There comes a time in every woman's life when her menstrual cycle eventually stops. It is known as 'Menopause". The menopausal woman’s body undergoes hormonal changes that no longer allow her to become pregnant. Generally, this natural phase occurs in women over age 50-55. Many women experience symptoms ranging from hot flashes to mood swings. Today there is the help of menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) to prevent hot flashes, mood swings, and osteoporosis. However, hormone replacement therapy can have adverse side effects that can be unpleasant, or possibly, dangerous. Menopausal Herbs seem to be an alternative way to curb menopausal problems. There are two major types of herbs used for menopause namely: Non-estrogenic herbs and Phytoestrogenic herbs. Phytoestrogenic herbs constitute active herbal constituents called phytoestrogens, which replicates human estrogen. Non-estrogenic herbs stimulate the hormonal glands that produce hormones. But as always with any medication or therapy one decides to take, a medical practitioner either in the conventional medicine or alternative medicine has to be consulted and taken under their guidance to gain maximum benefits from the medication.
A woman's reproductive cycle has 2 phases: Menstruation cycle and Menopause. While menstruation starts anywhere from 10-15 years, during this phase major role is played by hormones which help in the development of secondary sexual characteristics and a girl's body gets ready for reproduction. When a woman gets older, around the age 50-55, the menopause starts as by this time a woman's reprodcution phase is on the down cycle. Both menstruation and menopause are the interplay of 2 hormones, estrogen and progesterone hormones in the blood. The production of estrogen decreases as a woman enters her menopause, a woman's ovaries cease to function and stop producing eggs. In most women, menstrual cycle becomes less frequent and eventually stops which marks the end of the fertile cycle in a woman. Sometimes it may happen suddenly. Menopausal phase is confirmed if a woman has been amenorrhea (absence of menstrual cycle) for one complete year. In some women however, due to other problems, surgery is done to remove the ovaries in which case it is called, Surgical menopause. In surgical menopuase, ovaries are removed and hence menopause starts suddenly. Other instances of this can be when a patient undergoes chemotherapy or hormone therapy for breast cancer. While typicaly the age is 48-55 for menopause to occur, some women can have menopause before 40, in which case it is called perimenopause.
Menopause symptoms vary from women to women. Common symptoms include:
There are many herbs available in the market for treating menopause. These menopause herbs are classified based on their mode of action : Phytoestrogens and nonestrogenic herbs Some of the most popular or widely used herbs are : Black Cochosh, Dong Quai, red clover, licorice root and Soy estrogen. These are all pyhtoestrogens and help in mimicking the body's own estrogen but in a smaller way and help in reducing the menopause symptoms. The nonestrogenic herbs act on the hormonal glands to make them produce hormones which can help in alleviating menopausal discomfort and symptoms. Some of the nonestrogenic herbs are Macafem root and Vitex.
Black Cohosh is one of the most popular Phytoestrogenic herbs used for menopause. Black Cohosh or Actaea Racemosa is a flowering herb native to the eastern North America. For centuries, the Native American tribes used this medicinal plant as medicine. Active ingredients such as Acetein (antihypertensive compound), ferulic and isoferulic acids (anti-inflammatory ingredients) are effective in controlling menopuase symptoms. This herb helps with the thinning of vaginal lining and dryness. Black Cohosh acts on the brain centers that monitor dilation of blood vessels which alleveiates the hot flashes and night sweating. Too much of this herb can cause uncomdortable side affects such as nausea and headaches.
Dong Quai or Angelica Sinensis is a perennial herb used for menopause. It grows in the mountainous regions of China, Japan, and Korea. Dong Quai is commonly known as dang gui, Chinese angelica, toki, tang kuei, and tanggwi. The thick, light brown rhizome of the herb is used for vast array of medical purposes. Dong Quai is an antispasmodic, emmenagogue, blood purifier, diuretic, and sedative. Apart from phytoestrogens, Dong Quai contains vitamin B-12, and folic acid. This "female herb" has been used for hundreds of years to stabilize estrogen hormone levels in the blood. Dong quai is also used to treat blood disorders and works great as a stress and anxiety reliever. It is a gentle laxative.
Ginkgo Biloba is a well-known herb used for menopause native to China. It is one of oldest living tree species, dating more than 200 million years. Seeds and leaves of Gingkgo plant contains wide array of powerful antioxidants including flavonoids and terpenoids that helps to neutralize free radicals, boost blood circulation, improve depressed mood and mental performance. Menopausal women are more likely to suffer from circulatory problems.
Red Clover or Trifolium pratense is a perennial plant found in Northern Africa, Asia, and Central Europe. It is rich in isoflavones, coumarins and minerals such as magnesium, calcium, potassium and chromium. Isoflavones act as estrogens in the body. Many studies have shown redclover isoflavones to reduce hot flashes and also help boost bone mineral density which can be useful for both pre and perimenopausal women. Isoflavones help in relieving PMS symptoms. Red clover affects more bile secretion which reduces cholesterol in the blood. This can help with prevention od heart related diseases in menopausal women.
For centuries, Soy or Glycine max has been traditionally used in China as an excellent source of protein for both humans and domesticated animals. Soy oil and granules became popular in the Western world during the 20th century. Due to high amounts of phytoestrogens and isoflavones, Soy beans are considered as an effective herb used for menopause. Menopausal women are at higher risk of osteoporosis. Soy herb plays an important role in fixing calcium into the bone, and prevents osteoporosis.
Macafem is scientifically known as Lepidium meyenii. This herb is native to the Andean mountains, Perú. Macafem has become one of the common herbs used for menopause in North America, South America and Europe. Macafem helps to boosts sexual libido and stamina in women. This herb nourishes and stimulates natural hormone producing organs, which in turn raises estrogen levels. This helps to combat various symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, sweat and anxiety.
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