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Herbal Medicine

by Judy Griffin, Ph.D.(more info)

listed in symposium - menopause, originally published in issue 27 - April 1998

A Transcript     Contents     Introduction: Dr Goodman     Dr Bond (Intro)     Dr Lee

Dr Bond     Q&A: Drs Lee and Bond     Dr Smallbone     Dr Griffin     Beth MacEoin

Q&A: Smallbone, Griffin & MacEoin     Leslie Kenton     Q&A: All     Exhibitors & Speakers




Introduction: Dr Sandra Goodman

Dr Judy Griffin has come all the way from Texas. She has spent about 25 years working as a herbalist, and has developed her own line of flower remedies. She has a vast range of experience in working with menopausal women using herbs. She is the author of several books, the latest of which is the Woman's Herbal. This is actually in the foyer on the bookstand. It is an absolute mine of information. So I take great pleasure in introducing Dr Judy Griffin.




I am going to talk to you today about traditional medicine and those are our herbs and our vital oestrogens and similar properties which would be like progesterone that we can get from plant sources. These things that I am talking about today are remedies, if you can call them that, that have been used for 5,000 years, so we don't need a double blind study to prove them, we have generations of women telling us that these kind of recipes that we are going to go over today work. I am actually going to give you recipes to go home and brew, so I hope you have your paper and pencil ready.

When you are dealing with vital oestrogens, when you are dealing with herbs in any way, you are dealing with balance. We are not talking so much about oestrogen and progesterone and how all these things balance, because like every speaker has bought out, there are so many other things going on. I'm going to get right into the remedies because that is what I like to do.

When you are working with menopausal symptoms, these are recipes you can use. Keep in mind that by the time a maiden starts into her years, you can start using these remedies throughout menstruation and into the crone years, they are meant to bring us peace of mind and open our hearts as well as allow our bodies to function physically in such a way that these will be our most creative years.

When you are brewing herbs, I do mean brewing them, I don't really mean buying them in capsules. There is a great difference, some of the herbs that I am talking about are as hard as this, and grinding it up and putting it in a capsule is not going to make it work for you. Brewing it is. Keep in mind that you want to brew herbs in glass or porcelain whenever it is possible, you want to keep your brew covered while you are steaming and cooking it because it is the steam, the essence that it brings up, that is most important to keep in your combination.

One of the things that women in menopause have the most trouble with are hot flushes and night sweats, these are signs of deficiency. It doesn't have to be hormonal. In Herbalism it is called the blood deficiency. Blood meaning everything that is fluid in the body which is about 97%, so what we are going to do is produce a rejuvenating tonic. These are tonics that are very similar or very much like ones that I've used with women in every situation. I've worked with people in all kinds of situations and including those who have cancer that are using formulas like this to help alleviate some of their symptoms. With permission from their doctors of course. Most of my clientele come from the medical community because they don't want to take the other kind of stuff. So I think that is kind of funny. That tells us something right there we might be on the right track.

First of all we have: 2 tablespoons of Black Cohosh – we are going to put this together in a brew. Altogether in one pot, large enough to put in about 2 tbsps and you can buy your Black Cohosh ground up if you like and brew it or you can buy it chopped up. This is a product that will help reduce the night sweats, the deficiency symptoms. You can stop epilepsy with Black Cohosh. If it is tinctured in alcohol it is a very strong product. It has some narcotic tendencies but it is not narcotic like a great big pain killer, it is more for reducing the symptoms that come from stress. These are the things that are flushing with the women, it is a stress type thing that is really coming from the adrenal lack of oestrogen in the body.

So we can use a few tablespoons of Black Cohosh, then we are going to go into our vital oestrogen type herb and that is Tang kuei, there are lots of ways to say the same herb. When I'm saying it is vital oestrogen let me just talk for a moment about that. Vital oestrogens in the body work with the receptor sites. They are plant derivatives and they are very highly concentrated in some herbs. These plants are not just going to put oestrogen in your body, they are going to work with the receptor site. If you need more oestrogen they are going to open up that receptor site at that time. If you do not need it it is going to close it up and it is going to be working more as a blood purifier or some other way that is going to help the body.

