When we were teenagers, my sister and I would go shopping with Mom. We’d be out and about, trying on clothes, and all of a sudden she’d start fanning herself with her hand. Of course, my sis and I were freezing, and had no idea why she would feel hot. She’d break out in a sweat, curse something under her breath, and then ask, “Why’s it so hot in here?”
We’d laugh (silly, rude teens that we were) and tell her she was crazy. Every time she responded, “I can’t wait ‘til you girls are my age! Then you’ll know what I’m talking about.”
Hot flashes, night sweats and irritability are just a few of the symptoms that come with your womanly shift. Some women luck out, and end up with very mild symptoms for just a short period of time. Others, like my mother, suffer with more severe issues that can drag on for many years. Hormone imbalances that cause painful, heavy periods or PMS, don’t all of a sudden go away when you stop having periods. The imbalance is still there, and manifests in these new ways. So women who struggled a lot during their reproductive years are often the same ones who deal with menopause symptoms.
Western medicine offers women hormone therapy to curb symptoms, but this comes with increased risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, endometrial and breast cancers. But fear not, Chinese medicine offers alternatives that are totally natural, and only come with positive side effects.
Menopause and Chinese Medicine
Most women suffering from hot flashes and night sweats are diagnosed with some form of what we call “Kidney Yin Deficiency”. It doesn’t mean something is wrong with your kidneys; it’s more of a pattern related to some of the functions that the Chinese assign to the Kidneys. An imbalance in these functions tends to dry out your body, which leads to heat. This causes not only hot flashes, but also insomnia, irritability, tinnitus, dizziness, low backache and a dry mouth or throat. So, while you’re busy treating your night sweats, you may notice that some of these other things get better too.
4 Natural Treatments for Menopause
I don’t have to tell you to eat fresh, home-cooked meals with lots of fruits and veggies and high quality whole foods. But what I am going to get into are specific foods you can eat more of that will build back your “yin”, adding moisture back into your body and cooling it off.
First off, drink plenty of water, and also make sure you’re getting enough healthy fats like olive and coconut oils, avocados and fish. Specific foods that nourish Kidney yin are millet, barley, tofu, green beans, beans (especially black, kidney and mung beans), melons, berries, potatos, sea vegetables, black sesame seeds, sardines, crab, clams, eggs, pork and cheese.
2. Essential Oils
I love how a simple practice, like massaging essential oils into your body, can have such a profound effect. Choosing the right oils, and knowing where to put them, is what takes this practice from an enjoyable scent experience to a powerful medicinal treatment.
Two of my favorite oils for cooling and moistening are geranium and clary sage. The easiest and most effective way to use them is to dilute them into a small rollerball or dropper bottle and apply them to your chest. For more information on how to use essential oils safely and effectively, read this.
Another way to use these is in combination with acupressure points. There is a combination of points on the hand and wrist that works great for hot flashes and night sweats. You can either use the rollerball you made above, or take less than a drop of oil straight from the bottle on a toothpick and touch the point. See the picture below for details.
One of the most well known herbs in the entire Western world is black cohosh, which is said to help hot flashes. However, I’ve heard from numerous women that they took it and it didn’t help them. It’s too bad that situations like this convince people that herbs aren't effective, because they most definitely are – if you use them correctly.
In Chinese herbal medicine, herbs are combined and made into formulas. The synergy of multiple herbs helps them be stronger than they would be on their own, as well as mitigating side effects of strong herbs and treating multiple aspects of a condition. A few common herbs used for yin deficiency include rehmannia, asparagus root, glehniae root and ophiopogonis. In addition, herbalists take your individual constitution into account and tailor a formula to you. They don’t give the same formula to everyone that comes in with menopause symptoms.
This makes it difficult to suggest specific formulas in a blog post, because they may or may not work, depending on your other health markers. Also, good quality herbs can be difficult to come by without practitioner access. So this is one you’ll have to see a professional on. Many acupuncturists are also trained herbalists, so that’s a good place to start.
No list of natural remedies is complete without acupuncture. As a branch of Chinese medicine, it is based on the same theory as herbal medicine and dietary therapy. An ancient form of medicine with it’s own complex anatomy, physiology and pathology, acupuncture has been helping women enter menopause gracefully for thousands of years. It stimulates your body’s natural repair systems so your hormones become balanced.
If you’ve tried these and other remedies on your own and still haven’t found a solution, find an acupuncturist to help put together an individualized treatment plan to bring you the help you’ve been looking for. If you’re around Greenville, or anywhere in the upstate, I’d be more than happy to help. Call or email today!