Herbs for Women Part 2 - MENOPAUSE
by Jaguar, DD Seminar - © August 1, 2008
Remember, descriptions of the herbal preparations can be found in Part 1.
Key Concepts –
- Menopause is a journey that lasts from 3 – 10 years – and it’s NORMAL.
- Use hormone-balancing herbs as allies to moderate, stabilize, nourish and tonify the glandular system.
- Use herbs and foods rich in essential fatty acids t nourish and modify cardiovascular disturbances (hot flashes, flushes, night sweats, strengthen your liver, keep energy levels high and keep your heart healthy.
- Include calcium and mineral rich foods to your diet to give you deep sleep, more even emotions and strong bones.
- Ease irregular menses with herbal allies that support progesterone production.
Menopause is a journey that begins for most women in their early to later 40’s and into their early to late 50’s or 60’s. It takes about ten years for us to go through the three stages of menopause, and it really is a journey. Symptoms will vary throughout the process, and what you need to support yourself might change from day to day. Be gentle with yourself. It’s also hard to embrace this part of life when western culture places no value on the wisdom gained with age, instead placing all its value on maintaining youth and vitality. Well, you can be a vital crone as well, holding your blood within to use in a creative manner, with strong, flexible bones, and a lifetime of wisdom to share.
If you want to know everything there is to know about menopause, and have the best guide ever to treating the symptoms naturally, then you absolutely need to get a copy of Susun Weed’s The Wise Woman Herbal for the Menopausal Years. It’s chock full of information, and every woman should have one.
I have put an * by my favorite remedies.
Examples of Menopausal Symptoms –
- Vaginal dryness
- Irregular periods/bleeding
- Spotting between cycles
- Heavy bleeding/bleeding with clotting
- Hot flashes
- Mood Swings / Depression
- Loss of mental clarity or fuzzy thinking
- Night sweats
- Hot Flashes and Night Sweats –
Step one – adjust your lifestyle –
-When you have a flash, sit back, take a break, and breathe.
-Gain one pound a year over ten years. This is one of your best allies in menopause. Estrogens are made in adipose tissue, and women with a little extra weight have an easier time with menopause than thin women.
Hot flashes can be triggered by any of the following stimulants, so consider reducing or eliminating them:
Spicy foods (cayenne, ginger, pepper, curries)
Acidic foods (pickles, citrus, vinegars, tomatoes)
Caffeine (coffee, black tea, cola, chocolate)
Hot weather, hot tubs and saunas
Strenuous exercise (including sex)
Tobacco and marijuana
Hydrogenated fats (shortening and margarine)
Anger, especially if you can’t express it
Step two – use herbs -
-Cooling herbs -
Chickweed – Stellaria media - helps to nourish and stabilize the glandular temperature, reducing the severity and frequency of hot flashes. Dosage is 25 – 40 drops of the fresh plant tincture 1 – 2 times a day. Take for 1 – 2 weeks to see results.
*Elder Flower – Sambucus species – This is the specific herb for resetting the body’s thermostat. Use it for frequent hot flashes and night sweats. Dosage is 25 – 50 drops of the fresh blossom tincture several times a day. There is no overdose. Results are usually noticeable within a few days.
*Violet – Viola species – The leaves cool the body and also protect reproductive tissue from cancer. Use the dried leaves to make an infusion, and drink freely (at least one cup per day).
-Liver nourishing herbs that ease flashing –
*Dandelion – Taraxacum officinale - A very gentle liver cleanser. Regular use of any part – leaf, blossoms and root – helps to ease flashing by helping the liver to metabolize leutinizing hormone (LH) and follicular stimulating hormone (FSH). It is specific for women who have strange skin sensations with hot flashes, or whose digestive system feels the upset as well. Dosage is 10 – 25 drops of the root or whole pant tincture in water, or a small spoonful of root/leaf vinegar, 1 – 3 times per day. If acidic foods make you flash, use the tincture.
Yellow Dock – Rumex crispus – Use the root tincture in water or vinegar, 10 – 20 drops daily for long-term liver health and strengthening. If acidic foods make you flash, use the tincture. The infusion and tincture can stain you skin yellow.