Herbs have many many functions in the body, and it wouldn't be fair to just say they are vital oestrogens, and Tang kuei is one of those herbs, it builds the blood, it gives the woman energy, it can give you mental clarity and it certainly can give you all the femininity that you want to continue throughout menopause, which means you are not going to have symptoms from vagina dryness and some or the other problems that women come into, even if they take oestrogen, or some of your hormone replacement.

A lot of women come to me, or are referred by their doctors, and are still having some of the same symptoms. I'm not saying you will never have any symptoms by using just herbs because we have many other ways we can come in and just work with that, but it certainly will reduce the menopausal symptoms.

Again, when you get symptoms it's not just oestrogen it is whole blood, it's everything going on in your body. It's the fluid in your body, it's the blood volume, it is some many more things than just saying, well I'm deficient in oestrogen, if I put oestrogen or progesterone back in plant form or otherwise that is balancing it. You will always be working with the adrenals because those are your stress organs and as you reduce the stress, your reaction to life, then you are also helping to reduce symptoms. Women once they go into menopause are going to flush when they get upset or feel nervous just like some people blush, so some of these symptoms are just part of what is going on in our body, an expression of what we are doing.

When you are using Tang kuei I would start with small roots. The reason is that smaller roots are less oestrogenic and more able to allow your body to get used to this herb. It is a very strong herb if you have never cooked with it. To take it in a pill is totally different than cooking with it. The first time I tried it, I thought I had grown a tail, I felt my body in places that it wasn't there. It is very strong, and the smaller roots are not as strong, once you are used to this herb you will actually like it. You will be looking for the larger slices of it, you'd use the same amount as far as ounces in your brew, you can go to a larger herb or slices of that herb, once you are used to that herb, and the women who need less oestrogenic type herbs would stay with the smaller roots of Tang kuei.

We are going to add a tablespoon of wild yam root and that is one of those herbs that has the components that make it progesteronic. Basically wild yam is used for flatulence, it is used as a digestive. That is not far off what we are going to do here because some of the success of all the things that we are taking is what the liver is going to do with it. Part of the reason we are brewing it in water and not just taking it in a pill is because it makes it much less offensive to the liver and adding wild yam is going to make your brew much less offensive to the liver, and open that form up of digestion that is going to help produce a smooth flow of nutrients to the cells.

Wild yam is somewhat progesteronic and that is because is it a vegetable steroid. We are going to add a tablespoon of Vitex berries. These just happen to be native to Texas and I just had to put that in and these berries are very good at keeping hormonal balance going. Whatever it is that makes women this way that is what vitex is good at, just smoothing that out. You want to use a little bit of what you call a carrier and that is something to give emphasis to the formula, we are either going to use a 1/4 inch slice of ginger, you can use fresh ginger, you can use candied ginger it doesn't really matter, or if you like you can use licorice root. The difference between them is going to be this. Women who are prone to be hypertensive or who develop hypertension not necessarily because of menopause during those years, then they are going to want to use ginger. The women who are deficient, are skinny, are in any other way not hypertensive can use licorice.

Licorice is an excellent herb, you just use a little slice of it in your brew. Very good for removing any toxin that can come from using these combinations or any combinations of herbs. It is said to harmonise the centre. Which is what we want to do is get the body to receive what we are giving it. You can tincture your herbs by brewing them, just leaving these herbs in alcohol. You just get a mason jar, just a clear glass jar. If you put your herbs in there it is going to take about 2-3 weeks. You cover them in alcohol. I use flavoured brandy because my clients like that and it tastes better and I get requests for certain flavours sometimes. Or you can brew this again in your pot and have it ready within 30 minutes, keep it covered, you simmer it, you just gently simmer your formula and then in about 30 minutes you can strain it and you can start drinking it.

I suggest that you start at just a little bit at a time, there is no reason to rush. Too much at once might produce an over reaction of the body and then you might not want to try it another time. Try up to about 1/2 cup daily and you might find that the herbs are going to have an effect, that over a period of time you are going to get more effect than that 1/2 cup, but if you want to take 1/2 cup 2 or 3 times a day at first to abate symptoms that is fine. You're not going to overdo it because it is very much like a food quality here, and that quantity is not going to be too much.

