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Remedies for Menopausal Symptoms
The Menopause Self Help Book
by Susan M. Lark, M.D.,
The journey into menopause is typically accompanied by menstrual changes. Your menstrual cycle may become erratic, large clots may be passed during menstruation, or spotting may occur. Sometime in your 40s or late 30s you may experience these irregularities that signal perimenopause, or the beginning.
Menstrual chaos is common in menopausal years. Do not despair. You are NORMAL. Susun Weed, in her book The Menopausal Years, The Wise Woman Way, talks about the signs to watch for. "It is during the erratic movements of the cycles that our image of ourselves changes naturally from woman/mother to grandmother/crone:
Listen to your body. You will become able to distinguish the normal "abnormalities" of menopause from really unnatural bleeding that needs attention and treatment. Talk to other women. Keep records. You may find certain regularity to your irregularity.
Progesterone-producing and hormone-balancing herbs to choose when menopausal menses come too frequently include chaste tree (Vitex) berries, sarsaparilla (roots), wild yam (roots), and yarrow (flowers and leaves).31
Estrogen-producing and hormone-balancing herbs to choose when menstruation is scanty, early, or irregular include alfalfa and red clover (flowers/leaves), black cohosh (roots), hops (female flowers), licorice (roots), sage (leaves), sweet briar (hips or leaf buds), pomegranate (seeds), and any herb containing flavonoids.31
Raspberry leaf is an astringent, parturient, emmenagogue35 that tonifies and nourishes the ovaries as well as the uterus.31 Because of its iron citrate content, raspberry leaf is an excellent blood builder. Drink one cup or more a day, or several times per day in case of cold or flu.35
Dong quai [Dang gui; Tang kwei] tincture warms, regulates and gently heals the entire reproductive system. Its especially useful if PMS accompanies irregular cycles. Recommended dosages19:
Dong quai has been used to treat menopausal symptoms, especially hot flashes, as well as dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), amenorrhea (absence of menstruation), metrorrhagia (abnormal bleeding from the womb not of menstrual origin). In studies with animals, administration of dong quai reflected estrogenic activities as an increase in uterine weight and an increase in glucose utilization by the liver and uterus.36
Liferoot blossom tincture helps tonify the reproductive hormone producers, i.e. ovaries, uterus, adrenals, liver and pituitary. Senecio can cause temporary distressing changes in menstrual and premenstrual patterns during the first few months of use. Because of the potentially toxic alkaloids concentrated in the roots, only the flowering tops and leaves of liferoot should be used. Susan Weed has seen nothing but favorable results with small doses of the blossom tincture, 5 drops taken daily.31
Vitex (Chaste berry) tincture is slow acting, but highly recommended for women bothered by menopausal irregularities. It has the effect of stimulating and normalizing pituitary gland functions, especially its progesterone function. One interesting observation is that vitex may be called an amphoteric remedy as it can produce apparently opposite effects, always enabling an appropriate response in the body. Its greatest use is in normalizing the activity of female sex hormones, and it is indicated for dysmenorrhea, premenstrual stress and other hormone disorders.13
Try one dropperful in a glass of water or juice two or three times daily for 6-8 weeks after every irregular period. Or use 1-2 ml. of the tincture three times a day. An infusion can be made by placing 1 teaspoon of ripe berries in a cup of boiling water and infusing for 10-15 minutes. This infusion may be taken three times a day.13
Wheat germ oil [one or more tablespoons or 15 ml.] added to the daily diet has been used for over 50 years to regulate menses, protect the heart, and help keep the vagina lubricated. Vitamin E does the same thing.31
Cinnamon bark invigorates the blood, helps regulate the menstrual cycle and checks flooding. Sip a cup (250 ml) of infusion, use 5-10 drops of tincture once or twice a day, chew on a cinnamon stick, or sprinkle cinnamon on everything you eat.31 Well.... almost everything. Do not, however, use cinnamon oil.
Acupuncture seems to be very effective in pain management, regulating erratic menses and even shrinking fibroids for some women, says Susun Weed.
