Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago are investigating whether hormone therapy and two herbal products can lessen memory and other cognitive problems experienced by menopausal women.
“Decline in mental skills and difficulty remembering things, finding words, paying attention – these are all common complaints of midlife women,” said Pauline Maki, associate professor of psychiatry and psychology. According to one study, 63% of women making the transition from pre- to postmenopause say that their ability to remember names, telephone numbers and other information had deteriorated.
The new investigation is part of a larger study to determine whether black cohosh and red clover offer an alternative to hormone therapy in relieving hot flashes, the most common symptom of menopause. Over 100 women will be randomly assigned to one of four groups taking black cohosh, red clover, Prempro (a combined estrogen and progestin hormone replacement drug) or a placebo.
According to Maki, black cohosh has been shown in preliminary studies to bind to serotonin receptors, as antidepressant medications do. That action could possibly help cognition, but to date, no studies have tested the effects of black cohosh on memory in midlife women. Red clover contains phytoestrogens, naturally occurring compounds found in soy and certain plants that are estrogen-like in structure and function. A few limited studies have yielded some evidence that phytoestrogens can improve memory and mental flexibility.
University of Illinois at Chicago, Oct 4, 2004