Life really is a journey
Whether you’re a man or a woman, when we were born, and whether we liked it or not, we unknowingly set out on a journey, which we did not know the path and the obstacles we would meet. And for some, frankly, it can be very tough, BUT, there is hope, there has been grace, and if only we know where to look, we will find that there are helps.
One of the best helps we will ever find is a friend, I tell my children, you only need one or two really good friends, and I have made my wife one of them. So before I get too ”mushy”, in nature there are also many helps, and from the great many helps, I have chosen to list some twenty seven herbs that either grow wild around us, we could grow ourselves in a pot or in the garden or can source from other places such as health food stores, good chemists or off the internet.
I do not believe that peri-menopause nor menopause should be something to be feared or be distressful. Sadly for many it is, some women hate rollercoasters, but can’t seem to dodge this one. And again, I honestly believe that, all stages of a women’s life should be beautiful, and even looked forward to, and really, why not hey. When I had my first child, I thought, wow, to be a grandfather would be great, if this is what it is like to be a Dad. Don’t worry, my wife told me to calm down.
So what is Peri-menopause?
Simply put, it is your bodies transition into menopause. Similar to menarche, the transitional time at the beginning of menstruation. Your body is going from a fertile garden that has the ability to bring life into the world, to now letting this go, and is now looking forward to new adventures. So start planning!
Physiologically, your monthly periods are ending due to lowering levels of hormones, specifically: oestrogen and progesterone, but it does include the hormones -testosterone, follicle stimulating hormone and luteinising hormone and once you have reach a stage where your body no longer makes eggs, and you have ceased your periods for a whole year, then it is said that you have reached menopause.
Thinking of eggs, did you know that as an egg, you were inside your grandmother when your mother was born, crazy stuff hey.
A medical test that can be done is testing for Follicle Stimulating Hormone or FSH. This is when a woman’s FSH blood level is constantly elevated to 30 mIU/mL or more. This can be another help to confirm that you have reach menopause, but do not just rely on this test alone, and only seek this through a good health care professional, as there are other possible factors which will need to be ruled out. Most women do not need this test though.
This whole process can take a while for some women, the average is about 4 years, but for some it is relatively quite quick, that is, a few months. It can start anywhere from about 40 to 50 years of age and menopause can start approximately 50 to 60 years of age. These are just averages, and it should be considered that there can be many other influencing factors. An example of this can be the removal of the ovaries, which can cause a ‘sudden menopause’.
I would like to suggest a few things at this stage while I am at this point of the discussion, that sometimes the symptoms often found during peri-menopause, may not be from peri-menopause: for example hot sweats – can be from thyroid issues, palpitations – can be from tachycardia and tiredness – can be from anaemia.
This is not a cause for alarm nor fear, but that a woman should be mindful of her body, learn to listen to it, and be in control of her life (U R da Boss) seek good advice, but don’t just hand it all over to a stranger.
A little story. The wife was having severe upper abdominal pains, and went to the doctor. She described her symptoms and the doctor just said, “that’s just your periods”. My wife became quite angry, and assertively reminded the “female’ doctor about anatomy, and after further testing we found the real issue.
Signs and Symptoms of Peri-menopause
It should be noted that each woman may not get all of these conditions, but if you are noticing any of these issues, take matters into hand and be aware and educate yourself. Remember, these signs and symptoms can come from other causes, not just that time of life.
I have listed many signs and symptoms that you may experience.
- Hot flushes – an unexpected feeling of warmth that spreads over the body
- Night sweats
- Dryness of the vagina or discomfort during sex
- A need to urinate more frequently
- Difficulty getting to sleep or maintaining sleep
- Irritability, mood swings or mild depression
- Dry skin, dry eyes or dry mouth
- Tenderness in the breast
- Worsening PMS conditions
- Skipping or irregular periods
- Heavier or lighter than usual periods
- Racing heart, palpitations
- Muscle aches and pains
- Joint aches and pains
- Changes in sex drive
- Difficulty concentrating
- Some memory lapses – usually temporary
- Gaining weight
- Hair thinning or loss
Herbs for Peri-menopause and Menopause
As a believer in Alternative medicine, one of the Laws of a Herbalist is: “Docere”, which is Latin for – ‘Doctor as Teacher’, this can seem a bit ‘authoritarian’, so I like to kindly suggest ” Let’s cultivate and develop”. I have not chosen every herb possible nor described each herb in detail, but have lightly touched on quite a few options as the choices are many and varied, for the intent to make as many readers aware of many of the choices they may have.
Please understand that not all the herbs will help everybody, nor equally. If you choose to use any of these suggested herbs below, and you find after some time that they, ‘don’t work’, then there could be several reasons why they may not be working. Therefore, it may be wise to seek out a good Health Care Professional who may be able to assess things further, remember, we are all different.
