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Menopause and HRT Holistic-online.com

Alternative Medicine for Menopause

Herbal Medicine

Important Herbs Used for Menopausal Problems

Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis)

Dong Quai is a well-known Chinese herb that aids in estrogen replacement, or, more precisely, hormone balance. It contains iron and vitamin E. Often rubbed the "female tonic."

In Asia, angelica has been used to treat menopausal symptoms (especially hot flashes), as well as such conditions as dysmenorrhea (painful menstruation), amenorrhea (lack of menstruation), and rnetrorrhagia (too frequent menstruation), and to assure a healthy pregnancy and easy delivery. Dong quai has demonstrated good uterine tonic activity, causing an initial increase in uterine contraction, followed by relaxation. In addition, administration of dong quai to mice resulted in an increase of uterine weight and increase of glucose utilization by the liver and uterus. These effects reflect estrogenic activities.

Dong Quai’s effectiveness in relieving hot flashes may be a combination of dong quai's mild estrogenic effects coupled with other components that act to stabilize blood vessels.

Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa)

Black Cohosh contains a natural precursor to estrogen (i.e., the body uses these elements as raw materials to produce its own hormones and only in the amount it needs), an antispasmodic, and emmenagogue. It was widely used by the American Indians and later by American colonists for the relief of menstrual cramps and menopause. Recent scientific investigation has upheld the use of black cohosh in treating both dysmenorrhea and menopause.

A special extract of Cimicifuga racemosa, standardized to contain 1 mg of triterpenes calculated as 27-deoxyacteine per tablet is the most widely used and thoroughly studied natural alternative to hormone replacement therapy in menopause.

In 1997, over ten million monthly units of this extract were sold in Germany, the United States, and Australia. Clinical studies have shown that this Cimicifuga extract relieves not only hot flashes, but also depression and vaginal atrophy.

In a large open study involving 131 doctors and 629 female patients, cimicifuga extract produced clear improvement in menopausal symptoms in over eighty percent of patients within six to eight weeks. As shown in the table, both physical and psychological symptoms were relieved.

Most patients reported noticeable benefits within four weeks after the initiation of cimicifuga therapy. After six to eight weeks, complete resolution of symptoms was achieved in a large percentage of patients. Cimicifuga was well tolerated; there was no discontinuation of therapy, and only seven percent of patients reported mild transitory stomach complaints.

Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga) in the Treatment of Menopause

Symptom % No Longer Present % Improved Total % Improved
Ringing in the ears

Heart palpitation

Profuse perspiration

Vertigo

Hot flashes

Nervousness/irritability

Headache

54.8%

54.6%

49.9%

51.6%

43.3%

42.4%

45.7%

38.1%

35.2%

38.6%

35.2%

43.3%

43.2%

36.2%

92.9%

90.4%

88.5%

86.8%

86.6%

85.6%

81.9%

In a double-blind study, sixty patients were given either cimicifuga extract (two tablets twice per day, providing a daily dosage of 4 mg 27-deoxyacteine), conjugated estrogens (0.625 mg daily), or diazepam (a Valium-like drug) (2 mg daily) for twelve weeks. Results showed a clear advantage of using cimicifuga extract over both drugs. Cimicifuga's effect in relieving the depressive mood and anxiety associated with menopause was far superior to either conjugated estrogens or diazepam.

The Kupperman Menopausal Index is one of the most utilized assessments in clinical studies of menopause. This quantitative assessment of menopausal symptoms is achieved by grading in severity:

Severe = 3

Moderate = 2

Mild = 1

Not present = 0

After grading each symptom, the total score is achieved by adding all of the symptom scores together.

Symptoms assessed were major menopausal symptoms such as:

bulletDepressive moods
bulletFeelings of vertigo
bulletHeadache
bulletHeart palpitation
bulletHot flashes
bulletJoint pain
bulletLoss of concentration
bulletNervousness/irritability
bulletProfuse perspiration
bulletSleep disturbances

The results on the Kupperman Menopausal Index from the double-blind trial of sixty women clearly demonstrated cimicifuga extract's superiority over conjugated estrogens and diazepam, especially when safety and side effects are taken into consideration.

Effect of Cimifuga on Kupperman Menopausal Index Compared to Conjugated Estrogens and Diazepam

Treatment Group Beginning At 12 Weeks
Cimicifuga

Conjugated estrogens

Diazepam

35

35

35

14

16

20

In another double-blind study, eighty patients were given either cimicifuga extract (two tablets twice daily, providing a daily dosage of 4 mg 27-deoxyacteine), conjugated estrogens (0.625 mg daily), or a placebo for twelve weeks. Cimicifuga produced greater improvement in the vaginal lining and better results on the Kupperman Menopausal Index and the Hamilton Rating Scale for Anxiety than estrogens or placebo. The number of hot flashes experienced each day dropped from an average of 5 to less than 1 in the cimicifuga group. In comparison, the estrogen group only dropped from 5 to 3.5. Even more impressive was the effect of cimicifuga on the vaginal lining. While conjugated estrogens and the placebo produced little effect, a dramatic increase in the number of superficial cells was noted in the cimicifuga group.

No contraindications or limitations on the use for Black Cohosh is known Therefore, it offers a suitable natural alternative to hormone replacement therapy for menopause, especially where hormone replacement therapy is contraindicated. Toxicology studies shows that it is safe to use. Based on currently available data, cimicifuga appears safe for long-term continued use.

