What Is It?
As indicated by its name, a women’s herbal combination provides several herbs in one convenient capsule, sparing you the inconvenience of taking an assortment of products. Standard components include such traditional “female-healthy” herbs as black cohosh, chasteberry, dong quai, and soy. Many contain additional herbs such as kava and dandelion root that can help with specific symptoms, as well as key nutrients such as calcium, vitamins E, C, and B, and magnesium.
Although these combination products typically contain less of each herb than WholeHealth Chicago recommends, the overall effect of a combination may be just fine for putting the brakes on hot flashes and other discomforts associated with perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms. For younger women, PMS discomforts such as breast tenderness or bloating may be relieved as well. Experiment with different combinations to find a product that’s most effective for your set of symptoms.
Before trying a women’s herbal combination, read the label carefully to make sure it contains key ingredients such as black cohosh, chasteberry, and dong quai. Then check the number of milligrams of each ingredient to ascertain that the amount approximates the low end of the doses recommended for individual herbs or nutrients in our WholeHealth Chicago Reference Library.
The amount of each individual ingredient in a woman’s herbal combination product is usually quite small. The best approach for anyone concerned about possible interactions with a drug or dietary supplement is to refer to the separate entries (black cohosh, dandelion, dong quai, soy) in our WholeHealth Chicago Reference Library.
See individual entries in the WholeHealth Chicago Reference Library for cautions on specific ingredients contained in your women’s herbal combination.
Perimenopause Follow instructions on label.
David Edelberg, M.D.
If you actually line up all the supplements you might be taking for perimenopause, you sort of wonder, “Do I really need to take all these pills?” Well, the answer is, “Maybe not.” Although I’ve described numerous menopause-friendly supplements, you certainly might discover that you can get by with fewer. Or you can try a good women’s herbal combination formula. Such a formulation blends several supplements and herbs together into a single capsule. Although the amount of each ingredient is typically considerably less than our single WholeHealth Chicago recommendations, the overall effect of the combination may be just fine for putting the brakes on your perimenopausal symptoms.
HOW IT HELPS PERIMENOPAUSE
When formulating an individualized product for one of their patients, skilled naturopathic physicians or herbalists base their selection of ingredients on evidence from the published literature as well as on their own clinical experience. To verify a quality product, they may also be involved with a laboratory analysis of their herbal choices. Most of the commercial products you see in health-food stores sold as women’s herbal combinations are actually formulated under the supervision of naturopathic physicians. Many women, especially those with mild-to-moderate perimenopausal symptoms, do quite nicely with one of these pre-formulated combinations of herbs and supplements.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
There are a number of interesting products, and you may have to experiment a bit to find one that works the best for you. Look for a combination that includes: Black cohosh to me is a “must” although some doctors believe that chasteberry will work equally well. Dong quai should be there too, as it helps all the ingredients work together. Look for extra B6and magnesium if you can find a combination that includes vitamins and minerals. Supplement companies are getting pretty imaginative these days, and I’ve seen products that also include some kava, Siberian ginseng, ginkgo biloba, St. John’s wort, borage oil, and even a pinch of dandelion to support the liver and decrease fluid retention.
Read the labels because supplements do differ. Always check the number of milligrams of each ingredient and make sure it approximates the low end of the doses we’ve recommended here. Some products simply contain too little of the ingredients to be effective and only give the herb a bad name. Ingredients may include two or more of the following: The herbs (not all will necessarily be present) Chasteberry (also known as Vitex) Black cohosh Dong quai (Angelica sinensis) Soy Kava Wild yam Others, such as ginkgo biloba, Siberian ginseng, licorice, dandelion, and milk thistle The nutrients (not all will necessarily be present) Magnesium B vitamins (including B6, folic acid, B12, thiamin, riboflavin, and others) Vitamins E and C Calcium Zinc (often with copper)
Shopping tips Look for a reliable manufacturer (most brands sell either a “Woman’s Formula” or a “Menopause Herbal” product). Always check the expiration date to be sure the ingredients are fresh.
David Edelberg, MD