Before or around the time of menopause, many women complain of a number of symptoms vaginal dryness, loss of libido, loss of urinary control that seem to signal the start of old age. But most of these problems, which cause women to fear menopause, ca

effective in treating loss of libido, dry eyes and vagina, moodswings, bad hair and skin (BMJ, 1990; 301: 905-906; Reprod Toxicol, 1989; 3: 81-89; Zschr angw Phytotherapie, 1981; 111: 1-8).

Phytoestrogens can also help prevent memory loss. At the 8th International Medical Congress on the Menopause (Sydney, Australia, December 1996), Dr Jennifer Wordsworth, consultant in family planning and reproductive healthcare in Sheffield, quoted four studies of women who had undergone surgical menopause (they had a hysterectomy). Those given phytoestrogen maintained their verbal memory performance and improved their ability to learn new material, compared with the placebo group. In addition, perception, sense of well being, problem solving ability and language fluency improved in the treated groups (J Brit Menopause Soc, 1997; March: 26-27).

Weak pelvic floor muscles which can mean wetting yourself while laughing, coughing, sneezing or heavy lifting can be helped by the homeopathic remedy Aletris Oligoplex. In a four year study, 152 women who had symptoms of prolapse were given Aletris Oligoplex for a period of six to eight weeks. Some 110 patients, or 72 per cent, became free of symptoms, and 53 others had some improvement. However, once discontinued, the effect wore off, but symptoms did not recur as severely as before treatment. (Neuss: Gesellschaft fur angewandte Statistik und Datenanalyse mbH, August 1994).

Increased risk of breast cancer is another fear around the time of the menopause. In preliminary scientific studies, taking 400 mg coenzyme Q10 a day, together with anti oxidants and essential fatty acids, has shown some remarkable success in the treatment and secondary prevention of breast cancer (Molec Aspects Med, 1994; 15 (Suppl): s231-s240; Alt Med Review, 1997; 2: 4-11).

Phytoestrol (see above) may also combat breast cancer (Nutrition, 1992; 8: 47-51). Biochemical substances closely associated with certain phytoestrogens have shown immune enhancing activity in both healthy and cancer patients. This could offer significant protection against growth of tumour cells (Folia Angiol, 1976; 24: 7-22; Agents Actions, 1983; 13: 50-2). Phytoestrogens themselves have also repeatedly been shown to have an anti cancer effect (J Pharm Dyn, 1983; 6: 903-912; Planta Medica, 1984; 48: 163-167; Immunology; 1982, 47: 75-83; Molecular Immunology, 1985; 22: 295-304.)

Another concern of women in their forties is the possibility of an unplanned late pregnancy. Some tribes in the Ganges basin of north west India have long taken Banjauri, a powder made from the freshly collected small Vicoa indica (Compo-sitae) plant during the first half of three successive menstrual cycles, to create a long term anti fertility effect. Researchers in Bangalore at the Centre for Reproductive Biology, of the Indian Institute of Science (Current Science, 1997; 71: 918) recently tested this remedy on female monkeys. They found that those given a daily dose of Banjauri for a fortnight at the beginning of one cycle did not become pregnant even after a 22 cycle exposure to fertile male monkeys.

Although Banjauri is not available yet in the UK, it is being tried out in India, and you may be able to get hold of it if you make contact with a sympathetic Indian herbalist.

!AHarald Gaier

Harald Gaier is a registered naturopath, homeopath and osteopath.

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