Treat Menopause Naturally with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs
Chinese medicine views menopause as a natural process in life, a transitional period marking the cessation of menstruation in a woman’s body. Menopause occurs naturally between the ages of 45-55, beginning with a noticeable change in your menstrual cycle. This time of change may last a few months to several years, a stage called perimenopause, with symptoms varying from mild to severe.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have enjoyed a rich and extensive history treating a wide range of perimenopausal symptoms. This includes hot flashes and night sweats, in addition to insomnia, fatigue, weight gain, vaginal dryness, and irritability. Millions of women have successfully treated unwanted symptoms of menopause naturally with Chinese medicine through safe, noninvasive, and most of all, effective treatment for these often debilitating symptoms.
Menopause is a time where many women become Yin deficient, meaning that the cooling, moistening, and calming aspects of their physiology are weakening. You can read more about the various types of menopause on my website page here. The main treatment principles in Chinese medicine for menopausal women involves:
- Nourishing Yin and/or Blood
- Moving Stagnant Liver Qi
- Clearing Heat
- Calming the Spirit/Mind
- Harmonizing the Yin and Yang
Stagnation that occurs over an extended time for weeks or months will generate heat which will burn Yin and lead to Yin deficiency. Yin deficiency and Qi stagnation can occur due to a number of reasons including:
- Poor diet
- Lack of exercise
While it is important to receive acupuncture, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of healthy food choices. This includes eliminating caffeine and sugar from your diet due to the inflammatory nature of these substances. This does not need to be forever, but at least until your symptoms are under control.
Acupuncture for Menopause
Acupuncture is a balancing therapy. The thin stainless steel needles used during treatment disperse Qi and Blood that is stagnant or nourish Qi and Blood that is deficient.
Many women report feeling better right after the needles are inserted, bringing them immediate relief and a sense of calm. The needles are actually opening certain areas that have become stagnant, which has created a build up of heat. Certain points are also used that have a direct effect on nourishing Yin, thereby rejuvenating the cooling and moistening aspects of one’s physiology.
Chinese Herbs for Menopause
Chinese herbs work together with acupuncture to create a state of continuity between treatments. I would highly recommend committing to this approach before using hormone therapy, as these natural options are free of side effects. Hormone therapy is quite controversial in terms of its long-term effects. While it has worked wonders for many women in the short-term, I have read references to increased incidence of ovarian cancer, fibrocystic breasts, and emotional fluctuations, therefore I cannot give it a raving endorsement.
Below is a list of several Chinese herbal formulas that I prescribe to treat hot flashes, night sweats, accompanied with various patterns of fatigue, irritability, vaginal dryness, anxiety, headaches, and digestive disturbances:
- Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan: This formula is a Kidney Yin tonic that clears Heat, which includes symptoms of low back pain, scanty dark urine, and low energy. It is safe, gentle, and can work well if it matches the patient’s constitution.
- Jia Wei Xiao Yao Wan: This formula addresses hot flashes that are due to a Liver Depressive Heat pattern, which would include symptoms such as irritability, depression, high stress, red eyes, headaches, and indigestion.
- Da Bu Yin Wan: This formula is for a pattern called ‘steaming bone syndrome’ in which the hot flashes feel as if they are penetrating into the depths of one’s bones. It is a Kidney Yin tonic that utilizes herbs that penetrate deep into the body to Clear Heat.
- Tian Wan Bu Xin Dan: This formula is for a combination of Heart and Kidney Yin deficiency, which will manifest with symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, irritability, thirst, and malar flush.
- Er Xian Tang: This formula is for a combined pattern of Kidney Yin and Yang deficiency. Symptoms include a history of feeling cold with recent onset of hot flashes, low libido, fatigue, and low back pain.
It is important to keep in mind that herbs will only work if they address your specific constitutional pattern, rather than only your symptoms. It is important to have an evaluation and diagnosis from a licensed Chinese medicine practitioner before taking any Chinese herbal formulas.
Most noteworthy, it is also natural to feel heightened emotions as you experience the sensations of heat, stagnation dryness, sleeplessness and fatigue. As a holistic and complete medical system Chinese medicine also addresses issues of depression and anxiety, as well as, anger, worry, and grief. Let your practitioner know about these underlying emotional concerns so that they can tend to your full body mind and spirit.
Finally, the research showing the benefits of acupuncture for menopausal symptoms has been extensive. Hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, and insomnia tend to respond very well to treatment with acupuncture and Chinese herbs. This is especially true when they are used together. These are a few important studies that show the benefits of using Chinese medicine for menopause:
- Cong HF, Gu XM & Wu WP. (2015). Clinical Observation of Acupuncture plus Medication for Perimenopausal Syndrome. Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion. 34(4).
- Li Y & Huang KJ. (2014). TCM prescription in treating perimenopausal syndrome, 50 cases. Journal of Liaoning College of Traditional Chinese Medicine. 16(5): 203-205.
- Tan KP, Yao X, Li XW. Observation on clinical effect of acupuncture plus Zi Shen Tiao Gan Decoction for perimenopausal insomnia. Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science, 2015, 13 (1): 49-53. DOI: 10.1007/s11726-015-0822-1.
- Li, Rui-li, Jin-ying Fu, Ying-ying Deng, Wen-juan Shen, Hong-li Ma, Wei Li, and Xiao-ke Wu. “Review of acupuncture treatment for perimenopausal syndrome.” Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science 2, no. 13 (2015): 129-133.
- Shang YJ, Bhang Y, Kong LL, Wang YY, Wang DS, Li J. Clinical observation on combination of source point and Back-Shu point for treatment of perimenopausal syndrome. Zhongguo Zhen Jiu, 2009, 29(6): 444-448.
- Qin ZY, Ling H, Xia XH, Meng L, Wu ZJ. Effects of electroacupuncture of Sanyinjiao (SP 6) on genito- endocrine in patients with perimenopausal syndrome. Zhen Ci Yan Jiu, 2007, 32(4): 255-259.
In conclusion, I highly recommend seeking out the help of a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist to treat menopausal symptoms. I have worked for over twenty years in women’s healthcare, and particularly with women as they transition through menopause. Contact our clinic today if you are interested in scheduling an appointment. We would love to help you.
Yours in Health,
The Lotus Effect
Have you ever seen a lotus leaf after a rainstorm? Often it will look like jewels of water are resting on the leaves. These “jewels”, or droplets of water, pick-up particles of dirt as they roll over the surface of the leaf, cleansing the leaf so that it can maintain its powerful process of photosynthesis, converting the sunlight into the energy it needs to thrive.
This is known as the Lotus Effect, and is how we envision our work with our patients, helping each person to turn obstacles into opportunities and nourish their destiny.
“I have noticed that people are dealing too much with the negative, with what is wrong. They do not touch enough on what is not wrong. . . . Why not try the other way, to look into the patient and to see positive things, to just touch those things and make them bloom?” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
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909 Harris Ave., Suite 202A,
Bellingham, WA 98225