Helpful herbs and supportive nutrients
In addition to what I mentioned in part 1, other nutrients that may help during the menopause are vitamins C, E and essential fats (both omega-3 and omega-6). Choose a vitamin C supplement that contains berry extracts rich in bioflavonoids, as there’s some evidence that these help too. When vitamin E levels are low, there is a tendency for FSH and LH to increase. Vitamin E also helps to stabilise hormone levels and has been reported to help alleviate vaginal dryness.
1 Black cohosh
The most promising of the herbs used to treat the symptoms of menopause is black cohosh, which can help reduce hot flushes, sweating, insomnia and anxiety. This is one of most commonly used herbs by women in China. Three double-blind trials have been published. One showed no effect, the other was beneficial and the third showed reduced sweating but no reduction in the number of hot flushes.
Also encouraging is new research that seems to indicate that black cohosh neither increases cancer risk nor is anti-oestrogenic. It also helps relieve depression by raising serotonin levels. Even so, I’d recommend that you take black cohosh three months on, one month off, and avoid it if you are taking liver-toxic drugs or have a damaged liver. Take 50mg twice a day.
2 Dong quai
The other ‘hot’ herb for hot flushes is dong quai, whose scientific name is Angelica sinensis. In one placebo-controlled study from 2003, 55 postmenopausal women who were given dong quai and chamomile instead of HRT had an 80 per cent reduction in hot flushes. These results became apparent after one month. An earlier study didn’t find this effect, however. If you want to try dong quai, which doesn’t appear to have oestrogenic or cancer-promoting properties, I recommend 600mg a day for relief from hot flushes.
3 Vitex agnus-castus
Another popular herb, also called chasteberry, it can also help with hot flushes, although it is most well known for being helpful for menstrual irregularities, PMS and especially for the symptoms of breast tenderness. Agnus cactus’s therapeutic powers, proven in a series of double-blind trials in 2005, are attributed to its indirect effects on decreasing oestrogen levels while increasing progesterone and prolactin.39 Raised prolactin is known to lower oestrogen levels. In most trials, 4mg a day of a standardised extract (containing 6 per cent agnusides – one of the active ingredients) was used.
There are no known serious adverse effects from black cohosh or agnus castus (although it is always wise to be cautious about herbs during pregnancy and breast-feeding). Dong quai may thin the blood and is therefore contraindicated for women on bloodthinning drugs such as warfarin.
Exercise and belly breathing
Both regular exercise and learning how to breathe deeply have proven benefits for menopausal symptoms. According to a 2003 study conducted at Lund University in Sweden, if you stay active you can reduce the impact of menopausal symptoms. Researchers interviewed nearly 4,500 women 58 to 68 years old about their sociodemographic, lifestyle and current health conditions. They found that women who did more vigorous physical exercise were less likely to suffer from hot flushes.
The basic principle of all breathing exercises is to use your diaphragm, rather than the top of your chest as we tend to do when we are anxious or stressed. If you’re unsure where the diaphragm is, it’s the dome shaped muscle at the bottom of the lungs. Three trials have shown that this type of breathing can reduce the frequency of hot flushes by about 50 per cent.
Breathing in this way works best at the start of a hot flush. Breathing from the diaphragm is part of many health systems such as yoga. The exercise system Psychocalisthenics, which takes 15 minutes a day to do, combines this kind of breathing with exercises that keep you strong and supple. It is excellent for minimising menopausal symptoms and improving your vitality and mood.
In addition to the benefits of using bioidentical hormone creams, whether progesterone or progesterone and oestrogen, then herbal supplements can be helpful for many women. Wellsprings has developed Harmony, a botanical/herbal capsule, to complement and accompany the use of hormone creams and details can be found here:
This article is an extract from Patrick Holford’s book Balance Your Hormones and you will find more information at this link:
If you missed part one of this article, you will find it below: