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A systematic review of herbal medicinal products for the treatment of menopausal symptoms

Huntley, Alyson L. PhD; Ernst, Edzard MD

doi: 10.1097/01.GME.0000058147.24036.B0
Articles

Objective Many women have turned to complementary and alternative medicines for relief from their menopausal symptoms. The prevalence of herbal medicinal product use among menopausal women highlights the need for investigation into these interventions. The aim of this study was to evaluate the benefit of herbal medicinal products for the treatment of menopausal symptoms by performing a systematic review of randomized clinical trials.

Design Literature searches of four computerized databases were done to identify randomized clinical trials of herbal medicinal products for the treatment of menopausal symptoms. Manufacturers of herbal products were contacted, and our own files were also searched. There were no restrictions on the language of publication. Trials were considered if the outcome measures related to the physical or psychological impact of menopause, whether by compendium scores, questionnaires, or women's symptom diaries, excluding studies describing artificially induced menopause. This review was not concerned with biochemical or pathological data.

Results Eighteen randomized clinical trials that fit our criteria were identified. These studies investigated black cohosh (n = 4), red clover (n = 4), kava (n = 3), dong quai (n = 1), evening primrose oil (n = 1), ginseng (n = 1), and combination products (n = 4). Trial quality was generally good, with 16 of 18 studies scoring 3 or more (maximum 5) on the Jadad Scale.

Conclusions There is no convincing evidence for any herbal medical product in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. However, the evidence for black cohosh is promising, albeit limited by the poor methodology of the trials. The studies involving red clover suggest it may be of benefit for more severe menopausal symptoms. There is some evidence for the use of kava, but safety concerns mean this herbal product is not a therapeutic option at present. The evidence is inconclusive for the other herbal medicinal products reviewed.

From the Department of Complementary Medicine, Peninsula Medical School, Universities of Exeter & Plymouth, Exeter, England.

Received July 23, 2002; revised and accepted January 7, 2003.

Address correspondence to: Alyson L. Huntley, PhD, Complementary Medicine, Peninsula Medical School, Universities of Exeter & Plymouth, 25 Victoria Park Road, Exeter EX2 4NT England. E-mail: alyson.huntley@pms.ac.uk.

©2003The North American Menopause Society