Treatment of Menopause with Chinese Herbs and Acupuncture
Menopause is defined as the time when a woman completes her final menstrual cycle. This is seen in retrospect following a year of not having a period. Typically the use of the word ‘menopause’ or ‘menopausal’ may include any time surrounding this specific phase of life. Other terms you may read about are:
- Peri-menopause: The time before that last period.
- Post-menopause: The time following menopause.
Menopause is the natural result of the ovaries no longer releasing eggs. Or in some cases surgical removal of the ovaries, chemotherapy or radiotherapy. When the cycle of releasing eggs stops, there is a change in the production of hormones like Oestrogen and Progesterone. These changes can lead to unwanted symptoms. That’s when menopause treatment might be required.
East vs West
Women in Eastern countries like China and Japan are less likely to experience symptoms like we find here. Some of this is attributed to diet and lifestyle. Genetics may also play a part. In Western countries, menopause is commonly experienced between the ages of 40-58.
Women encounter different changes during menopause. Accounts include sweating, hot flushes, mood swings, anxiety, depression, vaginal dryness, loss of libido, osteoporosis and insomnia. These events can range from mild to severe. And although, on average, these changes may last a few years, they can last up to 10 years. But you don’t need to suffer with it! There are treatments to choose from.
Hormone Replacement Therapy (HT) is often prescribed. However there are concerns over long term use. These are adverse effects like increased risk of breast or uterine cancer, cardiovascular disease and stroke. It is also just not an option for some women. Hence, women are seeking alternative treatments.
The Chinese herbal formula Liu Wei Di Huang Wan (or a modified version) is one of the most regularly used formula for menopausal issues. It has been shown to reduce hot flushes and lead to increased bone density. Scientific analysis of the formula has identified powerful compounds such as saponins, polysaccharides and tannins. Properties of some of the herbs include:
- Hypotensive (reduce blood pressure)
- Anti-cholersterolemic (reduce cholesterol)
- Cardiotonic (aids heart health)
- Adrenal tonic (aids function of adrenal glands)
- Hepatoprotective (protects the liver)
- Cerebral blood flow stimulant (improves blood flow in the brain)
- Anti-spasmodic (muscle relaxant)
- Sedative (promotes calm)
- Analgesic (reduces pain)
- Anti-pyretic (reduces fever)
Acupuncture treatment has been shown to relieve menopause symptoms like hot flushes. It also regulates the nervous system to moderate anxiety and depression. You can read more about that here. Most treatment plans include acupuncture weekly for 8-10 weeks. Positive effects continue once treatment has finished.
Two Main Presentations of Menopausal Symptoms
- Symptoms with weight gain and fluid retention. In addition to signs of cold, fluid metabolism tends to become sluggish and the body retains fluid.
- Symptoms with hot flushes. Often accompanied by sleep disturbance, irritability and overwhelming emotional response.
Of course sometimes you might get a mix of the two.
Although further research is required to identify the efficiency of Chinese herbs for treating menopause, my personal experience of treatments using acupuncture and herbs is highly positive. My observation is an increase in life quality.
Further reading (Scientific Papers)
1. The effect of Chinese herbal medicines (CHM) on menopausal symptoms compared to hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and placebo. Kwee SH1, Tan HH, Marsman A, Wauters C. Maturitas. 2007 Sep 20;58(1):83-90. Epub 2007 Aug 8.
2. Liuwei Dihuang pill cures postmenopausal osteoporosis with kidney-Yin deficiency Potential therapeutic targets identified based on gene expression profiling. Feng Xu, MDa and Feng Gao, MDb,? Medicine (Baltimore). 2018 Aug; 97(31): e11659.
3. Management of Menopause Symptoms with Acupuncture: An Umbrella Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Deanna Befus, et al. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.2018 24(4): 314–323