Top 10 Supplements for Menopause

Wherever you are in your menopausal journey—perimenopause, menopause, or postmenopause—and whatever bumps in the road you may be experiencing, you’ve got as many treatment choices as a kid with $5 in a convenience store during a road trip pit stop. First and foremost, you’ve got YOU and your awareness and attitude. Next, you’ve got actions. I’m talking about self-care, with or without the #selfies: how you eat, sleep, breathe, move, and chill out. All other solutions involve the pros to get prescribed products, a healthcare plan, and therapy (talk, physical, nutrition, sex), etc. Just like that cooped-up kid racing from the candy aisle to the chip end cap to the popcorn machine and back again trying to choose the perfect snack, menopause treatment options can feel overwhelming. So, we’re simplifying the choices for you by sharing the top 10 supplements for menopause. 

Please note! Supplements are just one slice of the menopausal treatment pie. For more specific treatment options, peer into prescription medicines, stick your nose into some essential oils, and observe over-the-counter options. As always, before creating a health plan or choosing one or more treatment options or products, be sure to chat with your healthcare professional(s). 

The Top 10 Supplements for Menopause

Should I Au Naturale Supplements for Menopause?

So, what is the best treatment for menopause? There are a lot of options. While supplements can help balance out those pesky hormones, not all supplements are created equal. Here are some things to consider as you’re trying to decide between Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) and natural supplements, or which supplements to take:

  • Side Effects: Contrary to popular opinion, some supplements have side effects and drug interactions, not all of which are disclosed on their labels. Read up on your options, either by clicking through to the sources we’ve linked to below (‘cause we’ve got your back), checking out your favorite book on menopause (we recommend the top ranked menopause books here), or consulting with a local herbalist or functional doctor. 
  • Quality: Quality of natural supplements differs greatly between brands and even between batches produced by the same brand, so get educated. If you’ve got the time and the patience for a little government-ese, here are the FDA’s rules about what supplement manufacturers can claim on their labels.
  • Effectiveness: A LOT of studies have been done on the effectiveness of HRT and the results have been mixed. Fewer studies have been done on supplements for menopause, but what they do show is promising. Plus, they’ve been used by indigenous peoples for centuries. Still, you know what they say! “You are what you eat!” Supplements included. Bottom line? Talk with the pros—a nurse practitioner, herbalist, or nutritionist who specializes in menopause. It’s best to talk to a doctor regardless; just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it isn’t potentially harmful for certain bodies. (Heck, lake water is natural, but it’s often not the best choice for hydration.) If you’re overwhelmed, pat yourself on the back for reading this post and consider what you can do next to increase your knowledge. There is no shame in baby stepping your way to being fully educated. 

Many multi-symptom “menopause formula” pills are on the market, but there isn’t one that addresses all 50+ ways menopause marks its territory. You might think “I should buy this ‘multi-vitamin’ to cover all my bases in case of future symptoms. And it’s less expensive! And it’s more convenient! I’m a symptoms-preventing-money-saving-convenience-enhancing wizard!” And, if you decide to go that route, more power to you. But, since every person experiences menopause differently, by using that approach you risk not addressing your specific needs. Plus, if you take something for a symptom you aren’t experiencing, you risk unnecessary side effects. A TRUE wizard wouldn’t put themselves in such a predicament. As much as we wish there was a “one-size-fits-all” pill, that’s as realistic as a magic potion.

What Are Supplements for Menopause?

ALERT: Super Technical Possibly Tedious But Also Really Important Joke-Free Zone Ahead.

If you search long enough, then you might get overwhelmed by the number of supplement options available. Rest easy! We’ve done some research for you. Here are 10 of the most talked-about supplements for menopause, along with the info about the particular symptoms each one addresses, possible side effects, and drug interactions. 