Recommended Dosage:

The dosage of Black Cohosh (cimicifuga) is based on its content of 27-deoxyacteine, which serves as an important biochemical marker to indicate therapeutic effect. The dosage of the cimicifuga extract used in the majority of clinical studies has been 2 mg of 27-deoxyacteine twice daily. Here are the approximate dosage recommendations using other forms (nonstandardized) of Cimicifuga racemosa:

Powdered rhizome: 1-2 g

Tincture (1:5): 4-6 ml

Fluid extract (1: 1): 3-4 ml (1 tsp)

Solid (dry powdered) extract (4:1): 250-500 mg

Do not exceed these dosages. Higher doses may cause vertigo and nerve center irritation, nausea and vomiting.

(Source: Michael Murray and Joseph Pizzorno, "Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine."

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)

The medicinal use of licorice root in both Western and Eastern cultures dates back several thousand years. Licorice is particularly useful in treating premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMS has been attributed to an increase in the estrogen-to-progesterone ratio. Licorice is believed to lower estrogen levels while simultaneously raising progesterone levels.

Licorice Root is a restorative and stimulant for the adrenal glands. It contains cortisone-like elements similar to the adrenal hormones. For menopause, it is thought that the estrogen-like activity of licorice is responsible for many of its beneficial effects, but its effects on progesterone levels may also be important. 

CAUTION: Use carefully or not at all (especially in substantial doses) if you have high blood pressure or are taking digitalis-based drugs. Be sure to get plentiful amounts of potassium if taking licorice root.

Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus)

Chasteberry is a favorite herb in Europe, proclaimed to "work wonders" for all menopausal symptoms. The list of symptoms it can alleviate is truly exhaustive. As its name suggests, chasteberries were used in suppressing the libido in women of childbearing age. Pharmacological studies have indicated it works mainly through the pituitary, our master gland, which regulates all other glands, including those that produce sexual hormones. Also of interest: Chasteberry contains estrogen- and progesterone-like compounds. It is possible that its beneficial effects in menopause are due to altering LH and FSH secretion. It does not appear to reduce libido during menopause.

Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba extract is useful for the menopausal and postmenopausal woman because of its effects on the vascular system. It is especially useful in relieving both the cold hands and feet and the forgetfulness that often accompany menopause. Ginkgo biloba extract has also been shown to improve blood flow to the hands and feet in human clinical trials and has been shown to be effective in the treatment of peripheral vascular disease of the extremities.

Ginkgo biloba extract has repeatedly been used to improve mental health in patients with cerebral vascular insufficiency and may exert similar effects in menopause. Ginkgo biloba extract appears to work not only by increasing blood flow to the brain, but also by enhancing energy production within the brain, increasing the uptake of glucose by brain cells and actually improving the transmission of nerve signals.

Blessed Thistle is considered to be even more useful than Black Cohosh for hormonal imbalance. It is also an emmenagogue.

Burdock Root contains estrogen precursors. It is a good tonic and healer. It is also an aphrodisiac.

Fo-Ti, Polygonum multiflorum, is a tonic and nutritive herb for all the glands, especially the reproductive organs. Herbalists suggest that it promotes longevity and, in large doses, is an aphrodisiac.

Damiana, a reported aphrodisiac, is also a hormone balancer for both sexes. In addition, it is good for nerves and kidneys.

Siberian Ginseng, a well-known tonic and hormone balancer for both men and women, improves stamina and energy levels. Contains progesterone and testosterone precursors, as well as an anti-carcinogenic.

Kelp or other Seaweed should be eaten or taken daily. You'll find it a great emotional roller-coaster-riding aid, plus helpful in alleviating or eliminating or preventing all menopausal symptoms.

Oats, whether eaten or infused, will nourish and help balance your hormonal system. An infusion of Oatstraw will do likewise.

Nettle leaves, either drunk as an infusion or eaten as a green vegetable, like seaweed, are superbly nourishing to the entire endocrine system. Among other things, they are a good source of calcium, magnesium, chlorophyll, chromium, plus many other minerals and vitamins. Two cups a day is often recommended. Another wonder herb for us wonder women!

Sarsaparilla, contains progesterone and testosterone hormone precursors. When combined with Siberian Ginseng, Sarsaparilla is said to promote energy and "ambition.' This is very interesting, considering that menopausal women often report lethargy (no "ambition") and fatigue as symptoms. Though long known as a restorative for male reproductive organs, it benefits and energizes women, as well, especially during the latter half of the menstrual cycle when progesterone is in ascendancy over estrogen.

False Unicorn Root is used for almost any uterine complaint, including hormonal imbalance, though it is generally combined with other herbs. Some report it is an aphrodisiac, as well.

Red Raspberry leaf tea is a delicious drink and a wonderful tonic for the uterus and mucous membranes. It will also symptomatically allay cramping and almost any discomfort below the waist.

Squaw Vine, though used traditionally mainly for pregnancy and childbirth, is also an excellent uterine tonic and is helpful with congestion of the uterus and ovaries.

Suma is another herb containing estrogen precursors. It's also a rich source of germanium, thought to enhance the flow of oxygen to cells. It's adaptagenic and tonic.

Alfalfa, taken as tablets or tea, promotes estrogen production.

Anise Seed tea will too, as will Sage tea and Garlic.

Onions, Dill, and Thyme reduce estrogen production.

Evening Primrose Oil aids in hormone balancing. Quite a bit of clinical research supports this. It contains precursors of Prostaglandins, important to the proper functioning of every cell in your body. Some women report losing weight when they take 4 to 8 capsules of Evening Primrose Oil daily.

Saw Palmetto Berries are a nutritive tonic for the reproductive organs of both men and women.

Also See:     Herbal Medicine in Holisticonline.com

                     Herbal Directory in Holistic-online.com with herb safety information

Herbs For Menopause Related Conditions

Summary: Most Useful Herbs For Menopause- Actions, Uses, Dosage

Next Topic:    Herbs For Menopause Related Conditions

                    Homeopathy

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