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Menopause - Natural Approaches

by Eileen Inge Herzberg and Sandra Goodman PhD(more info)

listed in women's health, originally published in issue 11 - April 1996

Overview

The socio-political, spiritual and medical issues thrown up by the Menopause have been addressed in recent years by a number of high-powered authors who have produced substantive treatises to which readers are referred for additional information.[1-5]

Natural approaches using a variety of complementary therapies to alleviate menopausal symptoms are known and can be exceedingly effective for both constitutional and symptomatic clinical treatment of menopausal symptoms. It cannot be stressed strongly enough that readers should never self-medicate – every person is a unique individual with their own particular condition – the best course of action is to initially seek out a trained practitioner in whatever discipline is chosen and to be open to explore a variety of natural modalities.

Aromatherapy

Certain essential oils can be very effectively used to alleviate menopausal symptoms as follows:6
Oils which modulate hormonal production
Lemon, Pine, Bitter Orange, Sandalwood, Lavender, Cypress, Clary Sage, Geranium, Rose Otto, Roman Chamomile and True Melissa;
Massage Oil for hormonal regulation:
2 drops Rose Otta and Sandalwood
3 drops Bitter Orange and Cypress
30 ml/5 tsp carrier oil

Hot flashes/flushes
One of Rose Otto, Roman Chamomile or True Melissa oils, combined with Clary Sage or Sandalwood, along with Peppermint for its cooling properties.

Chinese Medicines

Chinese medicine sees the menopause as nature’s way of prolonging life by conserving the women’s jing or “primal essence”. We’re born with a limited supply, and we die when it’s used up. Men lose jing in semen, women lose it in menstrual blood until menopause. Menopausal symptoms are viewed as an imbalance in energy (or qi) which is often caused by a deficiency in yin energy.

Chinese herbalists use yin tonics to boost this waning feminine energy. The main yin tonic is the herb Rehmannia glutinosa (Shu Di Huang), which can be bought at Chinese supermarkets. Its roots are dark and sticky with a pleasing sweet taste.

Chinese herbs are often prescribed in combination with other herbs to enhance their action and minimise side effects. Rehmannia is usually given with five other herbs in the form of Liu Wei Di Huang Wan (Rehmannia Six formula). This calms the nervous system, regulates hormone function, lowers blood sugar, blood pressure and improves kidney function. In Chinese medicine kidney function includes the sex glands (including  ovaries) and the adrenal glands (which are on top of the kidneys).

Two sedative herbs are added to Rehmannia Six formula – hence “Eight Flavour Tea” or Zhi Bal Ba Wei Wan,  a common Chinese remedy for menopausal symptoms.

Chinese medicine is concerned with balance – so where there is a severe shortage of yin this may cause a relative excess in yang energy which is masculine, hot, light and mobile. This may result in hot flushes to the head, headaches, dizziness and irritability which can be helped by Qi Ju Du Huang Wan (Chrysanthemum and Lycii).

Xiao Yao Wan contains Chai hu (Bupleureum or hare’s ear), the main herb for liver qi stagnation in Chinese medicine. This Chinese remedy helps to counter anger, irritability, bad temper and sore breasts and is also a good remedy for PMS.

You Gui Wan (another Rehmannia based blend) is used where there is coldness, lack of energy and reduced sex drive.

Tien Wan Pu Hsin Tang or Emperor Tea is used for nervousness, insomnia and dream-disturbed sleep. This is an ancient remedy for nourishing the Shen, or spirit.

Gui Pi Tang may be used to soothe the nerves, nourish the heart and invigorate the spleen. It contains Ginseng as well as Dang Gui (Chinese Angelica) which is sometimes called “woman’s ginseng” and is the main herb used in Chinese medicine for menstrual irregularities, particularly when periods are heavy during the menopause.

Yunnan Bal Yao can be used for excessive bleeding. Its exact formula is a Chinese state secret, but its main active ingredient is a type of Ginseng called Panax Notoginseng, which can both stop bleeding and dissolve clots, depending on what is needed

Osteoporosis

There are a number of Chinese remedies used to prevent and treat osteoporosis; these include the herb He Shou Wu (Polygonum multifolium or Chinese Cornbind), which reduces blood cholesterol levels and has rejuvenating properties.

Eleutherococcus or Siberian Ginseng, again for osteoporosis, also nourishes the liver and kidneys. Its properties help to counter rheumatic, stress and fatigue conditions. It also works to normalise blood sugar levels, stimulate the immune system and is a good overall tonic.

Many Chinese remedies are available in inexpensive pill form and can be bought in the West. But they should only be taken on the advice of someone who has trained in Chinese medicine because the wrong remedy can make symptoms worse. For instance, if a yang tonic is taken when a yin tonic is needed, the imbalance between yin and yang may be exacerbated. The herbs are usually given over a course of three months, which is repeated with intervals of two or three months between treatment.

Acupuncture

Acupuncture can be particularly effective at dealing with pain during menopause and its relaxing effect is helpful when there are also headaches, anxiety and insomnia.

