More than 40% of postmenopausal women experience thinning and dryness of the vaginal mucosa, known as atrophy (1). In addition to dryness, vaginal atrophy can cause burning and itching sensations, and the vaginal mucosa to become prone to damage and inflammation.
Menopausal symptoms are often treated with hormone replacement therapy
As the symptoms of menopause are associated with oestrogen depletion, atrophy has traditionally been treated with hormone replacement therapy (2, 3). In hormone replacement therapy, the patient takes oestrogen and often also a synthetic luteinizing hormone, such as progesterone, either as a tablet internally or as a patch or gel externally (2, 4).
Hormone replacement therapy is not for everyone
The benefits of hormone replacement therapy in the treatment of menopausal symptoms are clear, but not everyone should use it. For example, most people who have had breast cancer cannot take hormone replacement therapy, as certain cancer cells use oestrogen and progesterone to grow and spread (2, 3, 5). Hormone replacement therapy is not appropriate for those with a history of deep vein thrombosis or embolism, severe hypertension, cerebral infarction (stroke), liver disease or heart disease (2, 3).
Hormone replacement therapy for menopause has its challenges
There are also risks involved in hormone replacement therapy. For example, the risk of breast cancer increases with long-term treatment (2, 3, 6). There is also an increased risk of embolism or endometrial cancer (2, 3).
Oestrogen therapy also causes milder symptoms, such as hormonal side effects or vaginal bleeding (2). In addition, the symptoms of vaginal atrophy often return after the completion of hormone replacement therapy (4).
Phytoestrogens are plant-based compounds that mimic oestrogen, which can be used in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. They are common in plants but not in sea buckthorn oil (5). The effects of phytoestrogens are weaker than those of oestrogen, so they can also be taken by some breast cancer patients and cancer patients (5), or by individuals who want to avoid oestrogen use because of its side effects (7). However, there is no clear evidence on the efficacy of phytoestrogens in the treatment of intimate dryness (7).
Sea buckthorn oil is a non-hormonal solution
In addition to hormone therapies, there are drug-free therapies in which no hormones are used in the treatment of the vaginal mucosa. Sea buckthorn oil has long been used in Central Asia in the self-treatment of mucosal inflammation (8). The most researched sea buckthorn oil in the world is SBA24®, the composition of which is standardised by a supercritical carbon dioxide extraction process. In clinical trials, SBA24® sea buckthorn oil capsules* (Membrasin® Feminine Moisturizer supplement) and topical sea buckthorn oil cream (Membrasin® Vaginal Moisture cream) have been shown to help strengthen the vaginal and vulvar mucosa and improve its health index score (9, 10). In addition, sea buckthorn oil relieves the symptoms of vaginal atrophy, such as dryness, irritation and tenderness (9, 10).
The mechanism of action of sea buckthorn oil is not based on hormones but on the improving and protecting effect it has on the well-being of the mucosa. Sea buckthorn oil contains plenty of essential omega fatty acids (3, 6, 7 and 9), vitamin E, and carotenoids, which are precursors to vitamin A. The effects of sea buckthorn oil that help strengthen the mucosa are likely due to the combined effect of the above components (5, 9). Because the components of sea buckthorn oil do not have the effects of oestrogen, sea buckthorn oil is also suitable for promoting the well-being of mucous membranes in breast cancer patients and other risk groups (5).
*Dietary supplement: contains beta-carotene, a source of vitamin A that supports the maintenance of normal vision and skin.