-Herbs containing phytosterols and/or isoflavones –
These herbs work by directly affecting hormone balance within the body –
*Black Cohosh – Cimicifuga racemosa - Black Cohosh contain sterols, glycosides and a significant amount of isoflavones along with a huge amount of micronutrients that help the body both produce and utilize all kinds of hormones. As study done in Germany in 1988 found that Black Cohosh was as effective as estrogen replacement therapy (ERT) in reducing the severity of hot flashes, headaches, joint pain and water retention. It calms the nerves and improves Qi. It relieves menstrual pain and improves irregularity, and will help water retention by nourishing the kidneys and adrenal glands. You can use an infusion of the dried root, no more than 8 ounces, in spoonfuls throughout the day. Dosage of the tincture of the fresh rhizome/roots is 10 – 60 drops in water over the course of the day. Dosage of capsules is 1 500 mg capsule, 2 or three times a day. You can also use a commercial product called Remifemin. Its affects are similar to Premarin. One double blind 12-week clinical trial showed there was no difference in the efficacy of the two products. Black cohosh can also help you sleep.
*Soy – Adding soy foods to the diet is an easy way to get phytosterols in your diet, or you can take a supplement of soy isoflavones in the morning, when the energy of the stomach meridian is at its peak. There is some controversy surrounding soy and the possible effects of its estrogenic compounds in infertility and some cancers. I used to eat soy all the time, before I found out I was allergic to it, and I can tell you it does regulate your cycle – it shortened mine by almost 3 days.
-Preventing osteoporosis –
For five years at the beginning of menopause, the bones apparently reject calcium, thereby giving rise to the belief that Estrogen Rplacement Therapy (ERT or HRT)is essential in preventing osteoporosis. But the bones will begin to reabsorb calcium once this phase of menopause is passed. Osteoporosis can be prevented and treated with calcium rich plants and moderate exercise.
ERT only reduces bone cell breakdown. It does not increase bone cell production. Women on ERT are still susceptible to fractures. While it increases bone density and bone mass, the bones are very rigid. Rigid bones break, flexible ones do not. And, once you stop taking ERT there is a rebound effect. Bone loss can increase greatly. Bone flexibility and density are increased by moderate weight bearing exercise and a balanced mineral intake. In areas of the world where women maintain strong bones and live long lives, they engage in daily walks, chop wood and carry wood or water. Yet, hip fractures and dowager humps are largely unknown, despite never taking a single calcium supplement or HRT.
Step one – Adjust your lifestyle –
- Build bone mass before menopause – The more bone mass you have at 40 the more you will have at 55 and the more you will have at 75, when it really counts.
- Get out in the sun. Vitamin D is essential to bone and muscle health, and out bodies make it when we are in sunlight. Just one hour a day is enough to make adequate amounts of vitamin D.
- Exercise regularly – strength training and other weight bearing exercises help to increase bone mass. Lift weights, take walks, do yoga or tai chi, or belly dance three times a week.
- Cut down on foods that interfere with calcium absorption – Coffee, carbonated beverages, alcohol, white flour, processed meats, nutritional yeast and bran all interfere with calcium absorption in the body. Use calcium rich sources instead such as tahini, tofu, oats, salmon, sardines, yogurt, nettles, and dandelion leaves. Avoid greens that contain oxalic acid – spinach, swiss chard, argula, beet greens and rhubarb. Think of them as iron sources instead of calcium sources. Iron binds to calcium and renders it unusable. Eat plenty of alkaline foods and avoid acid producing ones, which use up calcium in the bones and muscle tissues.
Step 2 – use calcium rich herbs and foods -
Calcium is the most essential mineral in your body. It accounts for more than half the mineral content of your body. It is crucial for the beating of you heart, the function of your muscles, the travel of nerve impulses, strength of your bones, health of teeth and gums and vital blood-clotting mechanisms. It is SO important that you have a gland, the parathyroid, which does little else but regulate the levels of calcium in your blood and bones and secretes hormones to ensure that you have the optimum level of calcium in your blood at all times. When you consume more calcium than you use, you are in a calcium positive state. It gets stored in your tissues, and you gain bone mass. When you use more than you consume, your parathyroid secretes a hormone that releases calcium from your bones, which causes loss of bone mass. Your muscle tissues can become hyper acidic, and your pH drops. When that happens, you can experience muscle cramping, spasms and severe pain.
It is important to eat three or more calcium rich foods per day.
*Nettles – Urtica dioica – Use as infusions of herbal vinegars. Count one cup of the infusion as 250 – 300 mg of calcium.
*Oatstraw – Avena sativa – same. Use the green flowering herb to make a sweet tasting infusion that gives you lots of calcium, and diffuses stress and anger. It will also ease vaginal dryness and increase lubrication.
