Many menopausal women are plagued by typical ailments. These ailments usually have the same cause in origin. Fighting the symptoms can help, but it is actually better to tackle the complaints at their origin: the decrease in female hormone production.
On average, this gradual decline in female hormones begins about eight years before the actual menopause occurs. On average, menopause begins somewhere between the ages of 45 and 55, but some women start noticing menopause-related signs as early as age 38.
What are the most common menopause complaints?
Hot flashes and night sweats
This complaints occurs because a declining production of estrogen affects your hypothalamus, the central regulatory organ of your hormones that also plays a crucial role in regulating your body temperature.
The sharp decrease in estrogen causes your hypothalamus to become confused. As a result, your heart rate and blood circulation increase dramatically and your blood vessels dilate. Your temperature goes up and you are very, very hot.
Nervousness and feeling depressed
The hormone-producing organs are all interconnected and affect each other. In this way, the decrease in female hormones also has a great influence on your adrenal glands. After all, they must partly take over the task of the ovaries. Your adrenal glands can produce too much cortisol.
That overproduction of cortisol prevents the smooth absorption of serotonin in your brain. If you know that serotonin makes you feel calm, peaceful and content, you understand that a shortage of it can make you feel the opposite.
This, too, has to do with your adrenal glands suffering from hormone fluctuations and therefore producing too much cortisol. Cortisol, in turn, triggers the production of insulin in your pancreas. As you probably know, insulin is responsible for the stability of your blood sugar and helps to remove sugar from the blood stream and store it in your muscles.
However, when there is a surplus of sugar, it is stored in your fat cells. Because your sugar level in your blood drops again after this, you will feel like eating something sweet again and in this way you end up in a vicious circle. The dynamic between cortisol and insulin also blocks the burning of fat. Result: you gain weight.
Vaginal dryness and infections
The decrease in estrogen also affects the functioning of glands located in the lining of the cervix. These glands normally produce a slightly acidic secretion that keeps your vagina supple and moist and prevents infections.
When estrogen levels drop, the functioning of these glands also weakens, which can cause you to suffer from vaginal dryness and frequent vaginal (fungal) infections.
Natural Treatments For Menopause
As you can see, all of these symptoms can be traced back to one cause: the decrease in female hormones. There are several ways to counteract that natural decline in hormones, including HST (hormone replacement therapy) or the use of bioidentical hormones.
However, you can also go about it in a purely natural way and use fantastic substances that the plant world has to offer: phytoestrogens.
Phytoestrogens are substances found in certain plants that have a weak estrogenic effect. The benefit of phytoestrogens is that they can rebalance your hormone balance. This is because these plant substances bind to the estrogen receptor in your body, making your body think that hormone production is still in order. Menopausal symptoms will reduce or disappear as a result.
Phytoestrogens can be found in a lot of plant foods. The plant best known for its phytoestrogen content is probably soy. However, I am not in favor of soy (at least not in its unfermented form) because it can prevent your thyroid gland from functioning properly. You get phytoestrogens better from other foods such as legumes, pomegranates or flaxseeds, for example.
If you know of yourself that you are not a legume fan or that you do not eat enough plant-based foods, then you can resort to herbs.
Top 3 hormone-regulating herbs during (and before) menopause
Sage is a fantastic herb that very gently replenishes estrogen deficiency (and inhibits estrogen production if excess is present). In addition, sage also has a calming effect on your heat-regulating center which also reduces hot flashes.
This herb works well against cramps. The herb contains substances that have similar properties to DHEA, the hormone that is considered the mother of all hormones and that largely determines how vital you remain. It helps to maintain hormonal balance by providing the building blocks for your hormones.
An interesting fact is that DHEA peaks around your twentieth birthday and that as a woman you have 50% less DHEA at age 50. Men have to make do with an average of 57% less DHEA at age 50. (All women who claim that a woman ages faster than a man: think again!
Also contains phytoestrogens that help regulate your hormone metabolism. You can make very nice tea from it that tastes a bit like black tea.
Top tip against vaginal dryness
In addition to an adequate supply of phytoestrogens, you can also take the essential fatty acid omega 7 against vaginal dryness. This fatty acid found in sea buckthorn berries has a moisturizing effect on all dry mucous membranes and tissues and therefore works not only against vaginal dryness but also against dry eyes, skin and mouth. You can find it in most health food stores.
The function of adaptogenic herbs during menopause
Adaptogens are herbs that help you increase your adaptability to all forms of stress (physical, emotional and mental). They support and restore your adrenal glands and they play an important role in reducing menopausal symptoms.
These herbs are not stimulants (like coffee, for example). So they don’t give you instant energy, but – after a few months of consistent use – they make sure that your hormonal system, your nervous system and your immune system – which are interconnected and get disrupted by stress – are rebalanced, start functioning better and become stronger.
The adaptogenic herbs for which the most research has been provided are virtually all non-native herbs. Ginseng is perhaps the best known of these and also the most researched adaptogen. Although much less research has been done on our native herbs, it is very hard to believe that nature would just grow all these wonderful adaptogenic plants far away.
Stinging nettle is therefore generally believed to have adaptogenic effects. This is obviously because it has a powerful strengthening effect on the adrenal glands. However, you should not expect an instant effect from stinging nettle.
