As soon as a woman reaches the age of 40s, her menstrual cycle becomes irregular and eventually stops. This dwindling of menses of a woman is known as menopause.
Menopause is always accompanied by certain other symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, fluctuation in weight, hair fall, insomnia, vaginal dryness, itching etc.
These symptoms are so discomforting that they affect day to day activities of women. Extensive researches have come up which reported that certain herbs are very effective for menopause symptoms in women.
Types Of Herbs For Menopause:
1. Phytoestrogenic herbs:
These are the class of herbs which contain phytoestrogen compounds which have structural similarities with the human oestrogen.
These phytoestrogens compounds function in the similar way as the oestrogen does at the cellular level. They function by rebalancing the levels of oestrogen and progesterone in the body.
Some of the examples of such herbs are black cohosh, ginseng, don quai, red clover etc.
2. Non- Phytoestrogenic herbs:
These herbs do not contain phytoestrogen compounds and have a stimulatory effect on the body, thereby reducing the symptoms.
Example- maca fem.
1. Black Cohosh:
Acetae racemosa also commonly known as black cohosh, has been reported to be very effective for hot flashes. It’s been a century old practice to use black cohosh as a remedy for hot flashes.
Hot flashes being one of the most prominent symptoms of menopause. It affects almost 95% of women who have attained their menopause. The herb has been reported to help decrease the intensity and the occurrence of hot flashes in women.
Even though there has been the great advancement in this field, the exact mechanism of the action of black cohosh is still not understood clearly. It is said to have oestrogen and progesterone like effects but cannot be said for sure.
Black cohosh has given mixed results. The use of this herb has definitely reduced the discomfort of hot flashes but its success rate is not 100%. Not all women have been benefited with this herb.
Black cohosh is sold as an herbal supplement. It is available in the market in various combinations.
Consulting a physician before consumption is advisable. But there are a number of brands which come up with the dosage on their labels.
No prominent side effect of the herb has been reported in women who may cause discontinuation of the consumption of the herb.
Minor stomach upsets; headaches and nausea cause a little discomfort to women during an initial administration of the herb.
2. Don Quai or Angelica sinensis:
Don Quai is a herb used in traditional Chinese medicine. Use of don quai with certain other combinations of herbs dates back to 1,200 years and has been every effective for treating uterus and ovaries related problems.
It is not very effective against hot flashes but can help in easing other menopause symptoms such as nausea, vaginal dryness, etc.
When consumed in combinations with other herbs, it has been used to treat blood clots, premenstrual syndrome, menstrual cramps and in certain cases, it has also been effective for PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome).
Don quai or also known as dang gui, tang kui or Chinese angelica root is available in market in various packing, branded uder different names and combination with other herbs.
It is consumed orally and dosage varies depending on the degree of the symptoms, weight and age of the lady.
Women can consume the decoction (boil some roots in a cup of water and use the water after filtration) of don quai, dried leaves powder or dried roots can also be consumed.
Consulting a physician or an herbal expert is recommended so that one can understand the exact amount of consumption. The labels of the packing bottles can also be consulted for references.
Certain modern day clinical studies have revealed that don quai is not helpful for menopause symptoms in all the cases.
Women having breast cancer are suggested not to use don quai. It should also not be consumed by women with fibroids and blood clotting problems such as haemophilia or women under the medication for blood clots.
3. Ginseng or Panax ginseng or Panax quinquefolius):
Researches show that ginseng is helpful with some menopause symptoms such as mood swings and insomnia. Ginseng contains plant hormones which resemble oestrogen in structure and functioning at the cellular level.
When menopause creates the hormonal imbalance, this particular herb with phytoestrogen compounds, can be administered which re-balances the oestrogen and progesterone levels in a woman’s body and therefore, it helps in easing the menopause symptoms.
Ginseng can be used to cure vaginal dryness caused because of menopause. Not only menopause symptoms but ginseng is also helpful for total good being of the person. Some symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats and breast tenderness can be taken care of by the use of ginseng.
