Going through the menopause can be a trying time for many women.
But if you’re not a fan of HRT there are alternative ways to tackle symptoms, says medical herbalist Gabriella Clarke.
Some women are lucky enough to sail through the menopause problem-free while others experience a variety of symptoms. Hot flushes, low energy, changes in the menstrual cycle, aches and pains as well as mood changes, insomnia, palpitations, weight gain – especially round the middle – vaginal dryness and dry eyes, can all be very frustrating and at times upsetting.
HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) is the conventional treatment for menopause and while for some it works really well, for others it may be unsuitable, especially if you are looking for a more natural approach.
Here are some of the herbs I commonly use in my practice and get the best results from.
SAGE (Salvia offficinalis)
Sage is probably the best remedy for hot flushes and can be extremely effective in as little as a couple of days. It has an anti-diaphoretic action, which means it helps to stop sweating and helps to cool the body; it was traditionally used to treat fevers. It is available as a tablet or tincture and can also be taken as a tea.
CHASTE BERRY (Vitex agnus castus)
Studies have shown that agnus castus may help alleviate menopausal symptoms. It is known as an adaptogen and has a balancing effect on hormones. It works by altering pituitary function. A recent Australian study has shown positive results in relieving menopausal symptoms.
BLACK COHOSH (Cimicifuga racemosa)
A member of the buttercup family, the black cohosh herb was widely used by the Native Americans to treat menopause and all types of hormonal complaints. It has an oestrogenic effect, which makes it useful for many menopausal symptoms including hot flushes, anxiety and low mood. It also helps to protect against vaginal atrophy (thinning and drying of the vaginal walls) as well as osteoporosis. It should not be used if you have had breast cancer or another ‘hormone’ driven cancer and is not recommended for long-term use.
RED CLOVER (Trifolium pratense)
Red clover herb contains isoflavones, which have an oestrogenic effect in the body. While it may have a positive effect on symptoms it is more renowned for its ability to increase levels of ‘good’ HDL cholesterol in the blood meaning it may play a role in the prevention of heart disease. It has also been shown to slow bone loss and even increase bone mineral density in peri-menopausal women.
MILK THISTLE (Carduus marianus)
When trying to balance hormones it is imperative that your liver is in tip-top condition. Your liver has the hard work of processing and detoxing hormones so if its functions are sluggish, menopausal symptoms will be increased. Milk thistle is thought to be one of the best herbs to improve liver function so make sure you take it alongside other menopause remedies.
SIBERIAN GINSENG (Eleuthrococcus senticosus)
Siberian ginseng is a great adaptogen. Adaptogens help us to cope physically and mentally with change and stress. This herb is indicated in cases of low energy and fatigue. It may also help to improve mood and emotional problems. Some studies also suggest that it may help maintain a healthy vaginal mucosa.
TOP FOOD TIP
In addition to herbal medicines, I also encourage my patients to eat foods naturally rich in phytoestrogens. Fermented soy is best but they are also found in flax seeds, beans, cabbage, onions, garlic and fruits such as apples, pears, plums and berries.
If you find yourself struggling with your menopausal symptoms always seek the advice from your GP or medical herbalist especially if you are also suffering from other pre-existing health problems.