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Hormones play an important role in health and are especially significant when a woman reaches menopause. The female body produces fewer hormones after the onset of menopause, and hormone therapy drugs are used to combat this natural reduction in hormone levels. Common hormone therapy drugs include estrogen and progestin. Natural hormone therapy can include black cohosh, dong quai root, ginseng, kava, red clover and soy.
Estrogen and progesterone are the two most prominent female hormones, and both diminish with age. Typical replacement medications for these hormones are estrogen and progestin, which is a synthetic form of progesterone. Hormone therapy drugs are used to treat the symptoms of menopause, which can be severe and disabling for some women. Common menopausal symptoms include hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disruption, vaginal dryness or itching, mood swings, depression and decreased libido.
While hormone levels do get a boost from estrogen and progestin treatments, some research has shown that hormone replacement drugs may increase the risk for cancer. The cancer claims are sometimes disputed, because studies indicate that hormone therapy drugs can cause certain types of cancer and prevent others. The risks that may accompany hormone replacement therapy are personal and should be discussed with a health care professional.
Natural menopause treatments have grown in popularity as an alternative that may not carry the risks associated with hormone therapy drugs. Although natural hormone replacement therapy is not as thoroughly researched as drug therapy, studies have shown that black cohosh root may reduce the occurrence and severity of hot flashes and night sweats. Research also found that ginseng and kava might alleviate some of the emotional symptoms of menopause and provide a feeling of overall wellness.
Phytoestrogens, which are plant-based forms of estrogen, are also used as a natural hormone treatment. Soy-based phytoestrogens, flax seed and flax seed oil can be used to treat hot flashes. Another phytoestrogen called coumestan is taken for bone loss caused by osteoporosis, which sometimes accompanies menopause. As with any medicine, natural hormone therapy drugs may have side effects and should be used with care.
Hormone replacement drugs usually come in pill form and are taken once every day. Other forms of hormone therapy include medicated creams and the transdermal patch. Menopause treatment creams containing estrogen and progestin can be applied to the abdomen, breasts, inner arms, inner thighs or vaginal area. The patch is placed directly on the skin and administers the treatment slowly through absorption.