Raspberry Leaf – Rubus species – same.
Red Clover Flowers – Trifolium praetense – same.
Horsetail – Equisetum arvense – Use the spring gathered herb as a tea or infusion to help women who are already suffering from fractures. Plants gathered after the spring may be excessively high in silica, which can irritate the kidneys. You can also use capsules instead.
*Blackstrap Molasses – is rich in calcium and helps increase the production of hydrochloric acid, which is needed to digest calcium. Drink 2 Tbsp in a cup of warm water after meals for 400 mgs of calcium.
*Apple Cider Vinegar – Use as blackstrap molasses and in place of white vinegar in salad dressings and marinades.
*Dried Fruit – such as apricots and raisins contain high amounts of calcium.
Soak an egg in lemon juice – to leech the calcium from the shell. Drink the juice in warm water or add to salad dressings, and then eat the egg.
*Eat cooked, dark leafy greens – which are high in calcium.
Eat Yogurt – if you tolerate dairy, one cup gives you 25% of your daily requirement of calcium – 400mg. One ounce of hard cheese provides the same, as does ½ cup of ricotta.
Homeopathic mineral salts – especially silica are recommended to improve bone health.
Step 3 – use supplements –
It is recommended that women get a minimum of 1200mg of calcium per day. If you decide to take a supplement, please take one that isn’t made of calcium carbonate. Calcium carbonate is chalk. Do you want you bones to be as strong as chalk? I take calcium lactate, which is a form suitable to people like myself that have lots of food allergies. I also recommend oyster shell calcium, calcium citrate or coral calcium. Be sure to take at least half the amount of mgs in magnesium as well. Magnesium is needed to absorb the calcium, and being deficient in this mineral can cause muscle cramping and pain. I take 2400 mgs of calcium a day and 1200 mgs of magnesium.
- Depression -
Step one – Adjust your lifestyle –
*Exercise - 30 minutes of aerobic exercise has been shown to elevate mood and relieve depression. Walk in the morning after you get up to improve your mood throughout the day.
Sleep less. When we sleep, the body produces a depression causing substance and then uses it. Usually, we wake once all of this chemical is used. Women who are depressed overproduce this chemical and find it hard to wake up. Going back to sleep doesn’t help; it only makes the problem worse. Staying up one night a week, or even just staying up late enough that you sleep significantly less can have a marked effect on depression.
Get out in the sun – Getting even 15 minutes of sunlight on your uncovered eyes and skin will help improve depression.
Step 2 – use herbs /oils -
*Nettles – Urtica dioica – Adrenal exhaustion can cause depression, fatigue, mood swings and general irritability. Your adrenal glands get quite the workout during menopause and 1 – 3 cups a day of the infusion will nourish them.
St. Johns Wort – Hypericum perforatum – 25 drops of the tincture in water 3 times a day, or 3 500mg capsules of the herb (2 in the morning, one at night) will improve mild to moderate depression. Do not take it if you are already using an MAOI.
*Oatstraw – Avena sativa – Drinking the infusion freely will ease depression, moodiness and anger.
*Citrus oils, Lavender, Chamomiles and Geranium – as discussed in part one of this seminar, inhaling the scent of these oils can lift the mood and ease feelings of sadness and depression. Lemon Balm oil – Melissa officinalis – is also useful for depression, but is very expensive.
-Menstrual Irregularities –
- Irregular periods/bleeding
- Spotting between cycles
- Heavy bleeding/bleeding with clotting
All of these are normal with menopause. The amount of estrogens your body is making is shifting; this can result in skipped periods, heavy periods, weird patterns in your cycle, anovulatory cycles (a period with ovulation), spotting, light periods and so on. Keep a journal, note your changes, talk to other women, and trust your intuition.
Step one – use nourishing herbs and reduce stress –
*Raspberry Leaf – Rubus species – is a gentle uterine tonic that nourishes the uterus and helps your change go smoothly. Use the tea or infusion freely.
*Motherwort – Leonurus cardiaca – Motherwort eases emotional upsets, relieves cramping, strengthens the heart, and lessens the frequency, duration and severity of hot flashes and night sweats, helps you sleep, eases depression, reduces water retention and restores thickness and elasticity to vaginal walls. Take the tincture of the flowering tops, 15 – 25 drops in water several times a day, as needed. May exacerbate menstrual flooding, so do not use if you experience heavy bleeding. Motherwort can make you feel so good that you become psychologically dependent on it. If you find yourself unable to get through the day without it, discontinue use.
