Traditional hormone replacement therapy has been a boon to women since it was discovered. That doesn’t mean that it’s great, but it does make life easier. What are the benefits and drawbacks of herbal HRT?
No Animal Abuse: Some HRT drugs are made from the urine of pregnant mares. Aside from the “yuck” factor, this is not good for the animals. They are kept attached to a machine that collects their urine until the foal is born. As those running the operations don’t want the foals, they are sold for slaughter. It’s a pretty compelling argument against that particular therapy.
Easy to Get: You don’t need a prescription for herbal remedies. You go to the location selling them and buy them. The two most common, soy isoflavones and black cohosh, are available in standardized formats, just swallow with some water and there you go.
Natural: These come from plants. The soy usually has some processing but the black cohosh really doesn’t need it. In fact, you can buy black cohosh dried and make your own potion if you prefer…and know how.
Cancer Danger: Several years ago a study came out showing an alarming increase in hormone related cancers for those taking traditional HRT drugs. That doesn’t change when the HRT is herbal. Those who are at risk for these cancers should still skip the hormones.
Allergies: Both of these herbs can cause serious allergic reactions. As an example, when I started using black cohosh I ended up with a huge, walking rash. I had hives from scalp to toenails. This is something to consider, especially if you have known issues with allergies. I was lucky. I have asthma and it could have been a lot worse.
About being Natural: You may think it odd that a master herbalist would disparage natural medicine, but I have a very important point to make here. Herbs may be all natural but that does not equate to always safe. There are many issues to keep in mind before choosing a natural remedy over a traditional one. There can be side effects and drug/herb interactions with *any* herb. Make sure it’s safe before you swallow.
The best way to stay safe and to choose the right route for you is to visit your doctor. Blood tests can indicate whether or not you need the replacements and the doctor can guide you between the options. You should also talk to your pharmacist to make sure any herbs you wish to use don’t interact with medications you’re already on. Herbs are great, but it is important to choose and use them wisely.