1. Chaste Tree or Chasteberry
Chaste Tree is a Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Ovarian (HPO) Axis regulator helping with the hormonal control of the menstrual cycle and its feedback mechanisms. Also being a Ovulation stimulant, it assists with the natural processes with this part of the ovarian functioning. A substance which initiates or activates a dopaminergic response. Some women are high in oestrogen and chaste tree is indirectly progesterogenic, raising its levels and therefore balancing the two, and finally it is carminative, which helps to relax intestinal muscles and sphincters.
Don’t use with progesterogenic drugs, such as OCP and HRT. Could aggravate pure spasmodic dysmenorrhoea, and avoid use with oestrogenic and progesteronic tumours.
2. Helonias or False unicorn root
This herb is a good one for the older ladies, (but it can be used for the younger ones too, but just in other ways) as its many actions that lean towards them. It can be used for specific menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, heavy bloated feelings, depression, and headaches, plus, it helps to maintain a normal fluid balance. It can be used for any form of female reproductive organ weakness, plus, periods that are painful or absent, as well as endometriosis, which can cause a lot of grief, and dysfunctional uterine bleeding.
Use caution if you suffer from gastro-oesophageal reflux, and don’t use in large doses.
3. Golden seal
Although not a common herb to be used in peri-menopause, it does have an action with painful or excessive menstruation, or bleeding from the womb, here it would work better with Beth root. So this particular herb would be combined with other herbs, which would be addressing other actions, for example false unicorn root, mentioned above.
Only avoid if you were pregnant or lactating.
4. Lady’s mantle
A herb that can be used for ‘female’ issues, and not a common one for peri-menopause, but when combined with Chaste tree, can be used for menstrual disorders to become a menstrual regulator, assisting with excessive menstruation or non-menstrual bleeding from the womb that is in between normal periods, as well as menorrhagia, metrorrhagia, and endometriosis.
Only avoid if pregnant.
Bartram’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine mentions an old saying that goes like this, ” “Drink Motherwort tea and live to be a source of continuous astonishment and frustration to waiting heirs.” So where do I think it may help the ladies? Though not much can be derived from its actions, it has been used for symptoms such as, painful or absent menstruation, which is from where its name stems from, and menopausal or hot flushes and premenstrual syndrome. It would be better not to take on it’s own, so I would suggest to combine it with Cramp bark and Black cohosh. Also, this herb has better affects if taken over some time.
Caution whilst pregnant.
So where does this culinary herb help here? First of all it is a regulator of menstruation by being a uterine tonic, helping to assist the uterus in remaining healthy. Plus, it helps with painful or even absent menses, along with Premenstrual syndrome, cramps and menopausal hot flushes. (you can also read my post on Parsley.)
Do not take therapeutically if you are pregnant or have inflammation of the kidneys.
7. Pennyroyal Mint
This herb is also not a commonly used herb for peri-menopause, but when added to other herbs such as, Motherwort and Mugwort, can be used for painful menstruation. Here it assists with spasms occurring in the uterus, plus it can help with nausea and vomiting.
Do not use it when pregnant, lactating and with kidney disorders
8. Raspberry leaf
Raspberry leaf is an excellent herb that can be used for babies right up to adult women except for the first trimester of her pregnancy. (Of course babies require much lower dosages.) For older women who are in peri-menopause, it can help with profuse bleeding and painful menstruation. For women who have diverticulitis, you can add other herbs such as Marshmallow and Agrimony. (You can read my post on Raspberry leaf.)
Do not use during the first trimester.
9. Skull cap
So how may Skullcap help a lady in peri-menopause? Just think nerves, meaning, that Skullcap is good for “nervous and vital powers”. Well, depending on what may be the indications, it can help with ‘pressive’ headaches, migraine, premenstrual syndrome, and disturbed sleep.
Caution when taken in large doses, as it can cause light-headedness.
10. St John’s wort
St John’s wort is a known herb for peri-menopause and when thinking about St John’s Wort, you can think about dealing with low to mild depression, emotional distress and anxiety. But not only does St John’s wort deal with emotional and depressive problems, it does deal directly with menopausal symptoms, premenstrual syndrome and insomnia. This is due to the herb’s actions of being an antidepressant and nervine tonic.
Do not use St John’s wort entirely for ‘severe’ depression when using herbs, and also there can be serious underlying conditions causing the severe depression that may need investigating. Also, St John’s wort is contraindicated with many drugs, such as, anticoagulant drugs, verapamil, irinotecan, HIV Drugs, cyclosporin, methadone, digoxin and the oral contraceptive pill, and many others.
