Anecdotal evidence suggests almost half of Australian women with menopausal symptoms dabble in unproven complementary and alternative medicine to manage their symptoms.

However, a JAMA study looking at plant-based therapies suggests some of these therapies may be beneficial after all.

The combined analysis of 62 clinical trials reveals that composite and specific phytoestrogen supplementations are the best bet in helping to reduce the frequency of hot flushes and vaginal dryness, due to their oestrogen-like properties.

But few of these are any good for night sweats, the researchers report.

The study reveals “modest reductions” in symptom frequency from composite phytoestrogen supplementation and individual phytoestrogen interventions such as dietary and supplemental soy isoflavones.

The authors note that supplementing with red clover, a rich source of phytoestrogens formononetin, biochanin A, daidzein and genistein is good for night sweats but not for hot flushes.

They suggest there may be a plausible biological argument for their apparent efficacy, in that the 2 major subtypes of phytoestrogen have a chemical structure similar to that of estradiol.

Additionally, they note several medicinal herbs such as ERr 731 (an extract isolated from Rheum rhaponticum) and pycnogenol (extract from pine bark) appear to be of some benefit in reducing hot flushes although the evidence remains limited.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Chinese medicinal herbs such as dong quai and another popular herbal remedy for menopause symptoms, black cohosh, were both shown to be ineffective .

The researchers say their findings underscore major research and knowledge gaps, both in potentially beneficial therapies and in outcomes assessed. Furthermore they note a lack of data on adverse effects associated with long-term use of plant-based therapies.

Last Reviewed: 23/06/2016

Reproduced with kind permission from


Use of Plant-Based Therapies and Menopausal Symptoms. JAMA 2016; 315(23): 2554-2563