Acupressure (Shiatsu)

Works on the body’s meridians (energy channels) in a similar way to acupuncture – but uses fingertip pressure rather than needles.

Although it’s fairly easy to use acupressure as a self-help tool, it is best to consult a qualified practitioner who can give you a treatment and show you the best points to use on yourself.

Qigong

Like Shiatsu, Qigong is both a treatment and a method of self help. It consists of physical exercises and postures, methods of regulating breath and meditative techniques which are designed to balance yin and yang energies, strengthen qi and regulate the flow of qi through the meridians. In China it is used to treat menopausal symptoms and generally slow down or even reverse the ageing process. Traditional Chinese doctors use Qigong to treat a wide range of complaints and many Chinese hospitals have departments of Qigong. Qigong is growing in the West.

Flower Essences[5,7]

The Bach Flower remedies can help women with the emotional shifts of menopause. Any of the 38 remedies may be helpful at different times;
Walnut for times of great change and to assist during major life transitions;
Wild Oat for women at a crossroads in life and are uncertain of their direction.
Californian Flower Essences
Tiger Lily helps to balance the masculine and feminine, enabling women to integrate masculine energies;
Buttercup for feelings of low self-esteem and being undervalued.
Hibiscus for lack of sexual warmth and vitality.
Henna to help accept life’s changes.
Mallow for fear of ageing. By conferring a sense of dignity, it helps to make the menopausal transition easier.
Australian Flower Essences
Until recently these were used solely by the aboriginal people of Australia.
She Oak (Casuarina Tree) acts upon the ovaries, helping to regulate and rebalance hormone levels, which can alleviate many of the physical symptoms of the menopause.
Mulla-mulla, a flower from the hottest part of the Australian desert, is an excellent treatment for “hot” conditions such as hot flushes, especially if combined with She Oak.
Bottlebrush  for major life transitions such as the menopause.
Peach Flowered Tea Tree for fear of ageing and for the regulation of blood sugar levels.
Illawarra Flame Tree for menopausal symptoms and feelings of rejection.
Five Corners for fear of psychic phenomena or psychic powers. When the ovaries cease producing oestrogen the pituitary gland becomes very active and produces large amounts of the hormones FSH and LH which can result in a surge in spiritual and psychic awareness. Five corners helps women who fear this increased perception.

Himalayan Flower Essences

A combination of Ukshi, Red Hibiscus, Ixora and Cannon Ball Tree, used at the menopause, helps to enhance sexual vitality and warmth in relationships.

Herbal Medicine5,8

Agnus Castus
This is a herbal version of hormone replacement therapy. It contains oestrogen-like substances, and it also has a normalizing effect on hormone production, especially progesterone. It can be an aphrodisiac for women – but has the opposite effect on men. Monks used to sprinkle it on food to help them keep chastity vows – hence it’s also called chaste tree and monks pepper.
Red Sage Salvia Officinalis
Red sage is another natural HRT – it contains oestrogen-like substances and is a traditional treatment for infertility. It also contains vitamins and has antiseptic properties. Although it’s helpful for most menopausal symptoms, its drying properties make it less suitable for women who suffer from vaginal dryness. Easy to grow, it is an ideal self-help herb.
False Unicorn Root (Helonias) Chamaelirium luteum
A tonic for the female reproductive system. Its active ingredients are oestrogen precursors, which regulate hormonal functions.
Black Cohosh (Black Snake Root, Squaw Root) Cimicifuga racemosa
An oestrogenic herb with a balancing effect on female sex hormones, particularly useful for arthritis and muscular pain, anxiety and mental tension accompanying the menopause.
Chamomile Matricaria chamomilla
Well known for its relaxing qualities, it is helpful for the anxiety, tension and s!eepiessness which so often accompanies menopause. Chamomile contains a readily absorbable form of calcium and it’s also used for painful periods and mastitis
Motherwort Leonurus cardiaca
This herb was used by the ancient Greeks to treat anxiety in pregnant women, hence its common name. It contains the alkaloids leonurine and stachydine and regulates uterine muscles which is useful for painful periods. During menopause, its sedative and relaxing effect is particularly useful for women who are tense and nervous. It also is known for reducing heart palpitations.
St John’s Wort (Hypericum pefforutum) has a sedative, pain-relieving effect and may also be useful for irritability, anxiety and pain during menopause.
Beth Root (Squaw Root) (Trillium erectum)
The North American Indians used this plant as an aphrodisiac. Its drying qualities make it helpful in stopping excessive uterine bleeding, particularly when used along with Golden Seal (Hydrastis canadensis). In cases of excessive bleeding, consult your doctor for diagnosis – then visit your herbalist, homoeopath or acupuncturist.

The following useful herbal mixture can help balance the body, and reduce the frequency and severity of hot flushes, and should be drunk as a tea three times per day for a few months:[8]

Chasteberry    2 parts
Wild Yam    2 parts
Black Cohosh    1 part
Golden Seal    1 part
Life Root    1 part
Oats        1 part
St Johns’ Wort    1 part

If for some reason you can’t have HRT –   then you shouldn’t have herbal HRT either. In this case it might be advisable to try treatment with flower essences, homoeopathy or acupuncture.