If you still have night sweats and hot flushes and this does occur very often, this is a symptom of deficiency. The men I see who have taken chemotherapy and who have cancer and different diseases have just as much trouble with hot flushes and night sweats as women do during menopause, so again it is a symptom of deficiency, it is not necessarily just a symptom of menopause, but if it is bothering you, then what you want to do is make a tea with something as simple as your garden sage. I like you to use herbs that you can use at home because fortunately the Brits are good at growing herbs. I'm teaching a lot of people in Texas to get into it.

If you can grow any of these herbs that you are using they are going to have that much more effect because you have put all this love into it and you get to take it back and receive it as you make a brew with it. You take just a teaspoon of garden sage and again this is a leaf, you do not want to simmer it as much as you want to steep it in boiled water. When you have leaves and flowers like chamomile flowers you boil your water first, remove it from the heat, put your herb in there and cover it and let it steep for maybe 5 minutes and then you can let it steep longer if you like. Especially with chamomile you are trying to calm yourself down, then you strain out that portion and then you have your tea to drink. It is very important not to boil leaves and flowers, you are ruining all the vital oils that make them work so much. You can also add to this brew a teaspoon of hops and hops as a herb is very calming. It is mildly oestrogenic, interesting that we make beer with it and that men like it so much. Again it is something that is unisex but it will very much help to reduce night sweats and hot flushes.

During this time women will also have situations where they have anxiety, heart palpitations, sleep disturbances, even what we call hormonal headaches and so the next brew is going to address those symptoms.

Take a tablespoon of passion flower, you can use skullcapp or you can combine the two if you choose. Take 4 Lotus seeds – these are available in Oriental markets if you have not seen them otherwise and they are the fruit of the plant and they are very, very calming. It is a food, you can actually eat it after you have cooked these, and you can add a tablespoon of chamomile flowers and again you steep it in boiled water.

When there is decreased libido, another symptom supposedly of menopause, you would add to your basic brew, the first brew that we did, a tablespoon of Schizandra berries. When you are working with Schizandra berries you always have to soak them in cold water first for maybe an hour or maybe overnight. This removes all the tannic acids and then you strain the berries out and cook them and discard the water because you don't want to use that. Again you can tincture or you can cook. When you are tincturing you are just allowing it to sit in alcohol for 3 weeks, when you are going to cook your herbs, do so for 30 minutes.

The oestrogenic qualities of Tang kuei helps maintain the integrity of the hippocampal centre involved in memory.

When you have a problem with memory, like so many women start talking about memory being decreased, when oestrogen is reduced, then again you want to add the Schizandra berries that are soaked overnight to a basic brew. You could add a tablespoon of Ginkgo biloba and you could use this cut or powder. Sometimes I put Gotu kola because it grows very easily where I live. That is up to you. I have a note here that the vital oestrogens in a plant like Tang kuei, Angelica sinensis is very good for helping the memory centres and helping us to increase our memories.

There are hundreds of remedies in Mother Nature's Herbal, some are addressing women and some are addressing everything else.

I know it is a lot of trouble to brew but you can make up larger quantities of this like I am giving you a cup or something to brew. I take a whole crock pot and make up a 1/2 a gallon and then I freeze it in smaller containers. Once you get a brew going it is kinda like sour dough bread, it keeps perpetuating itself. If you are buying herbs that are encapsulated, at least you can take some of this information and put it together. You can take encapsulated herbs and take them out of the capsule and even steep them in hot water and get more benefit from that. It is the medium of water that makes these work so well, or alcohol. Alcohol pulls everything out of herbs.

If you don't freeze your brew it will last in the fridge for around 3 days, I'm only concerned about it moulding or something. I have had them in there for as long as a week without any trouble. Usually what I do for clients, is that when I make up a brew then I know, that is why I end up cooking at home for these people who don't have time to do this but I make up a larger portion and I will let it cook overnight in a crock pot and it cooks down and it becomes quite dense. The volume is greater, it's not as watery. You can take that and you can hold it in alcohol and you take your fluid that you strained and you add a third of the amount of alcohol. If you have a cup of brew, of herbal and you add a third of a cup of brandy, or vodka or gin or some kind of alcohol to it and that will hold it. It will hold it indefinitely and we have people, I go all over the world with brews like this to take and it works.
     Avoid garlic and spicy food to reduce symptoms of heat in the uterus.
     Add alfalfa, clover, spinach, and greens to the diet.