Consumption of ginseng by the individual varies. It is an herbal supplement and easily available in the market under different brand names.
People can also use the root powder, tea or extract for oral consumption. The dosage of the herb varies depending on the conditions.
Consult a medical practitioner or a herbalist before taking the herb for the menopause symptoms.
Common side effects of ginseng include diarrhoea, heart palpitations, high blood pressure and headaches.
In some cases, ginseng helps in overcoming insomnia but the case may be reversed. Ginseng may induce insomnia in some women.
4. Red clover:
Red clover (Trifolium pratense) is a perennial herbal, typically found in Asia, Central Europe and Northern Africa.
Due to its high vitamin and nutrient contents, it has been used since time immemorial to cure illnesses and for effective cell regeneration. Red clover has been thoroughly studied for its effects on hot flashes and night sweats which are caused due to menopause in middle aged women.
It contains high amounts of isoflavones which are oestrogen like compounds. This estrogen like compounds act similarly the way oestrogen does and helps in maintaining the oestrogen balance in the body which further reduces menopause symptoms.
Since minerals like calcium and phosphate are present in red clover, it can also be helpful for dealing with decreased bone density and osteoporosis.
Dried herb can be used for the treatment. Herb tea is also advisable for consumption which is prepared by boiling 2-3 flowers in a cup of water.
Dried plant parts can also be used in a powder form.
Minor side effect such as head ache and nausea are usually reported. Some severe side effects may also include liver problems and vaginal bleeding.
These symptoms are only related to over use of the herb.
Gingko Biloba also known as the fossil tree is a herb which was used in traditional medicines for thousands of years. Also known as Japanese silver apricot, maidenhair tree or kew tree, it is now being exploited all over the world for its medicinal benefits.
Gingko is a stimulant and helps in relieving some of the menopause symptoms. Gingko helps in easing the symptoms by increasing the oestrogen levels of the body. This mode of action of gingko has been related to many symptoms such as memory related problems etc.
Gingko is also known for reducing the number of damaging particles in the body, which therefore leads to total well-being of the person. It helps women to cope up with symptoms like osteoporosis, mood swings and headaches.
Gingko like most of the other herbs is available as an herbal supplement. One should consult the doctor before consuming the herb.
In recent years, it has been used as a concentrated leaf extract known as Gingko biloba extract (GBE). Gingko tea, extracts, powders and skin ointments are also available in a market.
For the exact dosage, one can consult the labels of the packing and proceed.
Compounds of gingko are antioxidants and are associated with certain side effects like nausea; sleep disturbances, loss of libido, mood swings and some allergic reactions like sneezing and headache with watery eyes.
Over dosage of the herb may also cause nausea, diarrhoea, irritability and restlessness.
6. Vitex chaste berry:
Vitex is a plant of the Mediterranean region. People of the region have been consuming vitex for many hormonal imbalance related problems since ages.
Vitex agnus has been helping women to overcome hormonal imbalance particularly related to oestrogen and progesterone.
Flowers of the tree have been reported to contain certain compounds which help to ease menopause symptoms, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), breast pain and premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
Vitex chaste berry is a tree which has been contributing largely to the overall well-being of women reducing the occurrence of nausea, headaches and a common cold.
Vitex agnus contains compounds that stimulate pituitary glands to produce progesterone and therefore rebalances the levels of sex hormones in the body.
People use vitex flowers directly for eating. Berries, tender stems and leaves are also eaten as garnish. Chasteberry tincture, extract juice and tablets are also used by people.
Chasteberry Tea also has great benefits.
Vitex is a herb that contains potent compounds and should be consumed after proper consultation with a doctor or an herbalist.
Since vitex alters the hormone levels, it can have some minor and severe side effects. Pregnant ladies and ladies with breast cancer should not take this herb in any form.
Women who already have altered levels of sex hormones should avoid the intake of the herb and consult a doctor before considering this herb for consumption.
Possible side effects of vitex chasteberry are nausea, stomach cramps, rash, itching and swelling.
