. Menopause. 2008 Jul-Aug;15(4 Pt 1):748-57. doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e31815c1e7f.

  6. Bommer S, Klein P, Suter A. First time proof of sage’s tolerability and efficacy in menopausal women with hot flushes. Adv Ther. 2011; 28(6): 490-500.

  7. Zeidabadi A, Yazdanpanahi Z, Dabbaghmanesh MH, Sasani MR, Emamhoreishi M, Akbarzadeh M. The effect of Salvia officinalis extract on symptoms of flushing, night sweat, sleep disorders, and score of forgetfulness in postmenopausal women. J Family Med Prim Care. 2020; 9(2):1086-1092.

  8. Schley AB, Tildesley NT, Ballard CG, Wesnes KA, Tasker A, Perry EK, Kennedy DO. An extract of Salvia (sage) with anticholinesterase properties improves memory and attention in healthy older volunteers. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2008; 198(1):127-139.

  9. Jelena Cvejić, Mira Bursać, Milica Atanacković. Chapter 1 – Phytoestrogens: “Estrogene-Like” Phytochemicals. Studies in Natural Products Chemistry. Volume 38, 2012, Pages 1-35. Website reference: Isoflavone – an overview | ScienceDirect Topics

  10. Stacie E. Geller, Laura Studee. Soy and Red Clover for Midlife and Aging. Climacteric. 2006 Aug; 9(4): 245–263. doi: 10.1080/13697130600736934

  11. Ghazanfarpour M, Sadeghi R, Roudsari RL, Khorsand I, Khadivzadeh T, Muoio B. Red clover for treatment of hot flashes and menopausal symptoms: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Obstet Gynaecol. 2016;36(3):301-11. doi: 10.3109/01443615.2015.1049249. Epub 2015 Oct 15. PMID: 26471215.

  12. Udani JK, Brown DJ, Tan MOC, et. Al. Pharmacokinetics and Bioavailability of Plant Lignan 7- Hydroxymatairesinol and Effects on Serum Enterolactone and Clinical Symptoms in Postmenopausal Women: A Single-Blinded, Parallel, Dose-Comparison Study. J Am Coll Nutr. 2013 Dec; 32(6): 428–435

  13. Zaineddin AK, Vrieling A, Buck K, et al. Serum enterolactone and postmenopausal breast cancer risk by estrogen, progesterone and herceptin 2 receptor status. Int J Cancer. 2012 Mar 15;130(6):1401-10

  14. Buck K, Zaineddin AK, Vrieling A, et al. Meta-analyses of lignans and enterolignans in relation to breast cancer risk. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 Jul;92(1):141-53.

  15. Steels, M. Steele, M. Harold, L. Adams, S. Coulson. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial evaluating safety and efficacy of an ayurvedic botanical formulation in reducing menopausal symptoms in otherwise healthy women. Journal of Herbal Medicine. Volume 11, March 2018, Pages 30-35.

  16. Debapriya Garabadu, Sairam Krishnamurthy. Asparagus racemosus Attenuates Anxiety-Like Behavior in Experimental Animal Models. Cellular and Molecular Neurobiology volume 34, pages511–521 (2014)

  17. E G LochH SelleN Boblitz. Treatment of premenstrual syndrome with a phytopharmaceutical formulation containing Vitex agnus castus. J Womens Health Gend Based Med. 2000 Apr;9(3):315-20.

    doi: 10.1089/152460900318515. Website reference: https://www.pms.org.uk/app/uploads/2018/06/guidelinesfinal60210.pdf

  18. Margaret Diana van DieHenry G BurgerHelena J TeedeKerry M Bone. Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste-Tree/Berry) in the treatment of menopause-related complaints. J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Aug;15(8):853-62. doi: 10.1089/acm.2008.0447.

  19. Barbara Chopin Lucks. Vitex agnus castus essential oil and menopausal balance: a research update [Complementary Therapies in Nursing and Midwifery 8 (2003) 148-154] Complement Ther Nurs Midwifery. 2003 Aug;9(3):157-60. doi: 10.1016/S1353-6117(03)00020-9.

We’d love to hear from you

Please ensure you’re logged in to leave a comment. Not got an account – registration is quick and easy!  All comments are moderated prior to being posted on the website and are subject to our Acceptable Use Policy.

Contact My Menopause Centre

  • General enquiries: hello@mymenopausecentre.com
  • Book appointments online: Log into your account and go to 'My appointments'
  • Book appointments by phone: 0333 444 1067
  • Website: https://www.mymenopausecentre.com