Vaginal atrophy is described by the Mayo Clinic as the thinning and possible inflammation of the vaginal wall. The condition results from declining estrogen levels, usually during menopause but occasionally during other times of hormonal changes such as post-partum period and during breastfeeding. Vaginal atrophy may be accompanied by vaginal dryness, resulting in painful intercourse. Although there are prescription remedies for menopause, including prescription hormone replacement therapy and vaginal creams, some women may wish to try herbal remedies for vaginal atrophy. As with all herbal supplements, talk to your doctor before starting a new regimen.
Black cohosh works to balance hormone levels. During menopause, hormone levels, particularly estrogen and progesterone have fallen. It may help to stimulate blood flow to female sex organs including the uterus and vagina, helping to alleviate vaginal atrophy. It is especially useful during the early stages of menopause and may help make HRT work better. Black cohosh taken as a supplement requires healthy levels of digestive bacteria and will be less effective if antibiotics have been taken. According to the "Prescription for Herbal Healing" it should not be taken while pregnant or nursing or by those who may have hormone dependent cancers such as uterine, breast or ovarian. Consult your doctor about black cohosh.
When used as a topical gel, extract from the aloe vera plant may help to relieve vaginal dryness often associated with vaginal atrophy. It may also have an anti-inflammatory effect which may help to relieve itching and inflammation. When applied topically, it may be considered anti-infective as well and promotes restoration of damaged tissue including mucosal membranes, such as the vaginal area. Talk to a physician before using aloe vera.
When used externally as a cream, Calendula is considered to be moisturizing, but also has anti-inflammatory and anti-infective properties. It is widely used as an additive to cosmetic skin creams and may stimulate the production of collagen which may help to support atrophied vaginal tissue. It is also thought to alleviate the itching which may come with vaginal atrophy and dryness associated with menopause. During menopause, the lack of lubrication may predispose the vaginal area to infection; calendula cream may help prevent this problem. Speak to your health care provider first.
Isoflavones, some of which are phytoestrogens, may help to simulate the presence of estrogen in the body. Extracts or supplements may be obtained from sources such as soy and red clover. Taking phytoestrogens in the form of soy or red clover extract may help to eliminate symptoms of vaginal atrophy by acting as a natural estrogen replacement. This may also be accomplished by including soy products such as tofu, soy milk and edamame in the diet. Isoflavones may also help with vaginal dryness and other symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes. Consult your doctor.
- Mayo Clinic: Vaginal Atrophy
- The Prescription for Herbal Healing; Phyllis A. Balch, CNC; 2005