So how may Valerian help a woman in peri-menopause? Valerian has many actions, but a few that may be helpful to a woman at this stage, could be: mild sedative, hypotensive, hypnotic, carminative, spasmolytic and relaxant. These actions flow onto uses such as, having a calming effect upon her, reducing excitability, irritability, panic attacks, emotional stress, and anxiety. Being a carminative, it can assist with nervous dyspepsia and intestinal colic. Valerian has been known to help with tension headaches, depression, migraines and dysmenorrhoea. Many women get issues with sleep and here valerian can help with insomnia, that is, sleep onset and its maintenance.
Generally this herb is a very safe herb to use, but strangely enough I have heard of some folk who have the opposite effects. It is said to be safe during pregnancy and lactation. Do not combine with other sedatives or attempt to treat severe depression.
Areas where Sage may help in peri-menopause is when they may be experiencing excessive sweating or night sweats. Some women may suffer also from flatulence as well. Other areas where she may gain assistance is in fatigue, tension headaches, depression, anxiety and nervousness, particularly as you aged. Sage, a culinary herb is well suited to peri-menopausal symptoms, helping with hot flushes, poor memory and mental confusion at this time. I’m not too sure, but I’ve heard it being used as a hair rinse to allay the onset of grey hair? Let me know if it works?
I don’t advise it if you have hypertension, blood in the urine, pregnant and lactating or have epilepsy.
13. Soy or soya bean
I am not vegetarian nor vegan, but for those who are, this herb should be on their diet for many reasons: its very high in protein, and a good quantity of fat and it contains twenty two amino acids. If you are not vegetarian or vegan, these points would still be helpful for those women in peri-menopause. But how does it more directly help the peri or menopausal woman? Many call it a phyto-oestrogen, but really its a “SERMs” meaning, its a “Selective (O)estrogen Receptor Modulators”, meaning that it “exerts a ‘modifying’ influence over the oestrogen receptors”.
But from a more simple approach, soya bean and especially in its fermented form can help in the treatment and prevention of osteoporosis. I would suggest adding weight training to this too. As we get older we need to deal with hyperlipidaemia and hypercholestrolaemia, and one of the curses of peri-menopause, hot flushes.
Do not use soy ‘therapeutically’ if you are pregnant or lactating, or allergic to it. Don’t use in conjunction with the drug Tamoxifen.
14. Tribulus leaf
Said to be a bit of an aphrodisiac from Eastern Europe or Iran, and whether or not this is so, it still has the peri-menopausal woman in mind. From a more direct affect, it assists with four of the well known menopausal symptoms, and they are: hot flushes, sweating, insomnia and depression. Depending if this is required, it can help with poor ovulation rates, oedema, distension of the abdomen and hyperlipidaemia.
Do not use if pregnant or lactation or if you have gastro-oesophageal reflux or pre-existing cholestasis.
15. Wild Yam
This simple herb is a real women’s herb, as it is suggested for just so many issues that they may come across during their lifetime. But where may it be of assistance during peri-menopause? It can help generally with all peri and menopausal symptoms by helping to balance the hormones during this time. It has been suggested for those who suffer from pain in the ovaries and the uterus. Other areas that it may help is in adrenal exhaustion, some types of rheumatism, muscle cramps, and diverticulosis when some Ginger is added.
Generally considered quite safe, but I would advise taking it in low doses if pregnant or tend easily to diarrhoea.
16. Alfalfa or Lucerne
There are two main benefits which may be of great help to the woman, the first one is most important because it helps directly with peri and menopausal symptoms, because it is Oestrogen modulating, and that’s because it has substances called phytoestrogens, which can reduce the effects of the symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats via natural balancing. It is also high in antioxidants reducing the damage caused by free radicals.
Don’t take vitamin E at the same time as consuming alfalfa, and don’t take therapeutic doses when pregnant.
17. Black cohosh
This herb should be high on the peri-menopausal women’s list of herbs to try, and why, because it is a powerful influencer on the female reproductive organs. Therefore, it has the ability to work on symptoms such as, painful menstruation, uterine colic, depression and PMS, and a range of menopausal symptoms such as, breast pains, hot flushes, profuse sweating, sleep disorders, nervous irritability, endometriosis, fibroids polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and dysmenorrhoea. And if that is not enough, it may assist with migraines due to hormones, arthritis, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and neuralgia.
Do not take if you are pregnant or lactating (can be taken in the last two weeks of pregnancy to prepare for labour), don’t give to children under 12 years.
Hawthorn is more well known for it’s ability to help with cardio vascular issues, and women of peri-menopausal age may have these, and along with mild anxiety. But where it can help specifically? It helps with various menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and palpitations.
Caution during pregnancy and lactation, and with heart medications such as Lanoxin and Sigmaxin.