  • Ashwaganda 
    • Other Names: Winter Cherry, Indian Ginseng, or Withania Somnifera
    • Symptoms Addressed: Various sources, including these (source, source, and Snyder, M. (2021). The Essential Oils Menopause Solution: Alleviate Your Symptoms and Reclaim Your Energy, Sleep, Sex Drive, and Metabolism. Rodale Books.) cite Ashwaganda’s ability to reduce stress by normalizing blood levels of cortisol, although more studies are needed to understand how it works exactly.
    • Possible Side Effects or Drug Interactions: Large doses of ashwagandha might cause stomach upset, diarrhea, and vomiting. Rarely, liver problems might occur. It is likely unsafe to use ashwagandha when pregnant. There is some evidence that ashwagandha might cause miscarriages, and since it’s still possible to get pregnant during perimenopause since you’re still ovulating, albeit sporadically, that’s something to keep in mind. Also, auto-immune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), and other conditions have been associated with ashwaganda use, according to Medline.gov.. That same source says that it might also cause the immune system to become more active, which could increase the symptoms of auto-immune diseases. If you have one of these conditions, it’s best to avoid using ashwagandha. Also, ashwagandha may slow down the central nervous system, although more studies need to be done to confirm that association. Healthcare providers worry that anesthesia and other medications during and after surgery might increase this effect. Stop taking ashwagandha at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery, just in case. Lastly, it might increase thyroid hormone levels, so it should be used cautiously or avoided if you have a thyroid condition or take thyroid hormone medications. Bottom line? Ashwaganda’s good and has been used—like many of these herbal, plant-based supplements—for many, many years. If you’re concerned about any of the above maladies, then it might be a good idea to avoid this one until more studies have been done to confirm that the benefits outweigh the risks.
  • Black Cohosh 
    • Other Names: Bugbane, Rattleweed, Remifemin (in Europe, it is a well-documented alternative to hormone therapy)
    • Symptoms Addressed: Many sources, including these (source, source, source, source), cite this supplement’s usefulness in reducing hot flashes, although they differ in their recommendations for how much you should take and how long you should take it. 
    • Possible Side Effects or Drug Interactions: Dr. Stephanie S. Faubion, in her Mayo Clinic-sponsored book The Menopause Solution, cites the possibility of black cohosh interfering with the effectiveness of tamoxifen, an established HRT drug. The supplements has been known to cause mild side effects, such as stomach upset, cramping, headache, rash, a feeling of heaviness, vaginal spotting or bleeding, and weight gain. Rare cases of liver damage—some very serious—have been reported in people taking commercial black cohosh products, among other things. People with liver disorders should consult a healthcare provider before taking black cohosh products, and anyone who develops symptoms of liver trouble, such as abdominal swelling, dark urine, or jaundice, while taking black cohosh should stop using it and consult a health care provider.
  • Chasteberry
    • Other Names: Vitex, Vitex Agnus-Castus
    • Symptoms Addressed: A study says the supplement helps with anxiety and hot flashes. The supplement helps balance irregular periods, improve PMS-like symptoms, suppress appetite, relieve depression, and improve sleep, although you need to take it for several months to get those effects. (Source: Northrup, C. (2006). The Wisdom of Menopause. Bantam Books.)
    • Possible Side Effects or Drug Interactions: Dr. Faubion, who I mentioned earlier, cautions that chasteberry may affect sexual desire, which is why it’s called “chasteberry.” Dr. Christiane Northrup, author of The Wisdom of Menopause: creating physical and emotional health during the change, says it could cause rashes and that those taking neuroleptic medicines like haloperidol (Haldol) or thioridazine (Mellaril) shouldn’t take chasteberry, too.
  • Evening Primrose
    • Other Names: Oenothera Biennis
    • Symptoms Addressed: Hot flashes! Since anywhere from 56% to 88% (depending on which source you look at) of us have to deal with these incredibly annoying episodes, this supplement, which tends to contain evening primrose oil, can be helpful. Research on this supplement shows a link between frequent hot flashes and an increased risk of heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure later in life. A study documented the supplement and its effectiveness in lessening the duration and severity of hot flashes, but keep in mind that studies show that the effectiveness doesn’t kick in until 4 months minimum. 
    • Possible Side Effects or Drug Interactions: None known.
  • Fennel
    • Other Names: Foeniculum Vulgare (Though some say it has a licorice-like aroma, it’s not the stuff you find in your favorite dark licorice)
    • Symptoms Addressed: A study or two have shown fennel to “significantly improve” sexual function in menopausal women, but this doesn’t mean you should run out and buy the closest bag of black licorice and use it as an aphrodisiac. A study says that it does improve menopausal symptoms, generally.
    • Possible Side Effects or Drug Interactions: None known.
  • Lemon Balm (not regular lemon)
    • Other Names: Valerian 
    • Symptoms Addressed: Most sources (including these: source, source, Snyder, M. (2021), Faubion, S. (2016)) point to lemon balm/valerian’s anxiety-soothing and sleep-improving benefits. Dr. Snyder says it does this by upping the calming neurotransmitters in your brain, essentially enabling the more “adult” part of your brain—the prefrontal cortex—to tell your amygdala, the more primitive, “child-like” part of your brain to shut up already.
    • Possible Side Effects or Drug Interactions: None known.
  • L-theanine
    • Other Names: None.
    • Symptoms Addressed: Like lemon balm/valerian, L-theanine also addresses stress and sleep issues. The supplement can be a great way to get that rodeo ground of thoughts to turn into more of a playground.
    • Possible Side Effects or Drug Interactions: None known.
  • Melatonin
    • Other Names: None.
    • Symptoms Addressed: This supplement is well-known for promoting good sleep, and we all know that is key to almost everything else in life, including menopause. Lack of sleep amps up the bad feelings, not to mention the risk of health problems, especially if lack of sleep becomes full-fledged insomnia. Our bodies naturally produce melatonin, but that tends to decrease with age and during menopause, so it may become your bedtime buddy.
    • Possible Side Effects or Drug Interactions: None known.
  • Nigella Sativa 
    • Other Names: Kalonji, Black Seed, Black Cumin Seed
    • Symptoms Addressed: The supplement primarily balances hormone levels. Why is that special?When hormones are balanced, a lot of the symptoms lessen or go away altogether since their root cause has been addressed. It’s like the symptoms are the hormones’ children: when the children are happy, the “mama’s” happy. Keep in mind that black cumin seeds can also be used in cooking for flavoring. In seed form, they don’t offer any hormonal benefits, so your family can eat with confidence that they won’t “go menopausal” on you.
    • Possible Side Effects or Drug Interactions: None known.
  • St. John’s Wort
    • Other Names: Hypericum Perforatum 
    • Symptoms Addressed: This supplement is well-known for its calming, mood-swing-balancing properties. Heaven knows we all need those anyway, menopause or not! WebMd even says those properties are increased when it’s taken with black cohosh.
    • Possible Side Effects or Drug Interactions: None known.

