What is the Menopause?
Menopause literally means “stopping menstruation” and is the end of a woman’s reproductive life. This is caused by reduced production of sex hormones. A woman is considered to be menopausal one year after the date of her last period. For most, this is between the ages of 45 and 51. However, weight can affect the age a woman experiences menopause. Slender women often have an earlier menopause than those who are overweight, because fat cells help maintain high oestrogen levels.
Menopausal symptoms are generally due to a lack of oestrogen. These can include the following;
- Hot flushes
- Joint pain
- Lack of concentration
- Mood swings
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
Natural menopause remedies will help the body to balance hormones and adapt to changes, helping to reduce the frequency and severity of hot flushes. As a general rule, treatment times vary from 6 to 18 months, but in some cases may be necessary for a few years. The healthier the patient’s adrenal status (their ability to deal with stress) the shorter the duration of treatment required.
Natural alternatives to HRT
Almost exclusively the conventional treatment for menopausal symptoms is hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and many symptoms, especially hot flushes, respond well to this treatment. However, there have been concerns recently over its long term safety, prompting many women to seek alternatives to HRT. For example, Black Cohosh has been used in Europe for over 40 years as an alternative to HRT, reducing uncomfortable symptoms associated with menopause.
Many women who are unable to, or choose not to take HRT opt to visit a Medical Herbalist for support during the menopausal years. As symptoms vary from person to person it is advisable to arrange a consultation. This allows any herbal medicine to be tailored for the individual and to deal with their specific situation.
Remedies for the menopause
These are some classic herbs (from a long list) that have long been used in combination as remedies for the menopause. Many of these are herbs that contain steroidal saponins and are very successful in the treatment and management of menopausal symptoms. These herbs are Wild Yam, Black Cohosh, Shatavari and Tribulus.
Steroidal Saponins and how they work
In the low oestrogen state of peri-menopause (the period of a woman’s life shortly before the occurrence of the menopause).and post-menopause, these herbs probably ease the symptoms of oestrogen withdrawal through the binding of these steroidal saponins to available receptors in the hypothalamus. Because some menopausal symptoms are thought to be triggered via the hypothalamus (especially hot flushes), this selective binding could be enough to reduce symptoms by convincing the body that there is more oestrogen present in the blood than there actually is.
Wild Yam is one of the best herbs for the treatment of menopausal problems, especially useful where there are also rheumatic or arthritic problems.
Black Cohosh has its use in hot flushes, night sweats, mood swings, joint pain and low libido.
Shatavari an Ayurvedic herb translated, which when its name is translated means “She who has the capacity for a hundred husbands” It is used both a general and female reproductive tonic. Shatavari is used for sexual debility and infertility in both male and female. It is also used for menopausal symptoms and to increase lactation (milk production).
Tribulus included for its beneficial effects on hot flushes, sweating and insomnia.
Sage has a cooling effect and is therefore very useful for night sweats and hot flushes. Sage also contains plant oestrogens, which also helps the body adapt to the hormonal changes involved.
St. John’s Wort, Skullcap or Valerian can both help with anxiety and depression if this is also an issue.
Vitex Agnus Castus also known as chaste tree, is used for PMS like symptoms during peri-menopause.
About the author: Patricia Ferguson is a Consultant Medical Herbalist and the owner of Greenleaves Herbal Healthcare, a Herbal medicine practice in South London, near Croydon. For help with your menopause book a consultation at Greenleaves Herbal Healthcare.