These are some symptoms people have throughout menopause. Some of these herbs I'm mentioning are Chinese and you all have in London a very good source of Chinese herbs so you should be able to get these very simply. One of them is Tienchi powder and this is Panaxpseudoginseng and this is excellent for any kind of heart trouble or heavy uterine bleeding like this. It is very good for that, and Shepherd's purse. Shepherd's purse by itself will stop uterine bleeding. It is a haemostatic that will stop almost any kind of haemorrhaging.

One thing to make sure of when you are using a herb like this is that you don't have fibroids or some other situation. I've worked with a lot of people that will just take care of themselves and they don't always go to the doctor and if you are having heavy uterine bleeding, that is the sign that you need to go to the doctor and make sure it is nothing else. You may be able to stop the symptoms with Shepherd's purse but you don't want to overlook anything else that may be going one. So if you want to make a whole combination or you could just use the Shepherd's purse to stop heavy uterus bleeding and that is one of the things that help women deficient in a hurry. Interestingly enough you can be iron deficient and bleed harder very often than if not, the body is creating more of a deficiency in a sense and you have to work first of all to stop the bleeding and then you can build up the blood with some of your other herbs. You can use again your Chaste tree berries your vitex berries to help balance the body so it doesn't go in to such heavy uterus bleeding and you can use False unicorn root which is a herb that is excellent for reducing uterus atrophy.

I listed some other herbs that are very good, it just depends on which ones you can get hold of: Radix Rehmannia glutinosa is an excellent herb for reducing hot flushes for reducing uterine bleeding. When I have women going through chemotherapy and their doctors say absolutely not, even any vital oestrogens, I can use Radix Rehmannia glutinosa, to stop most of their detrimental symptoms of Tamoxifen and all the other things they are taking, by using this herb, so it can be very beneficial and it's not very oestrogenic even as a vital oestrogen so if that is something that concerns you, this would be an excellent herb to do that. You can use Red Raspberry leaves to help tonify the uterus and if you so choose you can use Yarrow leaf to stop bleeding, it reduces haemorrhaging.

Yarrow is toxic and if it is used in large quantities over a period of time it can be detrimental to use, so I would suggest, either just use a little bit, or use it as a compress. If you are familiar with how to make a compress, you make a herb, Yarrow grows all over the place. Here you can just go pick some growing out in the wild. You can bruise it, which means run it under hot water and squeeze the leaves and get the vital oils available and you just apply it to your abdomen, or you could brew it like a tea and take it and strain it, and when it cools off enough, apply it with a clean rag to the uterine area and it will stop bleeding that way.

If you are having heavy bleeding, it is a sign that you need to reduce certain foods from your diet, and that would be your garlic and your heavy mass of ginger and real hot spicy foods. Garlic in your hot spicy foods bring as an herb, they bring heat down, which is detrimental if you are having heavy bleeding. You have to reduce or get rid of those foods, at least during that time, or it can exacerbate those symptoms.

For unnatural menopause due to chemotherapy and oestrogen blocker, you may: Delete Tang kuei and substitute 2 tablespoons Radix Rehmannia glutinosa prepared to reduce night sweats, uterine bleeding. Tang kuei is oestrogenic, and may not be allowed by your doctor.

Note: Heart disease, stroke, bone loss, vaginal dryness, and memory loss are accelerated by (lack of oestrogen) menopause. Only delete Tang kuei if asked by your physician or health care practitioner. Add soy bean products and flaxseed oil or tea to reduce the above symptoms. Heart disease affects 1 in 4 menopausal woman.