You need to use it consistently and over a longer period of time to have an effect. After a while you will notice that your symptoms decrease because the nettle has restored and strengthened your entire nervous and hormonal system.
Nettle ensures that your body can make the switch again from running on stress hormones (which depletes your adrenal glands further and further) to running on the normal energy supply via your metabolism.
A good thing, because if your body continuously runs on stress hormones, then your metabolism suffers, resulting in poorer digestion, poorer detoxification and elimination (read: constipation), poorer circulation and often weight gain. The stinging nettle gives your metabolism a boost again and therefore also remedies these ailments.
An added bonus for using the stinging nettle is that it contains no less than one hundred times as much calcium as the same amount of broccoli. That is why Alfred Vogel developed Urticalcin from the stinging nettle. And of course your bones can make grateful use of that during menopause.
How do you use nettle?
From the stinging nettle you can use both the leaves, the seeds and also the root. However, the root contains some caffeine, which would not be useful for alleviating menopause symptoms. The leaves in particular provide you with extra amounts of nutrients and minerals. It is easiest if you make a strong tea of it in the following way:
Nettle Tea Recipe
Put ten grams of dried nettle leaves in a glass jar and pour over a liter of hot water. Add a slice of lemon. Let the tea steep all night and strain it the next morning. It is most delicious when drunk well chilled. Then the taste is a bit like ice tea.
During the summer, you can also collect the ripe, green nettle seed, which you will see hanging in small clusters from the top of each nettle. The adaptogenic properties of the nettle seed were discovered by a herbalist who noted that the seed was used a century ago to help racehorses perform better.
He tried it out on his burnout-weary clients and saw to his great surprise that it perfectly!
How to make a restorative nettle seed tincture
You can very easily make your own restorative nettle seed tincture for your overworked adrenals in the following way:
Instructions for making nettle seed tincture:
Collect enough ripe nettle seeds to fill a jar. Pour vodka or a neutral spirit of at least 40% alcohol over the seeds. Shake the jar occasionally and let the seeds steep in the spirit for at least six weeks (longer is allowed).
Then filter them out and put the herbal tincture in brown dropper bottles with pipettes. You can store the tincture on your kitchen counter or in your pantry.
Build up the dose slowly until you take 20 drops in some water three times a day. It could be that this dose is too small for you. If so, feel free to build further until you take 40 drops four times a day. The effective dose is somewhat different for everyone.
Nettle seed tincture is not a pep aid or drug. Do not expect immediate effects. Usually you will feel gradual improvement. Most women feel a strong improvement in symptoms after about three weeks.
Six More Herbal Treatments For Alleviating Menopausal Symptoms Naturally
Valerian grows wild in North America and in Europe but is now widely cultivated for its medicinal properties. It is traditionally used to treat problems such as insomnia, anxiety, stress and other symptoms associated with them.
The supplement can greatly improve sleep and works almost as efficiently as sleep medication but of course not with the accompanying side effects of sleep medication.
Dong Quai is traditionally used in Chinese medicine as a female life elixir. It can help with balancing hormones and thus can help prevent night sweats, vaginal dryness, hot flashes and many others.
Different parts of the root have different functions. For example, the head of the root has primarily a blood thinning function. The middle part of the root is a life extender and will counteract blood stagnation.
The supplement will also be used in addition to its function as an herbal for menopause symptoms, after childbirth. Or when women have problems with menstruation.
However, it is not recommended in women who often experience heavy blood loss during menstruation because of its blood-thinning effect.
Black Cohosh is a very effective herb for menopause. Mainly because the plant will act like estrogen. So women who suffer from fluctuating estrogen levels or are dealing with a sharp reduction will be firmly helped by this.
The main feature of this herb for menopause is to treat symptoms such as mood swings, hot flashes, and night sweats resulting in difficulty sleeping. The use of this herb is not limited to women who are in menopause. It can be used very well by younger ladies who want to use it to get pregnant easier or while breastfeeding.
St. John’s wort
It has been shown to be one of the herbs that help with mental health problems, such as depression. And during menopause, St. John’s wort can help reduce perceived restlessness, nervousness, and irritability. Furthermore, it seems to promote a good night’s sleep because St. John’s wort increases melatonin production.
However, do use it in consultation with your doctor or pharmacist. Because, in combination with prescribed medication, it can have side effects and/or reduce the effect.
Before menopause, as a woman you have a lower risk of heart disease. After menopause, the risk increases rapidly in part because of the decrease in the hormone estrogen.
Studies show that hawthorn is one of the natural herbs that has a beneficial effect on your heart and blood vessels. For example, it can dilate your coronary arteries. This reduces the risk of a heart attack because the heart is better supplied with blood. It can also help regulate your blood pressure.
Ginseng can be seen as the best suited general herb for menopause, because it will have its effects in so many different areas. For this reason, all women during menopause or transition can benefit from it.
Ginseng is important for, among other things, improving our sensitivity to stress. In addition, it will help combat important symptoms of menopause. These are mainly hot flashes, insomnia, fatigue and night sweats.
What the herb can do here then is provide improved health. This comes in the form of enhanced relaxation, improved sleep and improved mood.
The plant is considered an adaptogen. That is a constituent that will help the body deal with stress. The active ingredients are mainly saponins. In ginseng especially the ginsenoids play an important role.