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Herbal progesterone, that is, herbs that help when you have symptoms of low progesterone, can help ease many symptoms related to menopause.
Although some herbs can reduce or eliminate symptoms that are related to hormone imbalance, these herbs do not contain progesterone or any other human hormone. What they do contain is their own plant hormones that can help with symptoms of low progesterone.
There may be some confusion around this because some progesterone creams are made from a compound of the wild yam plant. This is entirely different from using an extract of wild yam for menopause symptoms. For more about this, see wild yam
What is progesterone?
Progesterone is a hormone produced in your body. It's main function in women is to prepare the uterus for possible pregnancy each month, and maintain a uterus that supports a growing baby during pregnancy. Progesterone levels increase and decrease throughout the month as the cycle of reproduction repeats until a viable embryo exists.
What happens to progesterone in menopause?
As you approach menopause, progesterone levels begin to decrease, along with increasing levels of estrogen. Yes, it's true, as you approach menopause, your estrogen levels actually increase before they decrease. This creates a hormone imbalance, sometimes called estrogen dominance.
Symptoms of low progesterone
Symptoms of low progesterone and high estrogen include bloating, tender breasts, decreasing sexual drive, weight gain, especially around your belly, headaches and mood swings.
Is there an herbal progesterone?
There are no herbs that contain or produce progesterone, however there are herbs that help with those symptoms. These include wild yam extract (NOT cream) and vitex, also known as chasteberry. For more information about these plants and how they can help with low progesterone symptoms, see wild yam and vitex
How Do You Know if You Need Progesterone?'</strong>
If you are premenopausal (generally starts in your early forties up through your last period), and/or have some of the symptoms above, you may benefit from bioidentical progesterone or the herbs mentioned above that reduce low progesterone symptoms in your body.
Other types of progesterone
Other types of progesterone include those included in standard HRT treatments, usually called progestins, or medroxyprogesterone. One well-known progestin is Provera. These are the progestins that were tested in the studies that found so many dangerous side effects. It can be confusing because many people refer to progestins as progesterone.
The words synthetic and natural are meaningless when it comes to progesterone, because the only natural progesterone is the one your body makes. The difference is in the chemical structure: natural progesterone USP is made in a lab, but chemically identical to the progesterone our bodies make. Progestin, or synthetic progesterone, is also made in a lab, but not chemically identical to our body's progesterone.
For estrogen-supportive herbs, see herbal estrogen