Marketing of natural hormones may be deceiving

Pamela Egan Practical Practitioner


By: Pamela Egan, DNP, CDE



Marketing of natural hormones may be deceiving


Dear Pam,

Can you elaborate on the many natural hormones for women? It’s very confusing.

Women are being inundated with marketing on a multitude of women’s supplements. We will attempt to sort through some the supplement claims.

Soy modestly decreases hot flashes in some menopausal women. It might also help increase bone density and lower cholesterol. It takes several servings of soy-based foods to reach the 20 – 60 grams containing 80- 90 milligrams soy isoflavones daily. Many women use the concentrated soy bars and shakes.

Red clover (Promensil, etc) contains isoflavones similar to soy. But there is no convincing evidence that it works for hot flashes. At this time, I don’t recommend it.

Black cohosh improves hot flashes in some menopausal women. I would stick with Remifemin, it’s the one used in clinical studies. Don’t use it for more than six months. Long term safety is unknown.

Topical progesterone (Pro-Gest) can help hot flashes for some women. It’s legally marketed as a supplement, but it’s a full-fledged hormone. It’s not known if it’s any safer than regular Hormone Replacement Therapy.


Chasteberry seems to help for premenstrual syndrome, so some women are trying it for menopausal symptoms. Don’t expect relief from chasteberry. There’s no evidence it helps.

Evening primrose oil is promoted for menopause symptoms because it contains fatty acids that can be converted to hormones. But this line of thinking hasn’t panned out. Evening primrose oil doesn’t help hot flashes.

Dong quai has mild estrogenic effects. However, it doesn’t work for hot flashes, so don’t waste your time.

Wild yam is promoted as a “natural” hormone replacement. It contains a hormone precursor that can be converted to various hormones in a lab but not in the human body. Save your money, it won’t work.

Please keep these supplements in perspective.

Research on most of these products is still very preliminary – not nearly, as thorough as the huge studies on Hormone Replacement Therapy.

This article was originally published September 30, 2002 in The St. Tammany News.

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