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October 2021

Can Fam Physician. 1998 Jun; 44(): 1299-308.

Alternative treatments for menopausal symptoms. Systematic review of scientific and lay literature.

Seidl MM, Stewart DE.

Toronto Hospital.

OBJECTIVE: To review the scientific literature on common alternative remedies for treatment of symptoms attributed to menopause and to contrast this with available lay literature. QUALITY OF EVIDENCE: Scientific articles were identified by searching MEDLINE, CINAHL, and HEALTH databases from 1966 to mid-1997 for English-language articles. More than 200 references were reviewed; 85 were selected for citation based on specific reference to alternative medicine for symptoms commonly attributed to menopause (e.g., hot flashes), to the effects of changing estrogen levels (e.g., irregular menses, vaginal dryness), and to reported side effects of the treatments. MAIN FINDINGS: The scientific literature was categorized under the headings nutritional supplements, herbal remedies, homeopathic remedies, and physical approaches. Some scientific evidence of the safety and efficacy of alternative treatments during menopause was uncovered, with the strongest evidence emerging in favour of phytoestrogens, which occur in high concentrations as isoflavones in soy products. CONCLUSIONS: In available controlled studies, the strongest data support phytoestrogens for their role in diminishing menopausal symptoms related to estrogen deficiency and for possible protective effects on bones and the cardiovascular system. Randomized controlled trials, standardization of dosage, and accurate safety and efficacy labeling are required to ensure proper use of alternative remedies.

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