We talked about women who are taking chemotherapy for some reason or another. They can still use herbs to help reduce their symptoms, and again we are not just talking about oestrogens we are talking about keeping the skin beautiful inside and out to keep radiant health, to keep peace of mind, to keep an open heart, these are all the things that we can do with herbs. We can use again the Radix Rehmannia glutinosa, this is Chinese foxglove, it is a relative of the foxglove that grows here. It is not toxic the way the Chinese prepare it, and you can use that and delete the Tang kuei which is your most oestrogenic type herb.

If you need to, or if for some reason want to, I've worked with a lot of women who have such a high incidence of breast cancer in their family, or they have had breast cancer before, that they or their doctor don't feel comfortable in having any oestrogenic, even vital oestrogenic in their diet and remember any of your ginseng family is also oestrogenic. These are herbs that at least know what they do and what they are in your body and how it is going affect them and then you can make better decisions on whether to use them or not. The Radix Rehmannia glutinosa can be used to reduce many of the symptoms that you're having from menopause without ever having to use anything oestrogenic if you so choose.

During menopause we've been told we have situations that happen to our vessels that make the flow of blood to our hearts decrease. I'm not sure that is necessarily just from lack of oestrogen but the research and how it's been proven, indicates that there are herbs again that we could use to help relax the coronary arteries that Dr Lee was talking about. Relaxing the coronary arteries and the research blames oestrogen, but again I wrote medical research for years, and you could prove whatever you want, it's just how you write and how you draw the line on that. You can again use your Tang kuei, your most vital oestrogenic herb to relax the coronary arteries and you can use your Gotu kola leaves to help promote circulation and it helps to cleanse the liver.

You've got to remember that we've got to keep the liver working well. Dr Smallbone was talking about how the liver is processing all these things, so we have to keep the liver working in optimal condition or you are going to have more symptoms of menopause whether you take all of these things we're talking about or not, so to have optimal health you have to keep that liver working. You can also put Hawthorne berries in with your brew and that is an excellent cardiac tonic. When I'm talking about tonics I'm talking about herbs that can be used for a long period of time without toxic or detrimental effect so these are very safe to use.

We are going to combine Ho shou wu, that is an excellent herb for producing strong bones and it is very anti-arthritic so it has very many good qualities to it. We can make a combination with that, and again it is available in Chinese stores. With Oatstraw and the White peony and some Schizandra berries will make a very good brew for the bones. It will help the bones and the skin.

If you do have breast tenderness or fibrocystic disease then something as simple as dandelion leaves in the brew is going to be very beneficial for that and dandelions have a very balanced mineral content and it is very good for alleviating congestion in the liver and enabling the liver to detox through the kidneys which is the natural form for it to do. It is very mild.

Some women have gallbladder dysfunction during the menopause time, whether that is caused by menopause or again some other bad diet, or whatever else we have been doing for a long time. Bring back your wild yam roots which is an excellent herb for rejuvenating that and relieving the symptoms of gallbladder disease which is fullness here and the pain that comes up the arm and women will have trouble with burping and just really feel full and uncomfortable.

If you do have weight gain during the menopausal time, that seems to be something natural. I didn't. I thought for sure I'd gain some weight but nothing happened. You can use chickweed which is a very simple herb that you can use to help reduce cellulite whether you are thin or heavy. It will help reduce cellulite and will help balance and maintain a good weight. So I know I gave you a lot of information, but I'd rather give you something to go home and brew than just talk about how good herbs are because we already know that. Thank you

Goodman: I think Judy has given us a lot to think about, not least of which is perhaps a showdown later on in the afternoon about oestrogenic herbs and cardiac symptoms. It seems to me that herbal medicine and nutritional medicine, and conventional medicine speak different languages, and it sometimes is quite difficult to relate to the way in which things are expressed and one can just compare it to another. However, we are about to go on to another discipline with yet another language and with this we are coming to the final speaker in this mid afternoon session and this is Beth MacEoin.


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About Judy Griffin, Ph.D.