Add gentle exercise, such as yoga, or meditation to your daily routine.
Step 2 – use herbs containing phytosterols to help regulate your cycle -
You should work with one – not all – of these herbs for two weeks each month for three moths to see if they will work for you. Take the recommended dosage 1 – 3 times per day. Even irregular use will help even out your passage, but you might find that one herb works better for you than another. You might have to experiment to find out which one is right for you. If hot beverages trigger your hot flashes, then take your herbs cold or at room temperature. If alcohol triggers flashing, then make tinctures of vinegar instead of brandy or vodka.
A selection of hormone balancing herbs that promote estrogen production -
*Black Cohosh – (see above)
Red Clover Blossoms – Trifolium praetense – A highly nourishing herb, Red Clover blossoms have a calming effect on menopausal symptoms, and relieve joint pain, a decrease in energy and anxiety. It make make your blood thinner, so use caution of you experience flooding. Make an infusion of the dried flowers and use freely, or make an herbal vinegar of fresh flowers.
Hops – Humulus lupulus - contributes strongly to estrogen production. It also relieves water retention and can help you sleep. Sleeping on a pillow full of dried hops flowers is an old remedy for insomnia. You can make a strong ea of the freshly dried flowers and drink cold throughout the day, or take 5 – 15 drops of the freshly tinctured female flowers twice a day.
A selection of hormone balancing herbs that promote progesterone production –
*Chaste Tree Berries – Vitex angnus-castus – Some herbalists consider Vitex to be the herb for menopause. It can be especially useful for women who start menopause early, through natural or artificially induced means. If you use the herb consistently it will increase progesterone production and leutinizing hormone (LH). Changes in estrogen levels are often preceded by changes in the levels of these two hormones. You can make an infusion of the root bark and sip often, up to 1 cup per day, or use 15 – 25 drops of the root bark tincture in water once a day.
*Wild Yam Root – Dioscrea villosa (and its 500 related species) – This is probably one of the most popular menopausal herbs. It is extremely good at promoting progesterone production. The root eases menstrual pain, soothes the nerves and strengthens the liver. Progesterone cream is a popular way to use the herb, and has been shown to reverse osteoporosis. Follow the directions on the box. Dosage for the dried root infusion is ½ - 1 cup a day. Dosage for the dried root tincture is 10 – 30 drops in water once a day.
*Dang Quai – Angelica sinensis – Another popular herb, Dang Quai is one of the most widely used woman’s herb in the world. It relieves hot flashes, regulates menses and reduces spotting and flooding, eases uterine pain, lubricates and revivifies thin, dry vaginal tissues, reduces headaches and water retention, eases insomnia, helps to restore emotional calm, soothes achy joints and tonfies the liver. With such a broad effect, its no wonder women have been using the herb for centuries. Dosage of the fresh root tincture is 10 – 40 drops in water, 1 – 3 times per day. You can take 4 – 8 ounces of the dried root infusion or tea daily. Or, you can chew a 1/8 – ¼ inch piece of the dried root 2 – 3 times per day. Dong Quai tastes like its relatives – celery, lovage, carrots, parsnips, cilantro, anise and cumin. If you prefer not to taste the herb, try a commercial capsule and follow the directions on the label. Do NOT use this herb if you have fibroids, during menstruation of your bleeding is excessive, or is you regularly take aspirin or blood thinning drugs. If you have excessive breast tenderness or soreness after taking Dang Quai, stop using it.
- Flooding / Excessive bleeding -
Menopausal flooding is normal. Flooding in the childbearing years may not be. If you have concerns, please bring them up with your doctor. Avoid blood-thinning herbs such as Red Clover, Cleavers (Gallium aperine), Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium), Willow (Salix species) and Wintergreen (Galtheria procumbens).
Herbs that reduce flooding –
Lady’s Mantle – Alchemilla vulgaris – Lady’s mantle was proven to be effective against menstrual hemorrhage in nearly all of more than 300 women that participated in a study roughly 15 years ago. If you take it after flooding begins, it might take 3 – 5 days to work. But if you start taking it 1 – 2 weeks before menstruation, it will prevent flooding. You can take 5 – 10 drops of the fresh plant tincture in water, 3 times per day for up to two weeks out of the month.
