Going through menopause, at any age, can be an incredibly scary and life-changing experience. Patients often tell me that they feel like they’re in a fog or that they don’t feel like themselves. They say they have extreme anxiety about things that they know are not reasonable.
Often, they are given scripts for antidepressants, estrogen, and calcium, and even referred to a therapist. All of this is done without much explanation as to why they’re experiencing these symptoms and how the symptoms are related. They leave their appointment with just a stamped diagnosis of “menopause” without a true understanding of this process or the natural remedies for menopause that may help them.
If you’re going through this change, you’ve likely already researched the common signs and symptoms ad nauseam. But what internet searches cannot address is your individuality. After all, each woman is different. We each have different background experiences, and, therefore, a different menopause.
There isn’t much research on this topic either. Instead, it’s essentially criteria that labels you as perimenopausal, menopausal, or post-menopausal. The problem is that you may have a diagnosis, but where the education you need to understand and navigate this time in your life?
I would like to expand your knowledge on what happens to your body during menopause, the link between estrogen and menopause, and the natural remedies for menopause. That way, you can get a better handle on the best solutions for you. We are not all the same, so why should our treatment be?
What Is Menopause?
As you may know, menopause is the time in a menstruating woman’s life when she stops getting her period. Also, her ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone, two key reproductive hormones.
To be “officially” menopausal means that you have gone 12 months without having your period. In addition, you will have elevated FSH levels (the hormone that helps ovaries release eggs each cycle). However, this time period is not absolute, and symptoms can start much sooner than that 12-month mark.
Most women experience menopause somewhere between the ages of 45 to 50 years old, although it can occur as young as your mid 30s or as late as your 70s. It’s worth noting that if you have a total hysterectomy (including ovary removal), you will enter menopause within a few months of surgery—and this can happen at any age.
Hormonal changes in menopause may cause common signs and symptoms such as hot flashes, insomnia, vaginal dryness, anxiety and depression, and brain fog. Other symptoms may include extreme irritability, lack of interest in sex and loved ones, digestion difficulties, weight gain, thyroid irregularities, poor stress response, and more. And, unfortunately, all of these symptoms are related, making it very confusing to pinpoint the source of each symptom. This, in turn, can make choosing the best treatment—even the best natural remedies for menopause symptoms—a bit trickier.
Estrogen and Menopause
As I mentioned, menopause happens when a woman’s ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone. But this change doesn’t always happen overnight, although it can. While some women wake up to what feels like an alien taking over their body, this perimenopausal period may be gradual and slow for others.
For most experiencing perimenopause, progesterone usually begins to taper off first, followed by estrogen levels. But the timeline is very individualized to each woman, so treatments are not always predictable. Progesterone is very connected to other hormones related to stress. And when your stress response is impacted, progesterone will typically drop earlier on.
This can result in a longer perimenopausal period as your estrogen slowly drops. Alternatively, this poor stress response will also impact you after menopause, as your body is shocked into the realization that you no longer have those hormones for support. This process can make you feel completely out of sorts, alone, and frightened. But you are not alone. There is a reason that you feel this way. Sooner or later, all women experience some version of menopause.
The decline in estrogen production that occurs after menopause has been linked to other health concerns as well, such as bone loss or osteoporosis.  Loss of estrogen has also been correlated with other health problems, including changes in cholesterol and a greater risk of heart disease. These risks tend to be greater among women who are overweight and/or have high blood pressure. 
Additionally, the lack of progesterone can cause insomnia, anxiety, sadness, abdominal bloating, and poor stress response. And the lack of testosterone may impact your libido and muscle tone. Consequently, other hormones such and DHEA and cortisol can alter your sleep-wake cycles and energy production.
Stress and Menopause
Menopause is stressful on a woman’s body. How? Well, each hormone has a particular job. So, when those hormones are lacking, it causes stress on your body as it tries to compensate for those hormones. When you combine that with other past or current stress, the symptoms can become interchangeable. As with any endocrine-based condition, you have to consider all of the hormones before finding a treatment that suits your situation.
Your adrenal glands produce cortisol, which helps your body regulate metabolism and stress. They also make the sex hormones progesterone, testosterone, and DHEA. And they’re responsible for helping to manage both your blood pressure and electrolyte balance.
Adrenal Fatigue and Menopause
As a woman gets enters menopause, her body often produces more cortisol.  High levels of cortisol can cause high blood pressure, mood changes, thirst, frequent urination, insomnia, anxiety, irritability, and even osteoporosis.
Alternatively, for women who have been under prolonged stress, the additional stress of menopause can plummet their cortisol, especially if their DHEA levels have declined along with their estrogen. This can result in worsening symptoms and extremely low energy.
The most common symptoms I see as a result of cortisol fluctuation are anxiety, worry, and irritability. Many patients describe this as feeling “psychotic” or “unstable.” And this can be amplified by receiving a prescription for anti-anxiety medication, leading them to question their mental stability. It’s a lot to deal with.
But that’s not all women are dealing with these days. Think about what women are doing now in their 40s, 50s, and 60s—it’s a lot of responsibility. Women are running corporations, managing families, and maintaining a social life. On top of that, our aging loved ones are needing care or passing on.
Menopause is now happening in the new prime of women’s lives—and it’s having a major impact on our ability to handle it all. The adrenal fatigue we’re experiencing from our hard work, dedication, and perfectionism is compounded by a drastic drop in complimentary hormones.
I believe the best way to ease the stress of this time is to understand why and how it occurs, the impact it has on your body, and find ways to manage the symptoms naturally. I’ve found calming activities such as yoga or fun activities such as dancing to be especially beneficial.
There is a common trend in menopausal therapy. Typically, a woman is offered hormone replacement therapy (HRT), calcium for bone loss, and possibly an antidepressant and therapy.
We have come so far in medicine in so many areas, yet we continue to prescribe the same remedies for the “age-old” issue of menopause. Look, you are going through a major transition. You are not sleeping well, you’re worrying about everything, your brain is foggy, and you have horrible energy. And you’re most likely managing this on top of work, home, and your social life.
The last thing you want is a prescription pad handed over and a referral for a therapist. There are so many options for managing this time in your life. The key is to understand where each symptom is coming from and support healing the cause.
There has been a lot of controversy surrounding conventional hormone replacement therapy, which can consist of estrogen therapy and/or progesterone therapy (cHRT), due to serious potential side effects, including an increased risk of breast cancer and endometrial cancer as well as blood clots. With these risk factors, I imagine it is hard to comprehend cHRT as a plausible solution. The last thing you want to do is make things potentially worse.
What is BHRT?
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is a plant-based alternative to cHRT. Hormones used in BHRT are synthesized from yam and soy. They are structurally similar to the hormones produced in the human body.  In addition, these substances are compounded specifically for you.
So, what does this mean? BHRT is not a “one-size-fits-all” therapy like more traditional cHRT methods. When properly used, BHRT can not only improve your menopausal symptoms, but also may help relieve you from other symptoms during this transition time, such as depression, anxiety, general mood, poor libido, vaginal dryness, and poor muscle strength. And, because they are compounded for you in various combinations, it is easier to determine the lowest effective dose to more easily avoid over prescribing and resultant side effects.
Plus, if balanced correctly, they can help you avoid the use of other medications, such as antidepressants. It’s worth discussing this option with your physician. And even if BHRT isn’t the right solution for you, it’s important to understand how hormones play a role in your health. That way, you can make informed decisions on whether or not to use them post-menopause.
See the section on natural remedies for menopause symptoms below for other recommendations.
7 Natural Remedies for Menopause Symptoms
Remember, every woman is different. Therefore, her treatment will be as well. The key to getting through this stage is to:
- Identify all hormonal imbalances, not simply sex hormones.
- Keep your entire health picture in mind and gather information on potential hormone therapy risks and benefits. You should also consider herbs, nutrition, and lifestyle modifications so that you can make a decision on what feels right for you and your current situation.
- Remember that this is a big transition for your body, and it will level out over time. The key is to find the best way to manage the symptoms while your body creates its new normal.
Here are several natural remedies for menopause symptoms. As always, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider and consider your entire health picture before taking any new supplements.
1. Black cohosh
Research has shown that supplementing with black cohosh is one of the top natural remedies for menopause symptoms. It helps to reduce hot flashes and improve quality of life among menopausal women.  It is predicted that black cohosh not only simulates estrogen, but it may also act to relieve symptoms by its mechanism through serotonin pathways, as an antioxidant and as an anti-inflammatory. 
