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Natural remedies that may be dangerous

MagazineJune 2007 (Vol. 18 Issue 3)Natural remedies that may be dangerous

These natural remedies may be good for some of us, but menopausal women should take them with caution

These natural remedies may be good for some of us, but menopausal women should take them with caution.

Natural progesterone: It is so called because it is derived from yams - although it is still processed in laboratories first. It's supplied as a rub-on cream, and its advocates argue that it is chemically identical to the progesterone produced by the body. As such, they say it is safe, unlike the artificially produced progestogens used in the pill or in HRT (hormone replacement therapy). The problem is that progesterone is seen as the 'good' hormone, but this fails to understand the delicate balance in the body. Estrogens increase antibody production, but progesterone decreases it. As such, there is growing evidence that progesterone may, on its own, be carcinogenic.

Soy: Women who eat soy to avoid breast cancer can develop the very disease they are trying to prevent. Several studies have suggested that soy may cause breast cancer cells to proliferate. It also blocks the uptake of zinc and magnesium.

Don quai and ginseng: Although both these herbs are two of the most popular remedies to treat menopausal symptoms, several studies have shown that they also encourage the proliferation of breast cancer cells.

Black cohosh: This is one of the best natural supplements for treating menopausal symptoms, but it shouldn't be taken for more than six months at one time. It should also be avoided by anyone with a history of breast cancer in the family.

Herbs: Plant estrogens can have as powerful an effect as synthetic ones, so don't substitute and think its automatically the safer option. Studies have shown that some herbs - and especially soy, liquorice, red clover, thyme, turmeric, hops and verbena - act as tumour promoters.

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