Reduce animal fats, which are converted by the body into estrogens, thus confusing feedback mechanisms. Animal fats may also contain supplemental hormones fed to the animals and passed along to you.17
Bioflavonoids help strengthen capillaries and prevent heavy, irregular menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia). This has been borne out by many medical studies involving the usefulness of citrus bioflavonoids in a variety of bleeding problems. Excellent food sources include citrus fruits, cherry, grape, and hawthorn berry. According to some research studies, bioflavonoids have also been found in red clover and subterranean clover strains in Australia.17
Heavy bleeding (flooding) is one irregularity that is typical among menopausal and premenopausal women. Flooding is a response to changing hormonal levels, most notably progesterone levels.31 Flooding can also be an indicator of uterine and ovarian distresses such as an irritation or infection from an IUD, fibroids, ovarian cysts, adenomatous hyperplasia, cervical/uterine/endometrial polyps, or rarely, cancer.31 Medical studies have shown that deficiencies of iron, vitamin C, and bioflavonoids can worsen or even cause heavy, irregular menstrual bleeding.17
For these reasons any serious bleeding should be evaluated by your own doctor. Susun Weed advises seeking advice from a practitioner if a period lasts more than twice as long as it ever did, if pain or bleeding accompanies intercourse, or if flooding is accompanied by persistent low back/pelvic pain.
Large blood loss during menses and mid-cycle spotting is also NORMAL if its normal for you. In a non-ovulatory cycle the blood-rich lining of the uterus never gets a signal to stop growing, it grows until the sheer bulk causes menstrual flow or flood. Panic may set in and women are often tempted to accept the seemingly logical recourse of a surgical solution.31
We frequently do not have regular menses during menopausal years despite herbal (or drug) intervention. However, by treating with antispasmodic, estrogenic and tonifying herbal remedies, it may be possible to prevent unnecessary hysterectomy.
Hysterectomy is often promoted by doctors as a life-saving measure for flooding and fibroids, which are a frequent cause of flooding. It's advisable to first explore alternatives before accepting a surgical 'solution'.31 Elizabeth Vliet, MD says that levels of androgens drop by as much as 50% immediately following hysterectomy and that ovarian function often completely ceases after three years. Prematurely low estradiol levels were found by Dr. Vliet to be present in women who had undergone surgical procedures such as tubal ligation or hysterectomy affecting blood flow to the ovaries.
Garden sage contains antispasmodic oils and tannins that prevent sweating and provide relief from pain and excess bleeding. It is said to promote estrogen production and may lower FSH and LH surges during the menopausal years. Infuse 1-2 teaspoons of the leaves, dilute, and sip throughout the day. Or take 5-15 drops of tincture of fresh leaves as needed.31
Ladys mantle controlled menstrual hemorrhage in all of 300+ women in a recent study. When taken after flooding began, ladys mantle took 3-5 days to be effective. When taken for 1-2 weeks prior to menstruation ladys mantle prevented flooding. Use 5-10 drops of the fresh plant tincture 3 times a day for up to two weeks of the month.31
Cinnamon bark checks flooding and relieves uterine cramping. Sip a cup (250 ml) of infusion, or use 5-10 drops of tincture once or twice a day, chew on a cinnamon stick, or sprinkle cinnamon on food you eat. DO NOT use cinnamon oil.31
Dandelion leaves and yellow dock root are excellent for flooding as they contain a very bioavailable form of iron13, which is lost with excessive flooding. Dandelion contains over 5 mg. in 1 ounce (30 grams). Use 20 drops of tincture of fresh yellow dock (or 3 teaspoons/15 ml) vinegar, which taken in tea or water contributes more than 1 mg iron to the blood. Coffee, black tea, soy protein, egg yolks, bran and calcium supplements over 250 mg impair iron absorption. Try to take iron in several small doses in the day rather than one large dose. Acids and proteins (orange juice or milk) increase iron uptake.31
Bioflavonoids strengthen capillaries and provide estrogenic factors to decrease flooding.31 In addition they are very effective in controlling hot flashes, anxiety and irritability. This makes them very useful for women who cannot take supplements because of their concern with herb/prescription interactions. Plants containing bioflavonoids include dong quai, black cohosh, blue cohosh, unicorn root, false unicorn root, fennel, anise, sarsaparilla and wild yam root. Generally, yellow, orange and red vegetables and fruits are good sources of bioflavonoids. A number of interesting research studies have been done on the hormonal activities of these herbs. Soybeans and yams contain a preformed steroidal nucleus and have been used to synthesize estrogen and progesterone commercially in a laboratory at a reasonable cost.17
