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Lack of evidence that herbal remedies aid menopause

Friday January 16th, 2009

By Jane Collingwood

There is a lack of evidence that herbal remedies can help relieve the symptoms of menopause, experts have discovered.

An editorial in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin states that about 40 per cent of women use herbal medicines as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy to relieve symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats.

These include black cohosh, red clover, Dong quai, evening primrose oil, ginseng, and sage. The products can be bought from a variety of retail outlets and online. However an analysis of the evidence found no strong support for their use, and a lack of information on how they might react with prescription medicines.

The article states: "Such products are often assumed to be 'safe' on the grounds that they are 'natural', and many patients do not tell their doctors that they are taking herbs." But they can have potentially dangerous interactions with other medicines.

The article concludes: "The efficacy and safety of such products is generally under-researched, and information on potentially significant herb-drug interactions is limited. Healthcare professionals should ask women routinely if they are taking any such products."

In an attempt to improve the safety of herbal medicines, the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency is implementing the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive in April 2011. By then, all over-the-counter herbal medicines will have to go through a registration procedure.

In an interview with BBC News, Jenny Jones of the Herb Society said: "A lack of evidence does not necessarily mean a lack of effect. Not much clinical research has been done and we do need more. But there is not the funding to do this type of work."

Herbal medicines for menopausal symptoms Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, Vol. 47, No 1, January 2009, pp. 2-6.

Tags: Alternative Therapy | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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