Menopause

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Finding a good herbalist

Menopause is a change, not a disease, and there are a number of ways to help navigate that change a lot more easily. Each woman has distinct differences but there is also a lot of common ground and what's reliably been seen to help the most is shared here.

Much of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist or truly holistic practitioner to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here

Hormone Replacement Therapy

Hormone replacement therapy, HRT is undergoing a resurgence in popularity and there are many vocal advocates for it being safe to use for short periods in low doses. If it will be helpful, a report that highlights the issues of concern is linked here

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The adrenal take-over

Women need oestrogen and progesterone throughout their lives so, rather remarkably, once the ovaries eventually shut down, the adrenal glands take over and continue to produce these essential hormones from that time on
.

The speed and ease of the changeover process, from the ovaries to the adrenals, has an enormous influence over how long and how difficult is the menopause.

Our adrenal glands are pivotally involved in our stress- responses and, for many women, it is an accumulation of adrenal strain and fatigue that brings about a much harder 'change'

Stress, and our responses to it, is a big subject in itself, but before anything else, there are two herbs that are of paramount value to supporting the adrenals take up their new role, they are Withania somnifera and Panax ginseng.

Withania

Withania is one of the most important herbs for navigating the change of the menopause because it

a) nourishes the adrenal glands
b) supports thyroid health
c) helps a person to relax and unwind without making them feel tired or sedated

Withania is a key herb from Ayurvedic medicine, read more about it here

Panax ginseng

Panax Ginseng has particularly potent effects on the whole system's response to stress. It is not a herb that suits everyone but, when appropriate, can make an enormous difference to the adrenal changeover, more here


Panax ginseng

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Thyroid health

Along with the adrenals, the health status of the thyroid gland can strongly influence the relative ease or difficulty of the menopause transition. This area is widely underestimated because an underactive thyroid is so frequently missed in routine blood tests where a TSH level, that should ideally be below 2, is put aside even if it is above 4.

Check your records to see what your number was and, if above 2, consider doing some further testing with a thermometer at home. This process is described, along with what to do if it is a problem, here

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Herbs for Menopause

Once we have some support in place for the adrenal glands, and possibly the thyroid, we can think about using one or more of the herbs that have historically helped many women through the change.

Sage

If the woman is being plagued by hot flushes and excess sweating then one of the first remedies to try, as it may help very quickly, is Sage. It may not be the best treatment to use overlong, but Sage can be a good one to get some immediate relief whilst you are working with some off the deeper acting but slower working hormonal herbs as discussed next.

Some women will respond to much lower doses but, you might need to be prepared to make it very strong the first time to be sure if it will work or not. For a very strong medicinal tea of Sage take up to 2 heaped tablespoons of dried herb or double that for fresh, and place in a saucepan with about a litre of water. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for a good 10 minutes. Take off the heat and leave for another 15 minutes. Strain the tea and either drink when sufficiently cooled or refrigerate.

For some people with excess sweating this tea will be fine to drink at room temperature but for others it will be even better if it is chilled right down by being placed in the fridge. For some people, a small and regular dose through the day will clearly work much better and for others it will make no difference to their results to have the tea in just two or more larger doses. Be guided by your own body and what makes you respond the best. It is okay to add some honey or maple syrup to taste.

Note that the above recipe is a way to make Sage about as strong as it gets. If this is more Sage than you need to get a good result then either simply decrease the amount you drink or decrease the amount of the starting materials.

In practice, Sage in often given in tincture form where we can easily adjust the dose up or down as needed. Some people respond to quite small doses e.g. just 2 or 3 mls in a day, whereas others might need 3 times that much to see an obvious response. More is not always better. The right dose is the one that works. You must be prepared to experiment, both going up and down, to see what works best for you personally, more about Sage here


Salvia officinalis (Sage)

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Skullcap

If one of the main challenges with the change are nervous system symptoms, such as irritability, insomnia or anxiety, then one of the best remedies for this time of life is the potent relaxant Skullcap.

Again, it must be taken in sufficient doses to get the true action of the remedy but when taken correctly the effect on an agitated nervous system can be quite profound, more here


Scutellaria lateriflora (Skullcap)

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Black Cohosh

Black Cohosh is a well-known 'menopause herb', especially popularised in the drug Remifemin.
Black Cohosh is a potent remedy that, for many women, will greatly help ease the symptoms of the change, however it will not suit everyone, more here


Cimicifuga racemosa (Black Cohosh)

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Wild Yam

Wild Yam has also been popularised for menopause, and it certainly may have a beneficial action when used internally, however there is zero scientific support for it having any effects on hormones when used externally within a cream.

Again, reasonably significant doses may be required to provide sufficient amounts of the hormonal precursors that are within the plant, more here


Dioscorea villosa (Wild Yam)

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Chaste tree

Potentially, one of the best herbs for helping with the menopause is Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus). Vitex has been popularised as a herb for premenstrual syndrome but can be very much more than that. Whether it is the right herbal ally will require an open mind and a willingness to try and see, more here


Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste tree)

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Freedom from the 'Wheel'

Menopause tends to be somewhat dreaded in our Western culture, whereas it is celebrated in the old cultures as a kind of graduation from the school of life. The woman who has survived to this age is understood to have now liberated from the ever-turning wheel of her menstrual cycle and is free to become a 'wise-woman' a village elder, a matriarch.

Compare this attitude to our Western worship of youth and aversion to age and you will immediately see a large part of the reason why women in traditional cultures do not associate the menopause with suffering as we do in our modern world.

We often talk as if we like change but when people aren't well they would rather that change just left them alone! However, there may not be a choice about this when it comes to the menopause, it is not just a physical change that is happening but a profoundly internal one as well, and there may be no getting around the fact that if you resist a necessary change then it tends to persist all the more!

If you are struggling with internal emotional changes that are happening with the menopause, then you must have or find a trusted person to talk through the process with as, whatever else may be happening, getting it out in the open is a hundred times better than keeping it in.

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Constitutional Health Note

Finally, you might benefit from learning about your constitution to know what kind of foods, herbs, exercises etc. will work especially well for your health in general.

Constitutional health is an old and fascinating way of understanding our differences. There's a brief introduction here and a more detailed section on working out which constitution you are here

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!

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© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd