Objective: This paper reviews the commonly used botanicals for treatment of mood and anxiety disorders in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women and presents information on their safety and efficacy.
Design: The MEDLINE and EMBASE databases were searched for clinical trials related to the use of botanicals for depression, anxiety, and mood disturbances. Papers were excluded if they were in a language other than English, did not include midlife women as study participants, or did not report on changes in mood, depression, or anxiety.
Results: Five of seven trials of St. John's wort for mild to moderate depression showed a significant improvement. The one randomized, controlled trial of ginseng in postmenopausal women reported improvements in mood and anxiety. All three randomized, controlled trials of ginkgo found no effect on depression. In four of eight controlled trials, kava significantly reduced anxiety. Black cohosh significantly reduced depression and anxiety in all studies reviewed.
Conclusions: St. John's wort and black cohosh appear to be the most useful in alleviating mood and anxiety changes during menopause. Ginseng may be effective, but more research needs to be done. Kava holds promise for decreasing anxiety in peri- and postmenopausal women; however, women should be careful in the amount and duration of use. Finally, ginkgo and valerian do not appear to be useful in reducing depression or anxiety in this population.
Depression and anxiety are significant complaints during the menopausal transition and many women are turning to botanicals and dietary supplements for relief. St. John's wort and black cohosh appear to be the most useful in alleviating mood and anxiety changes during menopause.