There is no more creative force in the world than the menopausal woman with zest. –Margaret Mead
Menopause is defined as the gradual change of hormone production leading to the cessation of ovulation and menstruation. Women officially reach menopause when they have not menstruated for 12 months. A naturally occurring phase in a woman’s life, most women enter menopause between the ages of 45 and 55.
In western medicine, menopause is often thought of as a disease state and hormone replacement therapies are often used. But as we learn more about the dangers 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. They can take time. Nevertheless, menopause is a natural phase of a woman’s life cycle and holds great opportunities for learning and growth.
It is natural for perimenopausal women who are just starting out on this journey into menopause to experience body changes and menopausal symptoms that might shift and evolve over the period of several years. These can include hot flashes, vaginal dryness, mood swings, flooding and irregular menstruation. However, menopause can also be a time of transformation. Big changes aren’t always easy, and sometimes they can lead to periods of deep learning and amazing self-love. Herbs can be wonderful allies to the menopausal woman during this time.
Firstly, let’s talk about the prevention of possible issues. 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. For hot flashes, I have also found wearing layers of removeable clothing to be helpful, as well as carrying a collapsible, cloth fan with me.
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.
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. As a supplement, evening primrose Oil can help reduce menstrual cramps, mood swings, depression and breast tenderness.
Garden Sage (Salvia officinalis) helps prevent and reduce 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), also called Siberian Ginseng, Eleuthero is wonderful for overcoming stress and fatigue. It rejuvenates the entire reproductive system, helps the body adapt to stress 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 or heavy bleeding.
Black Cohosh (Actea racemosa) is antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and a relaxing nervine, making it useful for arthritis, painful joints and cramping. It Although the mechanism isn’t totally understood, black cohosh helps with hormonal balance and can be useful to 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 helpful in reducing heart palpitations. It is a digestive aid and is one of my very favorite herbs for hot flashes.
Oat Seed (Avena spp.) the fresh tincture of the milky oat seed is one of the finest tonics for the nervous system. It is a calming herb for periods of stress and agitation. Dry oat straw makes a wonderful, mineral rich tea (think bone support) high in calcium, chromium, magnesium, niacin and silicon.
Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) is one of nature’s most wonderful heart tonics. It helps to balance and normalize the heart’s function. Hawthorn works to reduce high blood pressure and heart palpitations. It can be used as a tonic for long periods of time. Hawthorn is useful for the emotional heart, helping to ease life transitions and heart ache .
Hot Flash Tincture Formula:
Dosage: 60 drops of the tincture as needed, up to 6 times a day. This formula can also be used both to prevent hot flashes (take 3 times a day) or as symptomatic relief used when a hot flash is coming on. Taking the formula before bed can help reduce night sweats.
Estrogen Encouragement Therapy Tincture:
Dosage: take 60 – 90 drops of tincture three times a day. This formula helps ease the body’s transition to a lower level of estrogen production.
Bone Support Tea:
Dosage: 1 tablespoon herb blend per cup of hot water. Steep at least 30 minutes. Strain and 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 drinking plenty of water, eating nuts and seeds, leafy green vegetables, whole grains and beans. Seaweeds are an especially beneficial food as they are high in calcium, iron, iodine 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. I see menopause as an opportunity for women to redefine themselves in a new way. It is a wonderful opportunity to reevaluate their hopes, dream, goals and aspirations, as well as their connections to their larger community. It can be a time of re-evaluating our lives and reconnecting to our deeper selves. 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.
About the Author:
The author of several books on herbal medicine and healing, clinical herbalist Elaine Sheff has been passionate about sharing herbal knowledge for over 25 years. Her latest book is Naked: Botanical Recipes for Vibrant Skin and Healthy Hair. Elaine is the Co-Director of Green Path Herb School, located in Missoula, Montana, where she strives to inspire and empower students and clients to remember their connection to the earth, the plants and their own healing process. She is a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild and teaches workshops, and at conferences, both nationally and internationally. Elaine has an International Certification in Aromatherapy from the Pacific Institute of Aromatherapy. As a certified Instructor of the Natural Family Planning and Fertility Awareness Methods, Elaine has helped many couples to avoid or achieve pregnancy naturally. She has written numerous articles about her family’s journey with epilepsy and a special needs child. Elaine has written for publications including the Journal of Medicinal Plants and their Applications, Mamalode and AromaCulture magazine. Elaine’s workshops have been featured at conferences including the Traditions in Western Herbalism Conference, Montana Herb Gathering, Northwest Herb Symposium, Midwest Women’s Herbal Conference, Spokane Herbal Faire, the Ecoexpo, Mountain West Herb Gathering, Inland Northwest Permaculture Convergence, and the Pacific Women’s Herbal Conference.You can often find her bent over an herb in her garden or marveling at small flowers in mountain meadows with her husband and sons. If you’d like to learn more about medicinal plants, you can connect with Elaine, and Green Path Herb School via the Green Path Website or through social media: Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Twitter, or Instagram. You can find out more about Elaine and her life work at GreenPathHerbSchool.com.
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