2. Red clover
Red clover produces an effect similar to estrogen and can help remedy the symptoms related to low estrogen levels. Two 2015 studies showed that supplementing with dried red clover can lessen the effects of severe hot flashes and also help to improve vaginal dryness among menopausal women. Red clover may provide further relief of menopause symptoms, but more research is needed. [7, 8]
3. Wild yam
If you use bioidentical hormone therapy (BHRT) to help manage symptoms of perimenopause and menopause, you may be surprised to learn that the base of your treatment is made from wild yam.
Wild yam actually can be converted into bioidentical progesterone, DHEA, or estrogen. This is helpful for finding the correct balance in your particular body. Often times, my patients’ symptoms (such as insomnia or anxiety) occur from a lack of progesterone and can be easily remedied with over-the-counter yam creams, in lieu of full BHRT. This is a nice alternative for those who don’t want to take compounded hormones but still desire some symptom relief, making it one of the top natural remedies for menopause symptoms.
Wild yam has also been found to be helpful in combating osteoarthritis, which is often a concern of menopausal women as well. 
4. Evening primrose oil
Evening primrose oil is high in essential fatty acids has been found useful in helping to relieve symptoms in several aspects of women’s health, including PMS, mastalgia, and symptoms of menopause—particularly hot flashes.
While more research is needed, study participants reported less frequent and less severe hot flashes while taking 90 500 mg-capsules of evening primrose oil over the course of six weeks. The study noted that it takes time for evening primrose oil to take effect. The researchers note that it may take about four to six months of regular use before effects are noticeable. 
Although further studies are warranted, in general researchers have found that ginseng can help to relieve hot flashes and also symptoms of sexual dysfunction that many menopausal women often experience. Researchers believe that ginseng works by causing hormonal effects that are similar to those caused by estrogen. [11, 12] Ginseng also has a positive impact on adrenal stress and has been used for centuries to modulate stress response. 
Bone loss is of great concern after menopause due to low estrogen and the likely development of osteoporosis. But you may be surprised to learn that bones are made up of more than just calcium. In fact, they consist of important minerals such as magnesium, boron, strontium, and more.
Specifically, magnesium deficiency has been identified in about 84 percent of postmenopausal women who have osteoporosis.  Evidence shows that supplementing with magnesium can help to improve many gynecological conditions, including dysmenorrhea (painful periods), PMS, and postmenopausal symptoms. 
A study on 25 breast cancer patients found that taking 400 mg of oral magnesium oxide each day for four weeks resulted in reduced hot flashes among half of the participants.  All magnesium supplements are not created equal when it comes to absorption. My favorite for menopausal symptoms is Magnesium Glycinate.
7. B vitamins
Why are B vitamins on the list for natural remedies for menopause symptoms? Well, they are essential for hormone pathways.  Methylated folate and vitamins B2, B6, and B12 are all involved in hormone formation and a number of biochemical pathways in the body relating to mood, energy, and stress response.
Deficiencies in these vitamins can cause adverse effects during menopause, such as cognitive decline, poor energy, and bone loss. In fact, one study showed that menopausal women with low vitamin B2 intake had a 1.8 times greater risk of osteoporotic fracture and were over 2.5 times more likely to experience fragility fractures than those with adequate intake. 
And here’s another thing to consider: When you’re already feeling foggy from lack of hormones, this additional deficiency can increase your fatigue, insomnia, and brain fog.
In addition to the natural remedies for menopause listed above, I recommend two key lifestyle changes to help ease menopause symptoms: switching to a plant-based diet and getting plenty of exercise.
Research has shown that women who eat a diet rich with more vegetables and less meat experience fewer symptoms of menopause. 
Regular exercise can result in improved sleep, more energy, and overall better quality of life in menopausal women. [20, 21] And weight-bearing exercise such as walking or weight lifting and aerobic activities are particularly helpful.
- Going through menopause is often a frightening and life-changing time.
- Remember that it’s common to feel like you aren’t quite yourself during menopause transition. By understanding how your hormones work to keep you balanced, you can make more educated choices on which therapies will assist you during this time.
- There are several natural remedies for menopause symptoms that can help bring relief. These include herbal supplements, vitamins, and minerals.
- Holistic treatment and natural remedies for menopause also includes eating a plant-based diet and getting enough exercise.