Witch Hazel – Hamamelis virginiana – Witch Hazel has a tonic affect on the uterus and allows for normal menstruation. Drink 1 – 3 cups of the fresh bark/leaf infusion (up to ¾ of a liter) daily. A dose of the tincture is one dropperful. If this herb is useful for you, bleeding will diminish or remain steady within a few hours and be more near normal within a couple of days.
Yarrow – Achillea millefolium – Yarrow is a powerful astringent that can actually stop your bleeding. It is also antiseptic and a good would healer. Infuse once ounce of the herb in one pint of water, and drink ½ cup every hour or two until the bleeding slows. It is very, very bitter.
Shepherd’s Purse – Capsella bursis-pastoris – the fresh plant (including the flowers and seed pods) is an herb with a long history of use for uterine bleeding. You can drink the tea freely, and can drink 1 cup of the infusion daily. Take one dropperful of tincture at a time, and if the flooding is severe, put it directly under the tongue. You should see results in within an hour or two, and an increase in effectiveness in a day or two. It works by contracting and shutting down the uterus.
- Vaginal Dryness –
Step one – Adjust your lifestyle –
- Reduce or eliminate coffee, alcohol, excessive stress, processed foods, white sugar and cortico-steroid drugs. All of these things stress the adrenal glands.
- Drink more water (not tea or coffee or soda).
- Exercise. Have an orgasm once a week. Do pelvic floor exercises. Both will tonify and lubricate vaginal tissues.
Step 2 – use herbs –
Wild Yam Ointment - Dioscorea villosa – Has the ability to restore youthful moistness and elasticity to vaginal tissues along the same lines as estrogen cream. Use as directed on the label.
Comfrey Root Ointment – Symphytum species – Is a great choice for skin that needs to be both flexible and strong. Rub into the tissues morning and night. The vulva will be moister and fuller in 2 – 3 weeks.
Acidophilus capsules – Will create copious amounts of lubrication and help to prevent yeast infections when inserted into the vagina. Insert 1 or 2 capsules 4 – 6 hours before sexual activity.
Slippery Elm – Ulmus fulva – Make a soothing vaginal gel of this herb by slowly heating 2 Tbsps of of the bark powder in a cup of water, stirring until it becomes thick. Cool over even chill it before use. Spread it over and inside the vulva and vagina to lubricate, heal and nourish.
Coconut Oil – is solid at room temperature and liquid on the body, smells and tastes wonderful, and lubricates dry tissues.
Motherwort Tincture – Leonurus cardiaca – 10 – 20 drops of the tincture in water several times a day will restore thickness and moisture to vaginal walls.
Vitex – dosage above.
- Water Retention –
The best herb for water retention by far is *Dandelion – Taraxacum officinale – Take 10 – 20 drops of the root and/or leaf tincture in water several times a day. You can use it as long as you like. It will help remove extra fluid from the cells, nourish the liver, adrenals and kidneys, and aid in digestion along with giving you plant hormones that will help ease the menopausal change.
- Insomnia -
Many of the herbs I’ve already mentioned will help to ease insomnia, but there are a few more that can be used in addition.
*Chamomile – Anthemis nobilis or Matricaria recutita – A tea of the flowers sipped before you go to bed will help you sleep and remain asleep.
*Lavender Essential oil – Lavandula officinalis var. vera – contains esters that relax the body and allow you to calm down, soothes your emotions and helps you sleep.
*Valerian – Valeriana officinalis – Just one capsule of this sedative herb taken at bedtime will help you fall sleep and stay asleep. You can also take 20 – 30 drops of the tincture right before bed, but it smells and tastes pretty bad. Caution: Valerian can be as habit forming as some drugs if used daily.
Hopefully, this has given you some ideas on how to use herbs to support menopausal changes. This is far from an inclusive seminar, as there are many other herbs that can assist you on your journey. My apologies for the length. I’m going to end here, but might come back to add things over the month. If you have any questions, please fell free to ask me here or by PM and I will reply as soon as I can.
- Hoffman, Michael – The Herbal Handbook
- Hoffman, Michael – The New Holistic Herbal
- Mojay, Gabriel – Aromatherapy for Healing the Spirit
- Tierra, Lesley – The Herbs of Life: Health and Healing Using Western & Chinese Techniques
- Tierra, Michael – The Way of Herbs
- Weed, Susun – The Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Years
- Weed, Susun – Healing Wise
- Weed, Susun – The Wise Woman Herbal for the Menopausal Years
Last edited by Jaguar
on 07 Feb 2009, 18:17, edited 4 times in total.