Abstract Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) has undisputable positive effects on climacteric complaints, in the bone and on body weight but also several undesired side effects. Therefore, plant-derived alternatives are currently promoted. Phytoestrogens - primarily the isoflavones genistein, daidzein and coumestrol, stemming from soy (Glycine max) or red clover (Trifolium pratense) - were ... [Show full abstract] suggested to have the desired but not the undesired effects of estrogens. Most recently published placebo-controlled studies question the beneficial effects. When taken at the time of puberty however, phytoestrogens appear to protect against mammary cancer later in life. Extracts from the rhizome of Cimicifuga racemosa (black cohosh) have no estrogenic effects. In a narrow dose range they have beneficial effects on climacteric complaints, which are due to several compounds with dopaminergic, noradrenergic, serotoninergic and GABAergic actions that act together in the hypothalamus. Ecdysone is produced by several plants, including spinach (Spinacia oleracea) and was very early on shown to increase muscle mass. Later it became apparent that spinach extracts containing ecdysone decreased body fat load, thereby reducing secretion of proinflammatory cytokines by visceral adipocytes and oxidative stress. This had beneficial effects on body weight and serum lipids not only in obese postmenopausal but also in premenopausal women and in men. For the above-described plant extracts, solid placebo-controlled clinical trials are available. For other plant extracts claiming beneficial effects on climacteric complaints or postmenopausal diseases, no solid data are available.