How Will I Know When to Start Taking Supplements for Menopause?

Do Your Research

Friendly Yet Important Reminder: The U.S. FDA does not regulate supplement production or labeling, beyond this information. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) does provide these cautions regarding safety.

Consider looking for the USP quality seal on your supplement bottle. The seal means that the supplements within USP Dietary Supplements Verification Program have passed this independent lab’s rigorous tests for quality and purity. The seal can be a verification of high quality, but testing is voluntary for supplement manufacturers, so not all supplements have it.

As we mentioned before, “natural” does not mean “completely safe with no possible adverse effects, so go ahead and go nuts with no fear of repercussions!” Always speak to your doctor before adding supplements into your routine.  

Customize Supplements

Suzanne Somers (you may remember her from such roles as Chrissy on Three’s Company, or Carol on Step by Step, and you may not remember her from such roles as Bonnie on Zuma Beach) says in her book I’m Too Young for This! The Natural Hormone Solution to Enjoy Perimenopause that the supplements you need for your unique and special body should ideally be determined by deficiencies shown by blood work, which can be ordered by a qualified functional doctor or nutritionist. In other words, don’t just go grabbing bottles off the shelf. Find out what you need specifically, then go grab that specific thing off the shelf. 

The theory is that if you’re deficient in luteinizing hormone (LH), you’re more likely to have certain menopausal symptoms than others. The tricky thing is that just like a teenager deciding exactly how to style their hair before their first homecoming dance, those hormone levels tend to be fickle during perimenopause. A blood test on any one day may show your levels are a-okay, in which case they’re no help. So trust your gut—or your skin, brain, or wherever your symptoms are showing up—get some blood work done, and match your symptoms with the best supplements for your particular needs.

Decide on Supplement Form

Remember: supplements can come in tablets, pills, capsules, gummies, or even chocolate bars. BTW, who’s the genius who came up with that one? Bravo! They should be given the Nobel  Piece (of candy) Prize. Consider not only which supplement(s) you want to take, but also which form you want to take them in. If you find yourself choking when you’re trying to swallow multiple pills at a time, then try something different. (Or, ahem, only swallow one pill at a time.) This post might provide some clarification about the pros and cons of each supplemental variety. 

Consider the Side Effects

Most of the studies that have been done on supplements compare their effect to that of placebos. And as this Harvard Medical School article points out, placebos, despite containing literally nothing useful, can still have a powerful effect on patients, even when they know they’re taking a placebo. (So then why can’t I eat a bag of gummy bears and tell myself all my stress is gone??) Some supplements haven’t been shown to have more than a placebo effect on the symptoms they say they’ll address. 

Not that this matters, but if you’re really interested, you might want to note what kind of studies have been done on particular supplements. If they’ve only been done on animals (usually rats), there’s obviously less info about what effect they’ll have on humans. Even if human studies have gone through testing, it’s likely that they weren’t tested on a lot of humans, at least on the scale of what the FDA does to approve a drug (hundreds of thousands). So, take claims that a supplement will magically fix your problems with a huge grain of salt. (Hey, does salt help with hot flashes? No? What if I put it on potato chips?)

It’s A Wrap!

Supplements, by definition, should complement the other things you’re doing to smooth out the bumps (or mountains) of menopause (e.g., eating healthy foods, exercising, and spending more time on self-care). So, consider supplements as a single panel part of a whole I’m-finally-going-to-take-care-of-me-and-that’s-okay picture

Sources

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5 Comments

  1. How Do I Find a Menopause Specialist? - PauseMeNot on November 23, 2021 at 12:50 pm

    […] Herbal practitioners choose herbs based on your symptoms. They may perform a clinical exam, inspect certain areas of the body, and create a personalized prescription. If you’re really hating those hot flashes, chances are they’ll extol the virtues of black cohosh or any of these other supplements for menopause. […]

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    […] by the number of supplement options available. Rest easy! We’ve done some research for you. Here are 10 of the most talked-about supplements for menopause, along with the info about the particular symptoms each one addresses, possible side effects, and […]

  3. […] you looking for the dream natural solution for menopause? Look no further. Of the top 10 natural supplements for menopause symptom relief, black cohosh has got you covered the best. Although it’s technically a supplement, many people […]

  4. […] what you’re already taking into your body through your food, as detailed in this post on the 10 best supplements to take during menopause. Just as a square is a type of rectangle and Duran Duran is a specific rock band, vitamins are a […]

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