Soy is one of the richest sources of protein; it is cultivated all around the globe. Due to its high amount of phytoestrogenic hormones, soy has been widely used as a menopause herb.
Soy has been proven for alleviating menopause symptoms and therefore can help in reducing the discomfort caused by symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats and insomnia.
The isoflavones found in soy can be used as an alternative treatment of hormone replacement therapy to deal with menopause symptoms.
Due to the presence of oestrogen-like compounds, soy can help in rebalancing the hormone levels of a woman.
Not only phytoestrogen effects but spy has other beneficial properties as well. The antioxidants and rich reservoir of proteins make soy one of the best foods to be fit for consumption.
The market is flooding with edible soy products which make them accessible for all. Soy milk, cheese, ice-cream and tofu are some of the products made up of soy milk.
Soy flour bread, burgers, soy butter, soy cereals and tempeh are easily available and can be incorporated into one’s diet.
Some people may be soy intolerant. People may develop allergic reactions like swelling of appendages, watery eyes and sneezing along with some major rash.
Excessive consumption of soy may also lead to infertility in some cases are reported by the clinical studies conducted by independent laboratories.
A major reason of Hyperthyroidism may also be a high protein diet.
Macafem is one of the most widely used non-phytoestrogen herbs for the treatment of menopause symptoms and other menstruation-related problems.
Macafem or Lepidium meyenii is a native plant Peru and has been used for centuries by the locals as food and medicine. It is used as a menopause herb because of it high nutritional values and health benefits.
It’s now being used as a menopause herb in various parts of the world like North America, Central Europe and some parts of Asia.
Drop in oestrogen level during menopause causes symptoms like vaginal dryness, mood swings, hot flashes, sexual dysfunctions and night sweats.
When taken in appropriate quantities, Macafem can be a very effective remedy against above-mentioned symptoms. Macafem is beneficial not only for menopause symptoms but it also helps women in weight loss, preventing vaginal dryness; maintenance of skin (keeps it looking young and glowing), slow ageing process and regular menstruation.
It does not contain progesterone or oestrogen-like compounds but stimulates the glands of the body to produce these hormones and hence, rebalancing the hormones.
Macafem has been used as maca fem flour, which is made by grinding the hard sun dried roots of the plant.
People use this flour for baking purposes, cookies and drinks. Locals have also been using the dried roots as a powder, chips and vegetable.
Macafem capsules and gels are now available in the market for consumption. Its extract is also available under various brands.
As it is consumed like a vegetable in certain parts of the world, its side effects are not that prominent.
Some people may develop minor allergic reactions like rash, itching and watery eyes due to the intolerance of various compounds present in the plant.
No harmful and severe side effects have been reported after the consumption of the drug.
2. Evening primrose oil:
Extracted from the seeds of Oenothera, evening primrose oil is known to be used for menopause symptoms. It is used as a source of beneficial fatty acids.
The fatty acids present in the oil have been known to ease the breast pain caused due to menopause.
Women have been consuming this oil for other minor menopause symptoms such as vaginal dryness, itching and possible skin irritation.
The oil is consumed orally with no reported effects by the local application on skin for menopause symptoms. Oil can be mixed with other food items for its easy consumption. The oil can be added to smoothies, milk shakes and salads.
Doctors have advised taking 3-4 grammes of oil daily for breast pain. Consulting a physician before any intake is advisable.
Pregnant ladies should refrain from taking the oil. Nursing women can consult their medical adviser before the intake of the oil.
There are concerns that evening primrose oil may increase the chances of bleeding and bruising. People with any bleeding disorders should not consume the oil.
Also, women who have undergone any surgery with fresh wounds should not consume the oil as it may increase the risk of bleeding.
Menopause symptoms can be so severe and might as well hamper with daily activities of women that they may need quick medical attention.
The herbs mentioned above are the ones with minimum or no possible life-threatening side effects.
Using these herbs under the supervision of a medical adviser will help in easing the discomfort and making menopause an easier phase of women’s life.
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