Menopause is the transition in a woman’s life that marks the end of the reproductive activity of fertility, and the beginning of a new kind of creative period in her life.
The reproductive energy (qi) is now freed up and can be re-routed into other parts of the body-mind to be used for projects and endeavours. From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the Kidney energetic system controls the developmental cycles in Human Life. (Kapchuk, 1983) The cycles are seven year periods in a woman’s life and eight year periods in a man’s life.
The Ideal age for menstruation to terminate is 49 years old. This correlates to 7 periods of 7 year cycles. The end of the first cycle is marked by the loss of the baby teeth and the growth of the permanent teeth, which is around age 7 for girls and age 8 for boys. The end of the second cycle of 7 years is marked by the onset of menstruation at around age 14 , and the secondary sex characteristics in a male around age 16; the change of voice, a growth spurt, and bone changes in the skeletal system, most visually noticed in the angular jaw. At age 21, the female reproductive system reaches maturation and sustains this state for a full 3 cycles, age 21-42. From Age 42 through 49, the reproductive strength is declining before the end of the fertile phase.
During this transition, the ovarian output of hormonal secretion diminishes, causing some of the classic signs and symptoms of menopause: Hot flashes, irritability, insomnia, and night sweats. This is a classic configuration of Kidney Yin Deficiency Heat, according to the edicts of TCM. An important message is communicated to the adrenal glands during this critical phase. The lack of estrogen due to ovarian diminishment triggers the adrenals to take on the burden and the entire endocrine system to shift. If stress has been a predominant factor chronically in a woman’s life, the adrenal glands may be too depleted to accept the challenge, making a smooth adjustment impossible. The Menopausal Symptoms will be more severe and persist longer than is expected.
It is very important to take care of your adrenal glands during your lifetime in order to experience a smoother ride through menopause. There are many tests that can be performed to check hormone levels. The Female Hormone Panel – 11 is the one I have found to be the most helpful for the patient and the clinician. It is the most definitive in assessing the fluctuating patterns of each of the hormones during the course of the monthly cycle. External sources of “natural or bio-identical” replacement can assist a woman through this phase is carefully monitored doses. However, if the greatest source of hormones are from external supplementing or replacing, then there is a risk that the body does not adjust and make the transition normally. There may be an artificial dependence on these external sources of hormones.
It is important that a woman learn all she can about all her options for feeling better. In the Traditional Chinese Medical Model, Plant herbs are used to smooth the transition process. Finding the right combination or approach/es is the goal. The Silver lining in this quest, is that a woman can become much more in tune with her body as she learns what she responds to and what she doesn’t. Regardless, an open dialog with her primary care provider is essential to help monitor progress and avoid complications and needless adverse reactions.
In the last section we will go over the various therapeutic approaches that have helped women with this transition for over 5000 years of recorded herbal observations:
The Formulas designed for menopausal symptom relief:
Lui Wei Di Huang Wan:
This formula is a classic TCM Herbal formula. It is the basis for modern formulas which are customized to fit a patient’s constitutional strengths and weakness and symptom profile by a TCM Herbalist. Menopausal Symptoms can include: Night Sweats, Hot flashes, weakness in the lower back, dry throat, burning or dark scanty urine, vertigo, tinnitus, impotence, vaginal dryness, hypertension, irritability, insomnia, and neurasthenia. This formula is commonly used to support the health of diabetic patients and other expressions of loss of Vital Fluids (Yin) nad depletion of deep reserves (Jing). One the Yin becomes depleted, the Yang Energy (Qi) predominates by default because the balance of off, Too Little Yin, and More Yang than Yin. More Yang than Yin causes internal Heat to build, further burning up more yin. Think Hot flashes, and Nights Sweats. This formula can help to rebuild Yin substance and reverse Yin Deficiency.
Bupluerum and Peony/Jia Wei Xiao Yao San:
This formula is very relieving when the symptoms that one experiences in menopause are more in this range of discomfort: Menstrual irregularity, anemia, history of endometriosis, Night sweats, pale complexion, irritability, cramping or aching of the thighs, calves or abdomen, breast tenderness or distention and swelling, headaches, abdominal bloating and water retention, digestive disturbances, alternating constipation and diarrhea or loose stool. This formula is comprised of herbs that stimulate blood and qi flow and regulate stagnation in the low abdomen.
Anamarrhena or Zhi Mu:
This herb Nourishes and rebuilds Yin and cools the interior of the body.
Zhi Mu Single Herb
Vitex or Chaste Berry Fruit
This herb is used for the Menopausal Symptom profile and is known to regulate progesterone levels.
Dang Gui or Dong Quai
This herb is known as the “Women’s Herb” in China and is considered to have estrogen regulating effects on the body.
Polygonatum Multiforum or He Shou Wu
This herb nourishes the tissues of the body and the blood of the kidney, and is very good for vaginal dryness and can rebuild sexual fluids in men and women. It also addressses hair loss, thinning hair and prematurely graying hair. This is also an herb used to help enhance Fertility.
Stay away from Spicy foods which create internal heat. Dairy and mucus forming foods will also slow down digestion and create excess phlegm and Heat. Alcohol and Caffeine will contribute to menopausal symptoms, too. Mustard greens are high in bio-Available Iron for those with anemia or low Red Blood cell count. (NIH, P34 of 102)
Focus on Strength training and stretching. Dance, Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong and Pilates are all great avenues to use for keeping the body strong, especially in the core, and also flexible. A flexible body will also help keep the mind flexible. Heavy Cardio can increases internal heat and can prevent the Hot Flashes and sweating from subsiding. If there is no discomfort from doing Cardio exercises, there is no need to stop, but some women do experience escalated menopausal symptoms from exercise that increases blood circulation too quickly. (NIH Body Mind Interventions, p 25 or 53)
A practice in meditation can help manage stress levels and instill peace and harmony within one’s self. This is a good idea for all phases of life development according to Dr. Larry Dossey who has studied and documented the effects of prayer and meditation on the healing process (NIH).
Insight Timer is a great app to get and use for finding your own personal meditation preferences.
Essential Oil Therapy
Clary Sage Essential Oil has a tonifying effect on the female reproductive system and will strengthen a weak uterus. If will help with the end of menstruation around the age of 48-53 when the menses reach their completion and phase out. Clary Sage can ease feelings of nervousness, anxiety, and tension associated with menopause and relieve excessive perspiration and hot flashes. Rose Geranium Essential Oil supports the adrenal glands and can be rubbed over the waist and back area. It is cooling and moistening and will help anxiety and hot flashes. Ylang Ylang Essential Oil has a positive effect on hypertension and will help to lower the blood pressure, regulate hormonal balance, soothe the mind and the Heart and can effect libido to help increase this drive.
All single herbs can be found directly through our office. Please contact us here.
Please do what you can to help your menopausal transition or menopausal era to be kinder to you!
Therese Walsh-Van Keuren
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