The Wisdom of Aging: Treating Menopause Naturally
Posted: May 20th, 2011
By Elaine Sheff
There is no more creative force in the world than the menopausal woman with zest.
As we learn more about the risks of hormone replacement therapy, it is an exciting time to explore herbal remedies for menopause. Menopause is not a disease. It is not an illness and does not need, nor have, a cure. Like puberty, the hormonal changes during menopause are not always necessarily pleasant or easy and can get out of balance. Nevertheless, menopause is a natural phase of a woman’s life cycle.
It is natural for perimenopausal women to experience body changes and menopausal symptoms throughout this time. These can include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, flooding and irregular menstruation. However, menopause does not have to be a time of discomfort. Herbs can be wonderful allies to the menopausal woman.
Firstly, let’s talk about the prevention of possible problems. Exercise encourages bone strength, cardiovascular health and maximizes production and use of hormones in the body. Getting enough sleep, play time and keeping stress levels low all add to overall health and wellbeing.
Good reproductive health earlier in life can lead to a more pleasant menopause. If a woman experiences cramps, PMS or other reproductive imbalances earlier in life, that is the time to start working on reproductive and hormonal health. The woman who enters menopause with a good history of hormonal balance is ahead of the game when it comes to menopausal symptoms.
Following are a few of the many herbs that can assist the menopausal woman.
• Evening Primrose Oil (Oenothera biennis) is anti-inflammatory making it useful for pain, inflammation and arthritis. It is high in gamma linolenic acids, which are helpful in regulating hormonal balance. Evening Primrose Oil reduces menstrual cramps, mood swings, depression and breast tenderness.
• Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis) helps night sweats, cold sweats and hot flashes. It is useful in relieving menstrual cramps and flooding.
• Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus) is also called Chaste Tree Berry. Vitex is one of the finest hormonal balancers. It stabilizes progesterone fluctuations and decreases flooding. Vitex can be used to help reduce hot flashes, dizziness, PMS and mood swings. It has also been used for fibroids and endometriosis
• Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus), previously called Siberian Ginseng, is wonderful for overcoming stress and fatigue. It rejuvenates the reproductive system and encourages hormonal balance.
• Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis) encourages blood flow to the reproductive system to nourish and support reproductive health. It is high in minerals, especially iron. Dong Quai helps to encourage menstruation if it is coming on slowly. Do not use Dong Quai during menstruation if experiencing flooding.
• Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) is antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and relaxing making it useful for arthritis, painful joints and cramping. It contains estrogen-like constituents (not actually estrogen) to help with hormonal balance and reduce hot flashes. Do not use Black Cohosh with extreme low blood pressure.
• Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) is calming and relaxing to the nervous system, making it useful for nervousness and irritability. It is a uterine tonic and can be used to strengthen the reproductive system. As a cardiac tonic, Motherwort is useful in reducing heart palpitations. It is a digestive aid and is wonderful for hot flashes.
• Oat Seed (Avena spp.) is one of the finest tonics for the nervous system. It is a calming herb for periods of stress and agitation. Oat Seed can be used to wean from addictions from speedy substances such as cigarettes or coffee. Dosage: 10 – 20 drops of fresh Oat Seed tincture up to five times a day. Dry Oats do not work in the same way. Dry Oat Straw tea is high in many minerals including calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin, silicon, sodium, and vitamin A.
Following are some helpful herbal recipes that I have developed over the years.
Hot Flash Tincture:
1 part Wild Yam
1 part Licorice
2 parts Black Cohosh
1 part Vitex
1 part Eleuthero (Siberian Ginseng)
1 part Dong Quai
2 parts Sage
2 parts Motherwort
Dosage: 30 – 90 drops three times a day. This formula can also be used as symptomatic relief when a hot flash is coming on.
Estrogen Encouragement Therapy Tincture:
2 parts Eleuthero
2 parts Black Cohosh
1 part Vitex
1 part Dong Quai
2 parts Red Clover
1 part Fennel
Dosage: 30 – 90 drops three times a day.
Bone Support Tea:
1 part Peppermint
1 part Nettles
1 part Oat Straw
1 part Chamomile
1 part Horsetail
1 part Red Clover
1 part Alfalfa
Dosage: 1 tablespoon herb mixture per cup of hot water. Drink up to three cups of this nutritive tea a day.
A healthy diet is crucial in any phase of life. Some general suggestions for the menopausal woman include eating nuts and seeds, leafy green vegetables, whole grains and beans. Seaweeds are an especially beneficial food as they are high in Calcium, Iron and most trace minerals. Avoid all but small amounts of alcohol, sugar, caffeine, white flour, salt and refined and processed foods.
Menopause is a time of powerful change for many women. It can also be a time of renewed vigor and health. My hope is that we as a culture can learn to view menopausal women, and the age of wisdom that they possess, with the respect and value this time of life deserves. It is time to honor the wisdom of aging.