Women who are nearing the menopause are more likely to turn to nutritional supplements and other natural alternatives than to use medical approaches to ease their symptoms.

Research published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found nearly two-fifths (38 per cent) of women have used herbal supplements to cope with hot flushes, stiff joints and mood swings.

Nearly half of menopausal females had encountered sudden hot flushes, according to the study, while a similar proportion had experienced night sweats, with two-fifths saying their symptoms were troubling them.

Study co-author Dr Lisa Iversen of the University of Aberdeen commented: "Our results provide a powerful reminder that the menopause is a time of life when women experience numerous symptoms, many of which are bothersome.

"We found that many women used non-medical approaches to help relieve the symptoms suggesting a large need for effective non-hormonal management options for menopausal women," she added.

The research also found the most common coping mechanism for women going through the change was social support from friends and family, with 60 per cent saying they found comfort from talking through their experience with other people.

Deputy editor-in-chief of the journal John Thorp noted: "Support from healthcare workers as well as friends and family is important and women must talk to their GP if their symptoms are bothering them or affecting their day-to-day quality of life."

Those who use herbal supplements to cope with their symptoms may agree with US physician Heidi Rula, who pointed out that the menopause is a normal transition and therefore not a disease that should be medically treated.

In the East Valley Tribune, she suggested women should lower their intake of processed foods, excess sugar and saturated fat, and try incorporating natural ingredients in their diet.

Flax seed oil has anti-oxidant and anti-cancer benefits, for example, while black cohosh is widely used to reduce hot flushes and improve mood swings.