  • For Hot Flushes, Night Sweats, Fatigue, Depression and Mental Clarity Rejuvenating Menopause Tonic

    • 2 Tablespoons Black Cohosh roots (1 oz) (Cimicifugaracemosa)
    • 2 small Tang kuei roots (1 oz)
    • 1 tablespoon Wild Yam Root (Dioscorea villosa)
    • 1 tablespoon Agnes vitex berries
    • 1/4 teaspoon (1/4 slice) ginger or licorice root

    Tincture in 2-3 cups brandy for 1 month; strain, dilute – 1 teaspoon 1 or 2 times daily
    Simmer in 2 cups water, covered, 30 minutes before straining – Sip 1/2 cup daily


    To Abate Night Sweats or Hot Flushes

    • 1 teaspoon garaden sage steeped in 1 cup boiled water
    • Steep 1 teaspoon hops covered 5 to 10 minutes in boiled water.

    Strain and sip. Hops is mildly oestrogenic.

    To Reduce Anxiety, Heart Palpitations, Sleep Disturbances, Headaches

    • 1 tablespoon passion flower or skullcapp
    • 4 Lotus seeds
    • 1 tablespoon chamomile flowers

    Steep in 1 cup boiled water, covered 10 minutes.
    Strain and sip


    For Decreased Libido

    • Add 1 tablespoon Schizandra berries to the rejuvenating tonic.

    Soak the berries overnight, or at least one hour in cold water to remove tannic acid. Discard water. Tincture or cook as a tonic.


    For Increased Memory and Cognitive Function


    Add to the rejuvenating tonic:
    • 1 tablespoon Schizandra berries (soaked overnight)
    • 1 tablespoon Ginkgo biloba cut or powdered


    For Heavy Bleeding and Irregular Bleeding. Uterine Atrophy


    Add to the rejuvenating tonic:
    • 1 tablespoon Tienchi powder (uncooked) (Panaxpseudoginseng)
    • 1 tablespoon Shepherd's purse (Capsella bursa pastoris)
    • 1 teaspoon Chaste tree berries (Agnus vitex) for hormonal balance
    • 1 teaspoon False unicorn root (Chamaelirium letium) reduces uterine atrophy

    Optional: The following herbs may be added to or substituted for the above ingredients
    • 1 tablespoon Radix Rehmannia glutinosa reduces heavy bleeding
    • 1 tablespoon Red Raspberry leaves (Rubus species) tonifies the uterus
    • 1 teaspoon Yarrow leaves (Achillea millefolium) reduces haemorrhaging. Note: Yarrow is toxic in large doses; not for prolonged use

    Simmer the above ingredients 30 minutes in 2 cups of water, covered. Remove from heat. Add raspberry and yarrow leaves at this time. Steep 10 more minutes.
    Strain and sip 1/2 cup two times daily, only when heavy bleeding occurs.


    To Increase Blood Flow to the Heart

    • 2 tablespoon Tang kuei (relaxes coronary arteries)
    • 1 tablespoon Gotu kola (Hydrocotyle asiatica) to cleanse the liver and relax vascularity
    • 1 tablespoon Hawthorne berries (Crataegus species) increases circulation, heart tonic.

    Simmer Tang kuei and Hawthorne berries in 2 cups of water for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, add Gotu kola leaves. Steep 10 – 15 minutes. Strain and sip 1/2 cup daily.


    To Reduce Dry Skin and Brittle Bones

    Combine or add to the rejuvenating tonic:
    • 1 tablespoon HO shou wu (Polygonum multiflora) "foti"
    • 1 tablespoon Oatstraw
    • 1 tablespoon Paeonia alba (White peony root)
    • 1 tablespoon Schizandra berries soaked overnight and drained

    Simmer in 2 cups of water for 30 minutes, covered.
    Strain and sip 1/2 cup daily


    Breast Tenderness, Fibrocystic Disease

    Add 2 teaspoons of dandelion leaf to the rejuvenating tonic.

    Water Retention

    • Add 1 tablespoon Lovage Root (Ligusticum levisticum) to the rejuvenating tonic or simmer in 1 cup of water – 30 minutes. Strain





    Gallbladder Dysfunction

    • Add 2 teaspoons Wild yam root to the rejuvenating tonic or simmer in 1 cup of water 30 minutes. Strain and sip

    Weight Gain

    • Add 2 teaspoons chickweed and
    • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds to the rejuvenating tonic

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