natural menopause

21. Herbal medicine is a very effective way of helping women cope with the transition and symptoms of menopause…

Herbal medicine uses medicinal plants to encourage and support the body’s innate ability to rebalance itself, which it does have the ability to do, given the right support. It is prescribed, and works on, an individual basis, because we are all different, and what works well for one, may not work as well for someone else. Luckily, there are thousands of plants to choose from, and many of them overlap in terms of their active constituents and therapeutic properties.

With menopause, medicinal plants are used primarily to help the body adjust to changing hormone levels. This involves supporting all the organs and body systems, such as the digestive, nervous and musculoskeletal systems. The choice of herbs will be influenced by the individual symptoms being experienced, and also the combination of symptoms, or any other health problems you may have. So, for example, if your main symptom is hot flushes, but you also have IBS, your prescription is likely to be different to a woman who is having hot flushes but is also experiencing aching joints and muscles. Or is feeling wiped out, or depressed.

Medicinal plants have scientifically proven therapeutic properties and actions, btw. We have herbs that have laxative and diuretic effects; anti-hydrotics, that alleviate excess perspiration and hot flushes; sedatives to help with anxiety and insomnia, stimulants to boost energy levels, herbs to help maintain bone density and strength, herbs for boosting memory and concentration (there are some very good scientific trials showing that a herb called Ginkgo biloba can help with dementia and even Alzheimer’s, for example).

There are also herbs that make excellent tonics for mucous membranes, and are used in ointments, creams and pessaries to help lubricate and plump up vaginal tissue… The list goes on.

Some herbs contain active constituents called phyto-oestrogens, which act on the oestrogen receptors in our bodies. They are sometimes referred to as the natural alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Two herbs you may have heard of, that fall into this category, are sage and black cohosh.

Other herbs may be used to treat on a more symptomatic basis, for example St John’s wort, valerian and passion flower to help relieve stress, anxiety, nervous tension, depression and insomnia; antispasmodics such as cramp bark for painful periods; anti-haemorrhagics such as shepherd’s purse for heavy bleeding; and liver tonics to aid oestrogen clearance in the liver.

And we have a group of herbs called adaptogens, which, as the name suggests, help the body adapt to change on a physical and emotional level. These have a very broad action.