(also known as chaste tree)
Botanical name: Vitex agnus-castus
Family: Verbenaceae (verbena family)
Part used: Fruit
Therapy: Exact effect on menopause unclear
Possible side effect: Produces an itchy rash.
Dosage: 20 mg of concentrated alcohol extract of the fruit.
Known as a blood-purifying tonic in traditional Chinese medicine, dong quai is one of the best-selling Chinese herbal products in North America. Western herbalists view dong quai as having tonic and regulatory effects on the female reproductive system, and it is often used to treat menopausal symptoms. Scientific investigations have confirmed dong quai's pain-relieving, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory activity. It is generally believed to lower blood pressure and to soothe discomforts associated with menopause.
Herbalists view dong quai as the ``female ginseng'', referring to its ability to revitalize and renourish the female body by correcting hormonal imbalances; they call upon this Chinese relative of the herb angelica to regulate and normalize hormonal production.
In traditional Chinese medicine, dong quai is often used in conjunction with other herbs. In a clinical study in China, Si Wu Tang, a well-known formula that contains dong quai, was used in conjunction with herbs that tonify the spleen to treat forty-three menopausal women. Seventy percent of the women reported that the combination relieved hot flashes, dizziness, blurred vision, stomachaches, and constipation.
Dong quai root is small and ivory in color; it can be purchased sliced and pressed, or in powder, tincture, or extract forms.
(also known as dang gui, tang kuei, and Chinese angelica)
Botanical name: Angelica sinensis (formerly A. polymorpha)
Family: Umbelliferae (carrot family)
Part used: Root
Therapy: Uterine tonic; said to bring relief from menopausal symptoms; antispasmodic; treatment for hypertension
Possible side effects: Dermatitis, gastric upset
Dosage: 4.5 to 12 g in decoction or tincture. Extracts, capsules, pills, and powders also are available.
Women who have uncomfortable menopause symptoms or are preparing for menopause should become as knowledgeable as possible about the choices that are open to them. Talk to health-care providers and read more about menopause, its effects, and treatment options. Learning about various herbs' physiological actions, including side effects and contraindications, can help a woman decide whether herbal remedies are right--and safe--for her. The resources listed below can be a place for you to start; consult the Additional Reading list to learn more about the research referred to in this article.
Books and other resources
These books will offer you a starting place in your research on menopause and treatments for its associated discomforts. Many can be found in your local library or bookstore.
Gladstar, Rosemary. Herbal Healing for Women. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993.
Griggs, Barbara. The Green Witch: A Modern Woman's Herbal. London: Vermillion, 1993.
Henkel, Gretchen. Making the Estrogen Decision. Los Angeles: Lowell House, 1992.
Soule, Deb. The Roots of Healing: A Woman's Book of Herbs. New York: Citadel Press, 1995.
Weed, Susun. Menopausal Years: The Wise Woman Way. Woodstock, New York: Ash Tree, 1992.
Wolfe, Honora Lee. Menopause, A Second Spring: Making a Smooth Transition with Traditional Chinese Medicine. Boulder, Colorado: Blue Poppy Press, 1995.