What can a herbalist do to ease your menopause symptoms?
Updated: Jan 29, 2020
Menopause: all women go through it, but it’s usually talked about in hushed tones, and you may feel too embarrassed to bring the topic up with your friends. The average age is 51 in the UK, but menopause generally can start anywhere between the ages of 45 to 55. Your peers may be experiencing it at the same time, yet dealing with the menopause can feel strangely lonely – symptoms such as hot flashes, depression, insomnia, mood swings and poor concentration can leave you feeling vulnerable and like your body is out to get you.
So what can you do? As tempting as it may be to hibernate for the next few years, you’ve got friends and family that count on you, a successful career, charity work, or even a dog that needs daily walks. You don’t want to give up on what could be your most rewarding years yet. This is where a herbalist can help you.
But first of all: why does menopause leave you feeling so lousy?
What Happens During Menopause?
You enter menopause when your ovaries begin to wind down their function. Ever since you first got your period, your ovaries have been responsible for releasing an egg during ovulation every month. Your ovaries also make the bulk of the hormone oestrogen, which regulates your menstruation cycle. Oestrogen is vital for a well-functioning reproductive system, but it also regulates fat storage, insulin sensitivity, liver function, brain health, bone strength, cardiovascular function, and healthy skin.
Symptoms of menopause caused by a reduction in estrogen include:
Irregular or stopped periods – these may become lighter or heavier in flow
Fatigue or brain fog
Mood swings or feelings of depression
Headaches or an increase in migraine
Lower sex drive
Change in weight
But menopause is not all doom and gloom. Though some of these symptoms may be troubling or upsetting, there are ways in which you can manage your perimenopause and menopause, and view it as a transitory stage – not all changes in your body are bad! Menopause is not an illness, just a new stage in your life.
What Are the Disadvantages of Hrt?
If you’re struggling with menopausal symptoms, you may be considering hormone replacement therapy (HRT). HRT works by replacing some of your lost oestrogen, usually combining it with some progesterone to reduce the risk of womb cancer. Taking HRT can relieve the symptoms of menopause, but though it may be convenient in the short-term, my experience as a herbalist has made me aware of certain risks of HRT:
HRT is typically intended to be a short-term treatment of about five years maximum, purely to minimise symptoms of menopause. So it’s not a permanent solution, it’s intended as a way to mask your menopausal symptoms.
HRT is not always symptomless – it can cause similar symptoms to menopause including headaches, breast tenderness, and changes in mood.
Coming off HRT after five years or more can cause a relapse of menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, night sweats and forgetfulness. I regularly see women in their seventies struggling with late menopausal symptoms after an extended period on HRT.
Even coming off synthetic hormones slowly can result in plummeting oestrogen levels – resulting in loss of energy and other menopausal symptoms.
But there are alternatives to HRT – and in fact, there are natural and individualised ways to manage coming off HRT without feeling like your life has ended.
How Can a Herbalist Help Me Through Menopause?
A herbalist can help you support the menopause and the changes it brings. Opposing the
change in your body, or trying to mask the symptoms through medication, is often not the
answer. A good herbalist can give you the tools to support this natural process, aiding your liver and adrenal gland function at the same time. We use an individualised approach to help you through menopause, so each treatment plan of herbal remedies for menopause is different – and the herbs that suit you may not be right for another patient.
The herbs I recommend are not intended to be used forever, just as a resource to aid your body as it goes through the menopause. Above all, it’s useful to bear in mind that the menopause isn’t a stable continuum. Your menopause changes and can even fluctuate month to month – the major benefit of consulting a medical herbalist is that they’re able to adapt and change your prescription, as your body changes.
Herbs have been used to ease menopausal symptoms for thousands of years. You may be sceptical at how well natural remedies for menopause work: sadly, there’s limited research because most of it is focused on pharmaceuticals – medicines that bring in big money. Instead, herbalists have real-life clinical experience showing the effectiveness of these herbal medicines. Herbalists use polypharmacy, where we blend 6-8 herbs to create medicine to address the whole – not just individual symptoms.
It would be irresponsible for me to provide you with a long list of herbs to try. I don’t recommend self-medicating at random with herbs that promote hormone production as it may cause you further issues. If you have a history of hormonal cancer, never take herbs for menopause symptoms without consulting a herbalist first. Your body is complex, and needs a fully-individualised approach in order to treat your symptoms. If you treat your body with respect instead of fear, the results are amazing.
That said, I can loosely categorise my menopausal patients into two distinct types:
Women struggling with severe hot flushes but not experiencing many mood swings.
Women struggling with severe mood swings and even rage, but not experiencing as many hot flushes.
Herbs such as Humulus lupulus , Cimicifuga racemosa and Salvia officinalis at the correct dose for your individual use can be effective at reducing the impact of hot flushes. Achillea millefolium can be useful to limit night sweats, and Asparagus racemosa can tackle hot flashes, night sweats, brain fog – and even vaginal dryness.
While the above herbs can help with your mood swings, herbs such as Melissa officinalis, Avena sativa, Scutellaria lateriflora and Hypericum perforatum can also be effective for
menopausal women dealing with abrupt mood changes. Please be aware that you can’t take Hypericum perforatum if your GP has prescribed you medication.
A NIMH accredited herbalist has the skills to tailor menopause treatment to you, but they also have the ability to prescribe and supply restricted herbs under Schedule 20. Atropa belladonna is notorious as a poison, but in small amounts, the herb can be used therapeutically to reduce night sweats and hot flashes – and many of my patients love the effect.
It is possible to go through menopause without resorting to HRT, or feeling like you’re losing a handle on your life. Menopause symptoms can be managed naturally to the extent that you can celebrate this new stage of life. You don’t have to struggle with mood swings, hot flashes and night sweats – there is always an alternative, so why not try safe remedies that have been used for thousands of years with the help of an experienced herbalist?
If you’re looking for a herbalist in the Edinburgh area, who specialises in treating menopause symptoms, visit Jean Dow Herbalist Ltd for your individualised care. Jean Dow is a NIMH accredited herbalist with a scientific background and her compassionate nature has helped many clients feel better in themselves. To book an appointment call 07973 368 189 or email her directly at email@example.com