Homeopathy[5,9]

Menopause has such a fundamental effect upon all aspects of health and well-being that constitutional treatment from a homoeopath is particularly recommended.
Constitutional Remedies At Menopause:
Sepia (cuttlefish ink)
Sepia for depression and dejection, as if the woman were under a black cloud of gloom, similar to the black cloud of the ink the cuttle fish produces. It may also be helpful for heavy bleeding, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.
Women who respond well to Sepia are often thin, tired, weepy and pale, feel better for exercise, particularly dancing and tend to perspire easily.

Pulsatilla
Pulsatilla is particularly effective in cases where the woman is excessively weepy and in need of consolation. They are often fair with blue eyes and traditionally have a gentle, yielding, disposition. They feel better in the open air, have changeable moods, and  laugh or cry easily. Pulsatilla is often used for leucorrhoea (vaginal discharge) and for non-specific changes in the cervical smear.

Sulphur
For hot flushes. The sulphur type is untidy, introspective and fond of sweet and fatty foods.

Hot Flush Remedies
Glonoine (glyceryl trinitrate) for hot flushes accompanied by a throbbing in the head.
Amyl nitrite for hot flushes which come on very suddenly and are accompanied by headaches, anxiety and palpitations.
Aurum Metallicum (metallic gold) for hot flushes associated with melancholia and suicidal thoughts.
Graphites for flushing, particularly where it affects the face. There is often a tendency to put on weight and nosebleeds may occur.
Belladonna (foxglove) for hot flushes affecting the head and face, particularly with redness, congestion and sweating face.
Staphisagria where menopausal symptoms are accompanied by feelings of resentment.
Phosphorus for excessive bleeding, especially in women who have a tendency to bleed easily. Sepia and Pulsatilla are also good remedies for heavy bleeding (see earlier).
Murex prepared from a sea mollusc – known as sexy Sepia - is particularly useful when the menopause is complicated by PMS with soreness of the breasts and water retention.
Lilium Tigrium (the tiger lily) for menopausal symptoms associated with a feeling of vaginal prolapse and a sensation of pressing down in the bladder, vagina and rectum.
Bryonia for dryness of the vagina and thinning of its walls.
Ignatia for globus hystericus, a sensation of having a lump in the throat.
Folliculinum is a new homoeopathic remedy, potentised from synthetic oestrogen, so it may be useful for treating adverse reactions to HRT. It is suitable for the woman who feels dominated by someone and feels drained, losing sense of herself. Easily upset and hypersensitive, she may experience panic attacks, dizziness, irregular menstrual cycles and flooding. Folliculinum is good for hot flushes and night sweats, especially where these are accompanied by restlessness and hypersensitivity.

Reflexology[10,11]

Reflexology can help to alleviate many menopausal symptoms and to make the transition bearable. Sessions, lasting from 20-30 minutes, can be given twice weekly:
Direct reflex points – ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, pituitary.
Associated reflex points – thyroid, adrenals, head, ears, digestive areas.

Conclusions

As the baby boomer population continues to age and progress through the Menopause, our choices of natural products and approaches will exert a powerful influence – financially and politically – upon the medical profession and pharmaceutical industry. Having experienced earlier disasters with hormones – the Pill, DES, and the recently discovered decline in male fertility and rise in testicular and prostate cancers allegedly linked to oestrogenic environmental chemicals – women of a mature age will be wise if they prefer to adopt natural and side-effect free treatments for menopausal symptoms.

References

1. Greer G. The Change: Women, Ageing and the Menopause. Hamish Hamilton Ltd. 1991.
2. Sheehy G. The Silent Passage: Menopause. Random House. 1991.
3. Coney S. The Menopause Industry. The Women’s Press. 1991.
4. Kenton L. Passage to Power: Natural Menopause Revolution. Ebury Press. 1995.
5. Hall J & Jacobs R. Menopause Matters: A Practical Approach to Midlife Change. Element. 1995.
6. Price S. Aromatherapy for Common Ailments. Gaia. 1991.
7. Harvey C and Cochrane A. The Encyclopaedia of Flower Remedies. Thorsons. 1995.
8. Hoffmann D. The New Holistic Herbal. Element Books Ltd. 1983.
9. Lockie A. The Family Guide to Homeopathy. Hamish Hamilton Ltd. 1989.
10. Norman L and Cowan T. The Reflexology Handbook: A Complete Guide. Piatkus. 1988.
11. Hall N. Reflexology: A Way to Better Health. Gateway Books. 1992.

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About Eileen Inge Herzberg and Sandra Goodman PhD

Eileen Inge Herzberg and Sandra Goodman PhD. Eileen Inge Herzberg is the problem page editor for Here’s Health and is a freelance journalist and author, She has written several books including The Natural Way with Migraine (Element) £3.99.

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