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Herbs Go under the Microscope

As baby-boomers grow older, more and more women are entering perimenopause and menopause and interest in treatment options, especially natural treatment options, for menopause symptoms is increasing.

Today, 35 million - or one-third of - American women are perimenopausal (the time before menopause) and as many as 80% will experience menopause symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, night sweats, and occasional sleeplessness.

While hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has been used for years to relieve symptoms of menopause and protect bone health, research shows that only 15% of postmenopausal women currently use HRT, and more than 50% of those who begin HRT discontinue use after one year.

For women who cannot or choose not to take HRT, there are a select few herbal remedies that provide options to relieve symptoms naturally. However, not all herbs are created equal. Many herbs and extracts have not been widely studied so their safety, efficacy, and side effect profiles are not understood. Yet there are others - such as RemiFemin Menopause (marketed by GSK), which is made from an exclusive extract of black cohosh - that have been studied in rigorous placebo controlled clinicals and other studies and can offer significant benefits.

"There are simple steps that women can take to help ensure that the herbal products they are using are safe and effective," said Steven Weisman, PhD, a pharmacologist and expert on herbal medicine. "First and foremost, when choosing an herbal for menopause symptoms, always be sure to carefully read the product label and determine the product's ingredients." This article was prepared by Health & Medicine Week editors from staff and other reports.

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