What Do We Know about Menopause? Easing Symptoms with Gentle Chinese Medicine

By Pacific College - June 11, 2014

While the U.S. scientific community works to develop an agreed-upon treatment protocol for universal symptoms, practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine or Oriental medicine have long known that each woman is unique in her experience of hormonal changes.

Understanding Menopause: Western vs Eastern Perspectives

The early signs of menopause appear when the ovaries stop producing eggs, menses cease, menstrual activity decreases and eventually ceases and the hormones estrogen and progesterone decrease. Eighty percent of women will experience symptoms, some for a short time and others for as long as six to 13 years. Western medicine often views menopause as a disease and treats patients accordingly.

Oriental medicine describes menopause as a natural transitional process. According to traditional Chinese medicine, conception and thoroughfare vessels of women about the age of 50 years old become devoid of blood and the kidney qi is in a state of deficiency with an imbalance of yin and yang. Chinese medical theory states that menopause occurs when a woman’s body preserves blood and energy in order to sustain vitality and allow maximum nourishment of the body, especially the kidneys. She will exhibit early signs of menopause as the body begins conserving resources for its mature years.

Personalized Treatments in Chinese Medicine

Menopause is unique for each woman and Chinese medicine views each person’s symptoms not as part of a universal syndrome, but as a condition distinctive to the individual. Early signs of menopause such as hot flashes, night sweats and vaginal dryness are common in most cases and treatable with acupuncture. Other symptoms may include insomnia, anxiety, depression, headache, joint pain, aches and pains and more. Acupuncture is an effective treatment method because it has such great success with singular symptoms of menopause.

However, the Chinese diagnostic system assesses many aspects of a person’s overall health rather than just treating symptoms. In the acupuncture clinic, the practitioner develops a unique treatment plan for each patient; it may include such techniques as Chinese herbs for menopause, bodywork, lifestyle and dietary changes and energetic exercises. These can all present incredible benefits such as hot flash relief.

Pacific College of Oriental Medicine often treats menopausal and peri- or pre-menopausal women in its acupuncture clinic and has been successful in helping women deal with the full range of symptoms. The clinic provides hot flash relief methods, herbs for menopause and effectively treating the early signs of menopause.

According to Jack Miller, Licensed Acupuncturist and President of Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, “Acupuncture is especially effective for menopausal depression and mood swings, and has been shown to be effective against bone loss. Acupuncture is excellent for reducing symptoms and returning the patient’s sense of controlling her own body.”

Acupuncture and Herbal Remedies: A Holistic Approach

Acupuncture has been used to treat menopausal symptoms for thousands of years. It balances the Qi and strengthens internal organ systems. Its ability to increase blood flow and release endorphins makes acupuncture especially effective at combating the symptoms depression and insomnia and offering hot flash relief. Acupuncture is an ideal treatment for all women, but especially women on the go who don’t have time to nurse menopausal symptoms because it produces no side effects yet yields great results. Used in conjunction with herbs for menopause, acupuncture can help women pass through this stage of life with considerable ease.

Hormone replacement therapy, the standard Western medical treatment for menopause, involves possible risks that include breast, ovarian and uterine cancer. Hormone replacement therapy is usually started after the early signs of menopause appear. It can create uncomfortable side effects that can be difficult to deal with over long periods of time.

Chinese herbs for menopause, by comparison, have demonstrated, via numerous in vivo and in vitro studies, a marked effect on the endocrine system to provide hot flash relief, alleviate vasomotor instability, loss of bone mass, and other conditions associated with menopause. Most importantly, they are much gentler and safer on the body. Different diagnoses require separate herbal formula prescriptions.

Two herbs for menopause formulas are frequently used: Three Immortals, which addresses the general patterns associated with the menopausal transition. Great Yin is used for women who exhibit heat symptoms like hot flashes.

New research is being done to confirm Chinese medicine’s success in the treatment of menopause. A large study under way at The National Cancer Institute is comparing menopause-specific acupuncture with standard care, and Stanford Medical Center researchers are looking at acupuncture for hot flash relief.

Menopause Conditions and Herbal Treatments

Diagnosis Clinical Manifestation Herbal RX
Kidney Yin Deficiency Delayed menstruation (scanty in amount of ceased completely); hair loss; scanty vaginal discharge; dryness of vagina; dizziness; tinnitus; hot flashes; night sweats; five heart irritable heat (heat and irritable sensation in the chest, palms and soles); hot flashes; insomnia; increased dreams; itchy skin or formication (tactile hallucination with feeling of insects crawling on skin); soreness and weakness of lower back and knees Anemarrhena phellodendron & rehmannia formula ( zhi bai di huang wan ) and artemisia & turtle shell decoction ( qing hao bie jia tang )
Liver Qi Stagnation Irritability; nervousness; hypochondriac distention; constipation; palpitations; insomnia; emotional instability; generalized weakness. Bupleurum & dragonbone combination ( chai hu jia long mu tang ) and bupleurum & peony formula ( jia wei ziao yao san )
Blood Deficiency Dizziness; hot flashes; sweating; insomnia; dryness of skin; sallow complexion; emotional instability; myalgia. Tang kuei four combination (si wu tang ) and ginseng & longan combination ( gui pi tang )
Uprising Deficiency Heat Hot flashes; bone-steaming sensation; irritability; dizziness; nervousness; emaciation. Artemisia & turtle shell decoction ( qing hao bie jia tang )
Kidney Yang Deficiency Heavy menstrual bleeding; metrorrhagia or complete ceasing of menstruation; soreness and weakness of the lower back and knees; edema of the face and limbs; cold limbs; cold appearance; loose stools; polyuria; urinary incontinence. Eucommia & rehmannia formula ( you gui wan ) and ginseng & ginger combination ( li zhong tang )
Kidney Essence ( Jing ) Deficiency Weakness and soreness of the lower back and legs; inability to stand for a prolonged period of time; decreased bone mass density. Testudinis & cervi formula (gui lu er xian jiao )

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