Many women will experience uncomfortable symptoms as a result of menopause. Symptoms include:
• Hot flushes (or flashes)
• Night sweats
• Skin dryness
• Breathing problems
• Joint and/or muscle pain
• Vaginal changes
• Bleeding issues
• Urogenital complaints
• Mood changes
These symptoms are accompanied by a decrease in inhibin, leading to increased levels of follicular-stimulating hormone and androgens, and a drop in estrogen in the form of estradiol. When blood estradiol levels fall, estrogen receptors on the surface of cells lay empty – producing some dysfunction within the cells.
Most treatments to this issue is to artificially increase the circulation of estrodiol in the blood – through the prescription of synthesized or isolated estrogen and progesterone. Many reach for alternative forms of these in the form of bio-identical hormones – primarily sourced from horse urine.
But HRT also comes with risks, as we’ve discussed elsewhere. They include a greater risk of cancer and cardiovascular conditions. And though many swear by bio-identical forms of HRT, there is no solid evidence that this reduces the risk of HRT-related heart conditions and cancer. (Not including the yuk factor of taking an extract of horse urine.)
What about natural alternatives? We have laid out some alternatives elsewhere in this publication. Now we can add another:
Fenugreek extract clinically tested for menopause
The research comes from the Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences and Research at the University of Agricultural Sciences in Bangalore, India. In this randomized, double-blinded and placebo-controlled study, 88 women with an average age of 59 were tested for three months. Each of the women had clinically significant (moderate to severe) menopausal discomforts including those listed above.
The women were divided into two groups. One group was given a daily dose of 1,000 milligrams per day of a standardized extract of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum) in the form of a supplement called FenuSMART™. The other group was given an inactive placebo.
To gauge their menopause discomforts before and after the trial period, the researchers utilized clinical examinations and blood testing, the Greene Climacteric Scale and the Short-form 36 for quality of life testing.
After the 90-day treatment period, blood estrogen levels more than doubled on average among the 44 fenugreek-treated women. Their blood estradiol levels went from 131.22 to 288.46 pmol/Liter.
The reduction of critical symptoms among the fenugreek group included a 57 percent drop in night sweats, 68 percent drop in mood swings, 75 percent drop in insomnia and 54 percent drop in headaches.
Furthermore, 32 percent of the women in the treatment group reported that their hot flushes had completely disappeared. The other women in the fenugreek group experienced a reduction of hot flushes from three to five times a day at the beginning of the study to one to two times per day.
The researchers also found the fenugreek decreased other symptoms related to menopause.
Greene Climacteric Scale scores went down from 34.83 in the beginning to 24.82 by the end of 45 days and 19.64 after 90 days. That’s close to a 50 percent drop in symptoms. The placebo group did not have a significant decrease in GCS scores or other symptom scores.
As a whole, vasomotor scores (hot flushes, night sweats, insomnia) went down significantly in the fenugreek group. Those scores dropped from 4.35 to 2.21, compared to the placebo group’s change from 4.32 to 4.28.
Anxiety scores dropped more than half, from 1.85 to 0.76 in the fenugreek group, compared to 1.71 to 1.65 in the placebo group.
Depression scores went from 1.74 to 0.91 in the fenugreek group, compared to 1.76 to 1.82 in the placebo group.
Other physical symptom scores went down from 9.85 to 5.15 in the fenugreek group, compared to 9.74 to 8.21 in the placebo group.
So we can see from these reductions that the fenugreek supplement made a significant difference in symptoms.
Furthermore, the fenugreek treatment did not result in any adverse side effects among the women. The researchers reported:
“The present study involving a supplementation of 1000 mg fenugreek for 90 days did not produce any obvious signs of toxicity or adverse effects, as evident from the haematology and biochemical data in comparison with the placebo group.”
Instead of adverse side effects, the fenugreek treatment resulted in positive side effects. For those with cholesterol issues, the fenugreek therapy reduced LDL-cholesterol and triglycerides.
The researchers wrote:
“The analysis of the GCS and SF-36 questionnaires pertaining to the adverse climacteric symptoms and quality of life of the postmenopausal women participated in the present study demonstrated a significant improvement and positive effect of the novel formulation of the Fenugreek supplement in the management of postmenopausal discomforts and hence in the quality of life.”
What makes Fenugreek so special for menopause?
Research has established that fenugreek contains beneficial steroidal saponins, which modulate hormones. Steroidal saponins in fenugreek include diosgenin, protodioscin and yamogenin. Fenugreek also contains trigonellin, hydroxyisoleucine, galactomannans and numerous polyphenols.
In addition to the steroidal affects, trigonellin and hydroxyisoleucine have the distinction of binding to estrogen receptors. When estrogen receptors are bound, the cells do not respond with the same dysfunction as when they are left unbound.
These and other compounds in fenugreek give it a special quality that pharmaceuticals cannot compete with: The ability to naturally modulate the hormonal system as needed.
For example, in those women who had higher estrogen levels, the fenugreek therapy did not boost estradiol levels much. For those with lower levels, the therapy significantly increased estadiol levels. The researchers wrote:
“The rate of increase of estradiol among the individuals having varying baseline levels was found to be different, with a relatively low enhancement among those who are having high levels of baseline estradiol levels and vice versa.”
The fenugreek also stabilized the women’s calcium levels. They stated:
“Fenugreek supplementation was also found to have a beneficial effect in the management of healthy serum calcium levels (8.5 to 10.2 mg/dL).”
This ‘smart’ ability of this medicinal herb has lent itself to other benefits. These include reducing hyperglycemia and reducing insulin resistance. Fenugreek has also been found to help Parkinson’s patients when used with L-dopa therapy.
Discover: Organic Whole Fenugreek seed
Shamshad Begum, S., Jayalakshmi, H. K., Vidyavathi, H. G., Gopakumar, G., Abin, I., Balu, M., Geetha, K., Suresha, S. V., Vasundhara, M., and Krishnakumar, I. M. A Novel Extract of Fenugreek Husk (FenuSMART™) Alleviates Postmenopausal Symptoms and Helps to Establish the Hormonal Balance: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Phytother. Res., 2016 July. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5680.
Dietz BM, Hajirahimkhan A, Dunlap TL, Bolton JL. Botanicals and Their Bioactive Phytochemicals for Women’s Health. Pharmacol Rev. 2016 Oct;68(4):1026-1073.
Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and diplomas in Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies.