Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) - While fairly new to American practitioners, rhodiola has been used to support healthy energy levels for centuries in Russia, Scandinavia, and Iceland.
Animal research demonstrates rhodiola reduces cortisol levels and boosts adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthesis. For women struggling with energy drain related to menopause, rhodiola may support mental concentration and alertness and support healthy endurance levels.
Chaste Tree - (Vitex agnus-castus) Vitex is used for the management of menstrual disorders, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and hot flashes in menopause. The key actives in chaste tree fruit support the pituitary gland's regulation of ovarian hormone production, directing menstruation, fertility, and other processes.
Vitex preparations have been used by women with menstrual difficulties for at least 2,500 years. And recent research has validated this history. In a double blind, multi-center study, 175 female patients were randomized to receive either chaste tree extract or pyridoxine for relief of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Using self-report and physician assessment to determine results, the women in the Vitex group had significantly reduced breast tenderness, edema, tension, headache, constipation and depression. (Lauritzen, 1997).
Sleep and Relaxation
Hormonal fluctuations in menopause and the late-luteal phase of the menstrual cycle are known to interfere with sleep quality. Researchers now believe that lack of sleep in menopausal women may account for much of the irritability and emotional ups and downs usually blamed on hormonal changes.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) has been clinically studied for the relief of insomnia and stress, and works well combined with hops when taken at bedtime. The active ingredient has yet to be clearly identified. While valerian's disagreeable smelling volatile oil was initially thought to be responsible for its sleep supportive effects, research now indicates a combination of volatile oil and other constituents may be involved.
Valerian improves several sleep measurements, including sleep latency, final wake time after sleep, waking frequency, and sleep quality. While it has an excellent safety profile, the presence of vivid dreams has been reported with initiation of valerian use.
L-theanine, a naturally occurring amino acid found in tea leaves, has demonstrated wide-ranging physiological activity, from supporting healthy blood pressure to supporting the therapeutic activity of chemotherapeutic drugs. It does not cause daytime drowsiness, an important consideration for women with existing energy and endurance deficits.
Wiklund IK, Mattsson LA, Lindgren R, Limoni C. Effects of a standardized ginseng extract on quality of life and standardized physiological parameters in symptomatic postmenopausal women: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Swedish Alternative Medicine Group. Int J Clin Pharmacol Res. 1999;19:89-99.
Wuttke W, Seidlova-Wuttke D, Gorkow C. The Cimicifuga preparation BNO 1055 vs. conjugated estrogens in a double-blind placebo-controlled study: effects on menopause symptoms and bone markers. Maturitas. 2003;44:S67-77.
Shevtsov VA, Zholus BI, Shervarly VI, et al. A randomized trial of two different doses of a SHR-5 Rhodiola rosea extract versus placebo and control of capacity for mental work. Phytomedicine. 2003;10:95-105.