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Nature’s Aids For Menopause

Nature’s Aids For Menopause
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BY KITT WALSH

It is a rare woman who didn’t get “the talk” from her mother or school nurse when adolescence meant our first period was due. Likewise, other women are brimming with information (and advice) when we got pregnant and our bodies begin to change. But aside from hearing about the dreaded “hot flashes,” menopause remains a mystery to most of us. (I didn’t know that the nightly leg cramps were a symptom of menopause, nor that my callused heels were from hormones out of whack.)

I set out to educate myself through this last major life cycle and discovered that that other mother―Mother Nature―providing lots of help to get us through “The Change.” Let’s talk about herbs that can help you while you are in the midst of menopause.

A few words of caution and explanation first:

  • I am not a doctor. If you are already on a program of Hormone Replacement Therapy or if your symptoms continue (or worsen) consult your medical professional. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it can’t throw the delicate balance of your hormones out of kilter. When it comes to estrogenic substances “more” is not necessarily better.
  • Use only one herb at a time and see how it affects you. Watch for side effects during the first 24 hours of use and take the smallest recommended does and build up slowly.

To make an infusion: Use dried, not fresh herbs. Put 1 cup of herbs in a glass pint bottle, cover with boiling water, cap tightly, leave overnight, strain and drink. Infusions keep 24-48 hours.

To make a tincture: Use dried, not fresh herbs. Put 1 cup of herbs in a brown glass pint bottle, cover with 100-proof vodka or grain alcohol (or you can use cider vinegar, but it will be slightly less effective,) cap tightly and wait six weeks to strain (the tincture will keep two to three years.) Use by the dropper in water.

Here’s a terrific trio of helping herbs:

  • Black Cohosh has been proven in several studies to be as effective as estrogen replacement in helping relieve hot flashes, headaches, fatigue, bloating, joint pain and headaches. It can also calm heart palpitations, help you sleep, improve your digestion and aid in vaginal lubrication. Drink up to a teacup of infusion or or 10-60 drops of a tincture of fresh roots per day in water.
  • Chasteberry or Vitex has been used by menopausal women for centuries and, though it got it’s name because it acts as an “anti-aphrodisiac” for men, it has the opposite effect on women. So if your libido has taken a hit, this might be the herb for you. It can also regulate those last irregular cycles, counter dizziness, help hormone-related constipation, clear up your skin and help keep vaginal walls strong―but it takes a while to notice the changes―up to three months of daily use. Take a dropper full of tincture of berries in water 1-4 times daily, or drink 1 cup of tea from freshly powdered berries 1-4 times daily.
  • Dong Quai Roots are the star of hormonal remedies all over Asia and should be used in combination with other herbs. Their use, when combined with yellow dock root or burdock, can regulate your menses and stop spotting. When combined with peony or dandelion roots, they can plump out facial wrinkles. Combine them with licorice root to relieve headaches and achy joints and. when mixed with elecampane root, they can eliminate incontinence (those “ah-choo” moments.) But it is not for everyone! Don’t take it if you bleed heavily when you menstruate or take aspirin or any other blood thinning drug regularly. Don’t use if you might be pregnant (as it can cause miscarriage) or if you have fibroids. Make your tincture with ½ ounce of Dong Quai and ½ ounce of other roots to a pint of 100 proof vodka; cap tightly; wait six weeks to strain and use. Take one dropper full of tincture twice a day in a glass of water or up to four times an hour for headaches.

You should only buy organic herbs (as you shouldn’t wash them before making your infusion or tincture) and chop them coarsely. Here are some organic herb suppliers: Mountain Rose Herbs, Starwest Botanicals, and Red Moon Herbs or tinctures and herb capsules may be available at your local health food store. For an in-depth discussion of natural herbal remedies for menopause, check out “New Menopausal Years―The Wise Woman Way” by Susun S. Weed. If you have an aversion to “new age speak” or hippies of any age, this book will drive you crazy (rage is also a menopausal symptom) but it is packed with great information.

One more natural note for dealing with one of the more annoying symptoms of menopause―hot flashes. Store away your polyester clothes and wear pure cotton (especially your underwear) as often as possible. Also buy a bamboo fan. My Chinese friend, Faye, had a different fan for every day of the week. The fans became her signature accessory and she got through menopause glowing, not dripping.

This time in our lives is certainly different than any that preceded it (that’s why it’s called “The Change”) but armed with some information and ways to heal ourselves, we can make it through―older, true―but wiser.

 

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