Herbal Combinations for Menopause?
On the bright side, natural medicine therapies have a long tradition of use in this country and abroad to support the changes during menopause. In the Orient, the hormonal decline experienced by women in their 40's and 50's is viewed as a "deficiency of the blood." Therefore, menopause is a time to strengthen and build the blood with herbs such as Dong Quai (pronounced Dong Kwi). Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis root) has been used for centuries to help combat menopausal symptoms such as anxiety, depression, nervousness, insomnia, and hot flashes. It contains "phyto-estrogens," or plant estrogens, which are easily absorbed and utilized. A Japanese study showed that Dong Quai increased both estrogen and progesterone levels in women with insufficient ovarian function (4).
Dong Quai is generally not taken by itself, but rather in combination with other nutritive and synergistic herbs. That's because, in Chinese medicine, the herb is considered "warming", and may therefore aggravate some of the menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and nervousness. Typical Dong Quai-based formulas may include other female-oriented herbs that have "blood building" properties.
These herbs include:
These herbs may be taken in the form of a liquid extract, capsule, tablet or strong tea. I usually recommend two to three doses per day, for one to two weeks out of the month.
- Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus root), traditionally used to stimulate the progesterone phase of the menstrual cycle.
- Red Raspberry (Rubus idaeus leaf), used for centuries as a "uterine tonic".
- Nettle (Urtica dioica leaf), high in trace minerals.
- White Peony (Paeonia lactiflora root), from Chinese herbal medicine, a nervous system relaxant.
Nutrition Can Help
Nutrients also support women through menopausal changes. The following are the most popular and beneficial:
Try a Little Relaxation
- Vitamin E, in doses ranging from 50 iu to 400 iu per day, is often effective for hot flashes. In addition, that dosage range reduces cardio-vascular risk in women and provides antioxidant protection for the body (5).
- Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5) has been used clinically for the last several decades in the treatment and prevention of menopausal symptoms. As ovarian function declines, there is some estrogen support originating from the adrenal glands. Pantothenic acid has been shown to support adrenal function (6). This is probably the explanation for its noted clinical effectiveness in treating some acute symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes, anxiety and fatigue. A dose of 50 to 100 mg, three times daily, is usually sufficient.
- Calcium supplementation is recommended for prevention of osteoporosis (thinning of the bone structure), which occurs in many post-menopausal women. Recent research shows that women taking at least 1000 mg of Calcium daily are less likely to suffer from bone fractures due to osteoporosis (7). I usually recommend the Calcium as a citrate, aspartate, or amino acid chelate, accompanied by Magnesium. At least 1000 mg per day is needed by menopausal and post-menopausal women.
Western medicine often relies on sedatives for various stress-related symptoms, and menopause is no exception. There are, however, many herbal alternatives for these synthetic relaxants. Valerian (Valeriana officinalis root), Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata blossom), and Chamomile (Matricaria recutita blossom) are botanical relaxants with centuries of clinical and traditional use. They may be taken in the form of a liquid extract, capsule, tablet or strong tea. These herbs should be taken daily, as needed, and are often effective for menopausal women who are unable to sleep due to recurring hot flashes and insomnia.