Women are being warned they could damage their health with ‘unproven’ herbal remedies to treat menopausal symptoms.
Hundreds of thousands stopped HRT after health scares in favour of alternative therapies but there is ‘no strong evidence’ of their effectiveness, according to an independent review by experts.
Remedies such as black cohosh, red clover, Dong quai and ginseng are taken to ease hot flushes, sleeplessness and low sex drive because they are perceived as natural products without risk, says a report in the Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin.
But editor Dr Ike Iheanacho warns they may not necessarily be safe.
He said: ‘In reality, however, herbal medicines have pharmacological actions, and so can cause unwanted side effects and have potentially dangerous interactions with other medicines, both herbal and conventional.’
The safety of such products has been ‘generally under-researched, and information on potentially significant herb-drug interactions is limited’, he added.
More than 200 alternative remedies exist, yet the review of 26 published studies found little good quality evidence of their effectiveness and safety when used through the menopause.
About 40 per cent of women seeking treatment for the menopause are estimated to use complementary therapies alongside – or instead of – Hormone Replacement Therapy.
Among those used are wild yam extract, chaste tree, hops, sage leaf, and kava kava which was banned in the UK after reports of liver damage.