Flaxseed (absolutely fresh and not heated) can be taken in the form of the oil, or ground flax seeds which may be sprinkled on cereal, salad or vegetables. Take 1 - 5 teaspoons/5 - 15 ml of flaxseed oil first thing in the morning, and perhaps drink a glass of water or herb infusion at the same time. If relief from flooding has not occurred after daily use for a month, try borage, black currant, or evening primrose, which are all high in GLA (Gamma linolenic acid).31
Vitex berries (Chaste berry), 25 drops of tincture taken several times daily for several months, has been known to stabilize progesterone shifts and decrease flooding. Effects are slow to appear, so begin as early as you can.31
Shepherds purse herb is a renowned remedy for women hemorrhaging from the uterus. Drink the tea freely; sip at least a cup of the infusion daily. Drop the tincture under the tongue if flooding is severe. Results in a few hours strong results in a day or two. If not, try a dropperful of blue cohosh up to 4 times daily for a few days. Women with fibroids may need to continue daily use of shepherds purse for months.31
Witch hazel allows normal menstruation and has a tonic effect on the uterus as well as easing hemorrhoids. It is used also in the treatment of bruises, inflamed swellings and varicose veins. Drink 1-3 cups of the infusion daily.31 Tincture of the fresh bark may be taken by the dropperful. Bleeding should remain steady or diminish within a few hours and slow to normal within two days if this herb is effective for you.31
Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) can be used to sedate flooding. Try 4-8 capsules or 1-2 tablespoons/15-30 ml daily of flaxseed oil, borage seed oil, black current seed oil, or evening primrose oil.31
Supplements of zinc, copper, iodine, vitamin B6 (25-50 mg daily) may help prevent or diminish flooding, but beware of toxic overdose.31 Christiane Northrup, MD recommends supplementing with Vitamin C plus bioflavonoids (500 mg per day) along with Vitamin A (5,000-10,000 IU per day) which appears to help regulate excessive estrogen levels and to decrease menstrual blood loss. Using 100,000 IU per day for up to three months is considered safe, but can be toxic in excess of this amount.
Pressure on acupressure points for one minute of every fifteen is an effective sedative for flooding. One point is located above the center of the upper lip (under the nose), and the other is at the top of the head.31
Avoid aspirin, Midol and large doses of vitamin C or vitamin E as they thin the blood (as does coumarin) and may increase bleeding.31
Avoid also blood-thinning herbs such as red clover, alfalfa, cleavers, pennyroyal, willow bark, and wintergreen. Thin blood is more likely to hemorrhage.31
A last resort in order to avoid surgery for severe, life-threatening flooding may be an injection of Depo-Provera; or Progestin (synthetic progesterone) during the luteal phase.31
Susan Weed advises the following:
Lachesis is one of the best for menopausal flooding. Use it when blood is very dark, thick, and strong smelling, when pain is more intense at the beginning of the flow, and when rage is the predominant emotion.
Sepia: for heavy bleeding. Try it when the periods come frequently, the bleeding is heavy, painful and accompanied by backache or constipation and depression.
Belladonna: flooding with bright red blood and clots. Youre swollen, ultra-sensitive, and/or headachy before and during bleeding.
Ipecacuanha: when flooding is bright red and continuous. You may have cramps, feel weak and/or vomit.
Secale: for flooding without clots, but with severe cramps.
China: for flooding with dark red clots and exhaustion.
Natrum mur: when flooding brings tears, exhaustion, depression; periods are irregular and prolonged; with cramps, headache, constipation.
Sulfur: for the woman who floods and has drenching sweats with hot flashes.
Red raspberry leaf is the herb of choice for spotting with no known reason. Try 2 cups of infusion daily. Add mint to improve the flavor.31
Ginger (root) tea warms and nourishes the pelvis. Try 1 cup (250 mg) daily, sweetened with honey (or not) for several weeks.31
Wild yam tincture (10-15 drops) or a full cup of tea contributes to progesterone production (as can Vitex).31
Cinnamon bark relieves uterine cramping and checks flooding. Sip 1 cup (250 ml) of infusion, or use 5-10 drops of tincture once or twice a day, chew on a cinnamon stick, or sprinkle cinnamon on food. DO NOT use cinnamon oil.31
St. Johns Wort is recommended by some herbalists as a remedy for menstrual cramps. It may be wise to limit exposure to sunshine while using St. Johns Wort and short-term use is recommended. The herb, calculated to contain 0.2-1.0 mg of hypericin, is taken in daily doses of 2-4 grams. Capsules containing 300 mg of the extract (and 0.3% of the active ingredient hypericin) are typically taken 3 times a day.12
Blessed thistle, the cold infusion being tonic, is useful for painful menstruation and headache associated with female problems. It is thought that its volatile oil, called cnicin, is analogous to salicin in its properties. This component also stimulates gastric secretions, making it a useful digestive tonic as well.34
Researched and written by Joan McPhee, MH, WT, 2000
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