NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Almost half of women who have discontinued hormone therapy for menopause but still have symptoms turn to complementary and alternative medicine, commonly referred to as CAM.

Among 563 such women, representing every U.S. state but Hawaii, 45 percent reported using CAM to seek relief from menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats, Dr. Elizabeth M. Kupferer and colleagues at the University of Texas at Austin, School of Nursing found.

Among the women using CAM, 27 percent reported taking vitamin and calcium supplements, 21 percent said they used the herbal supplement black cohosh, and 19 percent used soy supplements and foods for symptom relief.

Another 14 percent reported taking antidepressants for relief of menopausal symptoms, the investigators report in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing.

It is important for women to tell their healthcare providers they are using CAM, and “to gather accurate information about CAM safety and efficacy from reliable sources such as their health care providers,” Kupferer told Reuters Health.

Moreover, health care providers must “be alert to CAM use and be up to date on the safety and efficacy data available for each type,” Kupferer advised.

At the time of the study, Kupferer was a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas. She and her colleagues there recruited women for the study via a mailed questionnaire, seeking those who had previously been prescribed hormone therapy but had discontinued its use.

The women who participated in the study were about 58 years old on average and had entered menopause about 14 years earlier. CAM users were more likely between 40 and 50 years old, and less than 5 years post-menopause.

Besides those already noted, other reported CAM therapies included meditation and relaxation, evening primrose oil, blood-pressure lowering medications, homeopathic treatments, red clover, and anti-seizure medications.

Given the relatively common use of CAM therapies reported in this and prior studies, Kupferer and colleagues call for further research to “delineate recommendations for a variety of CAM strategies.”

SOURCE: Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing, January/February 2009.