This herb contains a substance called oestrogenic chalcone, that is – xanthohumol, amongst others that can assist the peri-menopausal woman and those horrible symptoms. The list of signs and symptoms could be insomnia and sleep maintenance, anxiety, excitability, hysteria, restlessness, panic attacks, nervous dyspepsia, tension headaches, and other menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes. (You can read my post on Hops.)
Though it helps with anxiety etc., don’t use it for depression. Avoid if you have oestrogen-sensitive breast cancer or are allergic to it.
20. Horny Goat weed
This may only sound like it is just for the ‘young at heart’, so to speak, but it may be of great help for those more mature women. It is indicated for those who have low testosterone and oestrogen levels, also if you have low libido, and vaginal dryness. Plus it helps with balancing cortisol levels, poor lean muscle mass, osteoporosis, mental and physical fatigue, memory loss, weak knees and back, arthralgia, and post menopausal conditions.
If there appears to be any safety issues, take a cold shower! Otherwise, I do not know of any other concerns.
21. Kava Kava
This herb is known for many other reasons, but actually it is quite affective in dealing with peri-menopausal issues. So how can this herb help? It can help with the symptoms of insomnia, stress, anxiety, restlessness and nervous tension, cramps, urinary tract infections, PMS, and ultimately it helps with the whole gauntlet of typical peri and menopausal symptoms.
Do not use to treat depression. Do not use during pregnancy, or with liver diseases and be aware that it may interact with many drugs such as benzodiazepines and levodopa.
Depending on where you are, there can be legal issues buying, growing and importing Kava kava, so please check with the laws in your region.
22. Korean Ginseng
This adaptogen, cognition enhancer and tonic, is good for helping to relieve those with peri and menopausal symptoms. And where it also helps, is with debility, physical stress, fatigue, in convalescence, plus, it improves physical and mental performance and concentration.
Do not use in acute conditions of asthma attacks, mania, infections, menorrhagia or with central nervous system stimulants. Also avoid when using warfarin and MAOI antidepressants.
Shatavari is the Indian Sanskrit name of a herb that can be translated as “she who possesses 100 husbands,” now I’m not sure about the idea of having a 100 husbands is a good idea, think of the up keep, but this is especially the mature women’s herb indeed. Apart from reducing the effects of peri and menopausal symptoms, such as hot flushes, etc., it also acts as a tonic, and its adaptogenic, but it is also for those women who still have some loving to give to their husbands, as it is a sexual tonic assisting with low libido and sexual debility. Plus it helps with urinary tract inflammation, fatigue and general weakness. It can be used to instead False unicorn root.
It may aggravate gastro-oesophageal reflux.
24. Evening primrose oil
Evening primrose oil can help with peri-menopause symptoms such as hot flushes and PMS, which would be helpful. But where I think it may be of more use is the host of other conditions it may help with these days, such as: chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoporosis, osteopenia, dermatitis, rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, dry scaly skin disorders like eczema, especially when used topically and mixed with vitamin E, plus soft brittle nails, for acne when combined with zinc, and mental depression.
No major issues have been identified.
25. Oats seed
Oats seed is indicated for peri and menopausal symptoms, plus menopausal neurasthenia, but it can also be used for conditions that may exist around the same time as the woman is passing through this stage. These can be dry skin, itch, eczema, both topically and used in a bath (Read my post on Oats), neuralgia, anxiety, insomnia, mild depression, exhaustion, during convalescence, stress, nervous tension, hyperlipidaemia, hypertension, hyper/hypoglycaemia, melancholia, and general debility.
No safety issues known
26. Black haw
Not a well known herb for peri-menopause but may help in certain cases, due to being a uterine spasmodic or ‘sedative to the womb’, it may help with spasmodic dysmenorrhoea, and being a muscular spasmolytic to calm things down. Also due to being a hypotensive, that is, lowers blood pressure, it may help during times of stress and this combines with another action of black haw, a nervine, which supports the nervous system leading to a relaxing affect.
There doesn’t appear to be any safety issues
27. Butcher’s broom
This herb may assist a women in peri-menopause due to being an “deobstruent,” and what is that you say? It is a substance that has the ability to open or clear natural ducts of secretions and liquids of the body. So this herb wouldn’t be needed by everyone. It also can be used in premenstrual syndrome, and can be ‘used in synthesis of steroid hormones’, which may be of some assistance.
From a ‘general’ use, it could help with varicose and spider veins and oedema, because it helps with venous insufficiency, varicose veins, varicose ulcers, haemorrhoids, capillary fragility, sluggish circulation, jaundice, lymphedema, deep vein thrombosis i.e. reducing risk, plus, restless legs, leg cramps, night cramps, and easy bruising. (Typically used in conjunction with other herbs.)
I would advise a person who has gastro-oesophageal reflux to avoid this herb.
Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in anyway. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.
Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda
“Recognising your shortfalls allows you to lean on another without falling over.” Herbal Panda