Cathy Margolin is a Board Certified Acupuncturist & Herbalist in California and Nationally licensed Diplomat of Oriental Medicine, a Health and Wellness Advocate for Women, and owner of Pacific Herbs a Traditional Chinese pharmaceutical grade herbal business. Cathy is the author of Stop Your Bitching…naturally! The Step By Step Guide To Balance Your Hormones and End PMS & Menstrual Cramps. Cathy’s motto is: “ I like my hormones on a short leash and house trained!” Follow Cathy Margolin on Twitter, Pinterest, join her Pacific Herbs Facebook page, connect with her on LinkedIn, watch her videos on Youtube, and subscribe to get her “30 Days of Tips to Stop Your Bitching…. Naturally!”
Asian women often refer to the menopause years as a “time to start enjoying life” or “wisdom and maturation” and “a symbol of achievement”.1 These positive attitudes might surprise you. In fact, these Asian attitudes have been documented and studied because they are not the normal attitudes shared by Western women. It also may surprise you to hear that menopause as a “troublesome time” in a woman’s life is essentially a Western concept.
Menopause from a Chinese medicine perspective is an energy shift. This energy shift begins as menstruation becomes less frequent and eventually stops completely and this is understood as a normal part of a woman’s life. Menopausal symptoms only occur when their body’s energy is out of balance. Rebalance the energy and the symptoms disappear.
As we age our energy or Qi, (pronounced Chi) naturally declines. We may compensate for this slow decline by eating more sugar for quick energy and adjusting our life styles to less strenuous activity. Sometimes this is referred to as the “couch potato” syndrome. Regardless of what you call it this energy decline is also a natural part of the aging process and one of the root causes of menopausal symptoms.
According to traditional Chinese Medicine menopause is a decline of kidney yin and kidney yang energy. It is the kidney organ system that oversees our aging process. When it becomes deficient and unbalanced we notice symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, back-aches etc. This is a bit like trying to drive your car fast on a hot summer day without water in the radiator. Your engine heats up and the next thing you know the steam is pouring out. Add enough water (yin) and fuel (yang) and the engine runs efficiency without producing excess heat, or as we call them “hot flashes”.
Let’s get to the real question I know you are asking. How do I get back IN BALANCE? How do I support my kidney yin and yang energy so I don’t experience menopausal symptoms? Good question!
Traditionally, Asian cultures and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) have inherently understood that food is medicine and medicine is food. They include in their daily diets cooling and nourishing foods along with herbal teas to help balance out life’s energy shifts. Part two of this article will discuss the foods to replenish your body during menopause. Here, let’s take a look at how herbs can nourish your body because it is often a faster and more effective approach to menopause symptom relief.
The wisdom of using plants as medicine is the oldest medicine on earth. Herbs used in formulas are a little like making a cake. Flour alone does not make a cake. But add a couple ingredients and flour can be transformed into something really delicious. Traditional Chinese herbal medicine takes a similar approach. Herbs are used together in what is referred to as a “formula.” This is a kind of recipe, because some herbs simply work better together. We are the lucky recipients of an incredible database of herbal formula knowledge, learned through centuries of use.
There are many of famous Chinese herbal formulas that address kidney yin and yang energy depletion. One very famous herbal formula is called Two-Immortal Decoction or Er Xian Decoction (EXD). This formula is one of many treasured formulas passed down through the generations. The combination of herbs has been studied in labs that dissect the chemical constituents of the herbs and well studied in clinical research in the general population.
A new clinical study using EXD was recently published in the Journal of North American Menopause Society. The women in the study were experiencing menopausal hot flashes and were between the ages of 40 to 50 years old. The participants drank either a concentrated extract tea of herbal granules twice daily for 12 weeks or a placebo, fake herbal tea. All the women who drank the Chinese herb remedy found their hot flashes dropped by 62%. The study found EXD “to be superior to a placebo in reducing hot flashes and improving menopausal symptoms.”
The wisdom of using plants as medicine is the oldest medicine on earth
It is important to note the dosage of herbs used in this study consisted of 15 grams (15,000 mg) of concentrated granule extracts each day. Dosage always matters when using herbs as when using western medicines. Most importantly, three months after the study ended, the participants said their hot flashes did not increase. This is a perfect example of rebalancing the bodies’ energy and symptoms disappear.
Chinese herbal medicine has been used in Asia for centuries with truly remarkable results and without harmful side effects. Stay tuned for Part two of this article which will focus on specific foods women can eat to help nourish their kidney yin and yang energy and improve their body’s ability to get back into balance and stay there.