ALTERNATIVES TO HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY
I am frequently asked questions about alternatives to Hormone Replacement Therapy. The use of herbs, essential oils and hydrosols gives more options to adapt to changes during menopause. Herbalism is most effective when used in a holistic approach, which is integration of the body, mind and spirit. Changes during menopause happen not only to the body, but to the mind and spirit as well. Herbs and essential oils can have a positive impact on all these parts of a womanís life. These same herbs are successfully used to ease discomforts of the female cycle, PMS, menarche and other times when hormonal balancing is desired.
It is unclear as to exactly how these herbs work to balance the hormones. Some books say that they contain estrogenic properties or activities. Other authors state that true female sex hormones are not found in higher plants, but some herbs apparently contain compounds that influence the production of hormones by the body. It is explained by some that certain herbs are considered precursors to estrogen or progesterone and the action of these herbs are just generally balancing on the endocrine system to help it normalize itself to the point of reduction of uncomfortable symptoms. Sometimes one herb influences more than one gland. For example it has been reported that Ginseng effects the pituitary, hypothalamus & adrenal glands. It so happens that this set of interacting glands has been recognized for centuries by the Chinese as a functional unit influencing stress, aging, sexual function & overall vitality.
This information is not intended to replace necessary care by a qualified physician. It is important to work with your doctor to achieve your health goals in the safest and most efficient manner. Past history or current appearance of cancer is extremely important when considering use of agents that effect levels of the female hormone, estrogen. Just because something is natural doesnít mean it is safe in every situation.
Because the effort here involves cycles, time is needed to give all therapies a chance to become as fully effective as possible. The point being, this is not the same as treating a cold or flu in which you probably could evaluate the success of the remedy in a week or two. Sometime the time span of several cycles is needed before any conclusions are made.
Regarding questions about using these natural remedies alongside Hormone Replacement Therapy, I can only speak for myself to say that I would integrate the two therapies. I would only do this by working together with my physician to make sure proper levels were maintained. Proper levels of hormones is an individual issue and your doctor will be your best resource. If it were me I would hope to be able to use natural agents to the point of not needing conventional medical treatment. To achieve this goal I would imagine you would have to be tested periodically to know how your levels are changing or maintaining.
One of the most effective tools for maintaining comfort during menopause is diet. Nutritional needs vary greatly for each individual so Iím not going to attempt to make any broad or specific statements about diet. You will know first hand which foods contribute to your well-being and which foods cause you more discomfort. Professional dietary advice is easily available as well. For myself, I am more comfortable with other means besides synthetic hormones to maintain healthy bones. I would rather make enough effort with diet and exercise to avoid osteoporosis. I understand this could be considerable effort needed on my part but that is my choice.
The best advice I have ever seen is a book by Christiane Northrup called Womenís Bodies Womenís Wisdom New York: Bantam Books. 1998. Northrup covers nearly all womenís unique health problems with an all encompassing holistic health perspective. Very few books bring the inclusion of the whole person, (mind, body and soul) into each and every aspect of a conditionís various symptoms as Northrup does. Because she is a practicing MD drawing from her experiences and case histories, makes the profoundness of her findings so outstanding. This book has changed the lives of many. Should be required reading for men, women and doctors. She has recently published a new book specifically about menopause.
Menopause is a time of life highly respected in many cultures where women of this age are given roles or positions of honor and dignity. This is not always the case in our society but I think women need to remember that change can be made into opportunity. Menopause presents an opportunity to consider again your purpose in life which can lead to liberation and new fulfillment. Change can be good! Change can be positive! I firmly believe our thoughts and attitudes greatly influence our physical body so if women approach this time of life without fear of discomfort or fear of unhappiness they are more likely to breeze right through this time with minimal discomfort.
Examples of natural products I would use myself:
WILD YAM BLEND
Contains: Lavender and Geranium Essential Oils in extract of Wild Yam Root and Aloe Gel. Applied externally.
FOR HER EXTRACT COMBINATION CAPSULES
Contains: Dong Quai Root, Black Cohosh Root, Licorice Root, False Unicorn Root, Raspberry Leaf, Saw Palmetto Berry, Squaw Vine Herb, Sarsaparilla Root, Blessed Thistle Herb, Damiana Leaf
FOR HER LIQUID EXTRACT COMBINATION
Same as above but in liquid form.
EVENING PRIMROSE OIL CAPSULES
ROSE GERANIUM HYDROSOL
I know many ladies who like to spray this refreshing hydrosol on their skin to ease hot flashes. A gentle mist on the face, neck and arms can be refreshing and cooling in almost any situation. Contains: Rose Geranium Hydrosol Pelargonium graveolens
HERB BOTANICAL & SAFETY INFORMATION:
Black Cohosh Root Cimicifuga racemosa
Avoid when pregnant or nursing, limit use to 6 months.
Blessed Thistle Herb Cnicus benedictus
Avoid during pregnancy. High doses (more then 5.0 grams per cup of tea) may irritate the stomach and cause vomiting. Allergic reactions to this and other composites are possible.
Damiana Leaf Turnera aphrodisiaca
Safe to consume when used appropriately.
Dong Quai Root Angelica sinensis
Avoid during pregnancy.
False Unicorn Root Chamaelirium luteum
Avoid during pregnancy. Sparing use is recommended for individuals with history of digestive system sensitivity.
Licorice Root Glycyrrhiza glabra
Avoid during pregnancy, nursing, diabetes, hypertension, liver disorders, severe kidney insufficiency, and hypokalemia. Not for prolonged use (over 4 - 6 weeks) or in high doses except under supervision of a qualified health practitioner. May potentiate potassium depletion of thiazide diuretics and stimulant laxatives, as well as the action of cardiac glycosides and cortisol. May cause reversible potassium depletion and sodium retention, resulting in such symptoms as hypertension, edema, headache, and vertigo when consumed in therapeutic dosages over a prolonged period.
Raspberry Leaf Rubus idaeus
Safe to consume when used appropriately.
Sarsaparilla Root Smilax medica
Safe to consume when used appropriately. Some authorities warn it leads to gastric irritation and temporary kidney impairment and advise of potential drug interactions with hypnotics, digitalis glycosides, and bismuth.
Saw Palmetto Berry Serenoa repens
Safe to consume when used appropriately. Regular consultation with a physician is advised when using this herb for treatment of enlarged prostate.
Squaw Vine Herb Mitchella repens
Safe to consume when used appropriately.
Wild Yam Root Dioscorea villosa
Safe to consume when used appropriately. Large doses of the tincture can produce vomiting.
ESSENTIAL OIL BOTANICAL & SAFETY INFORMATION:
Lavender Lavandula angustifolia
Tested non-toxic at low levels.
Geranium Pelargonium roseum
Tested non-toxic at low levels. Avoid in early pregnancy.
Blumenthal, Mark., et al Ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Austin: American Botanical Council. 1998.
Duke, James A. The Green Pharmacy. New York: St. Martinís Paperbacks. 1998.
Gladstar, Rosemary. Herbal Healing for Women. New York: Fireside. 1993.
Hoffmann, David. The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal. Shaftsbury, Dorsett: Element Books. 1996.
McGuffin, Michael, et al Ed. American Herbal Products Associationís Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton: CRC Press. 1997.
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Northrup, Christiane. Womenís Bodies Womenís Wisdom. New York: Bantam Books. 1998.
Weiner, Michael A. and Janet A. Weiner. Herbs That Heal. Mill Valley: Quantum Books. 1994.
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