Adaptogens for Menopause: 3 Lesser-Known Herbs That Can Help Ease the Transition
Maintaining healthy hormone balance is a continual challenge for modern women, especially those who are currently going through menopause or are about to. There are many herbal remedies that are extremely beneficial during this transitory experience in a woman’s life. Some of the most popular include black cohosh, dong quai and evening primrose oil. But in addition to these, there are some lesser-known herbs, known as adaptogens, that can be used to support hormonal health.
Menopause nowadays is nothing like it used to be for those going through it. The hot flashes, night sweats, pain during intercourse, increased anxiety and irritability that many women experience was not always a normal occurrence. This is because back in great-grandmother’s day, people ate healthy organic foods with no chemicals sprayed on them and no weird DNA alterations. The meats were range-fed and not fattened by eating corn, so they provided omega-3s and other nutrients that the body needs to efficiently produce the correct amount of hormones as nature intended.
The effects of chemicals and low-nutrient foods disrupt the hormonal balancing act in a mighty savage way. Any unhealthy activities that a woman could get by with before menopause will begin to amplify the effects of the hormonal changes taking place during menopause. This is why it is so important to get on track with your hormonal health before this phase of life takes place.
The symptoms of menopause are largely an anomaly common to modern living styles. This is in large part caused by adrenal exhaustion, as Nora T. Gedgaudas explains in her book, Primal Body, Primal Mind:
Women must depend on healthy adrenals to ease the transition of menopause. Exhausted adrenals are unable to take the “baton” from the ovaries, as they are supposed to at this time, to continue producing needed hormones. If your adrenals are shot, that transition called menopause can be pure hell. Women with healthy adrenals at menopause barely even notice anything has happened, which is how it is supposed to be. Hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms are not remotely normal simply because they are commonplace.
What is adrenal exhaustion exactly? It is a syndrome that results when the adrenal glands work below their normal threshold. This happens because of too much stress being placed on them.
Common adrenal stressors include blood sugar dysregulation (the big one), chronic use of stimulants, chronic high levels of EMF (electromagnetic frequency) exposure, chronic infections, food sensitivity issues, prolonged life stress or chronic trauma, chronic lack of adequate sleep and excessive exercise.
These glands produce 5 different hormones that do different things in the body, but the big one here is a glucocorticoid by the name of cortisol. This well-known chemical messenger is used to control your blood sugar. This happens in a rhythmic fashion over the course of the day, starting high in the morning and slowly lowering in a noticeable pattern until it is bedtime.
All those stressors listed above keep your adrenals constantly pumping out cortisol, and your cortisol cycle can get really screwed up from this as a result. If you ever feel sluggish in the morning (need some coffee to get going?), feel good until around 4 pm when you get really tired and feel like a nap would help, and then either stay up late because you are wide awake or have problems going to sleep at a normal time you may have adrenal exhaustion.
This is where adaptogens come in.
[Cortisol] pattern disruptions can be readily managed by the use of adaptogens, which are stress-mitigating herbs that can help reset these erratic patterns on a brain-communication level and help restore healthy cortisol rhythms.
This can help with menopause in a huge way. A return to normal hormonal functioning cycles supports your body in dealing with its changing hormone levels. It also will revitalize your adrenals and allow them to take up the slack of the ovaries. Mentally, these herbs can make it easier to deal with any issues that come your way during this time as well.
3 Adaptogenic Herbs for Menopause
The big one here is shilajit. This menopause herb is one of the best adaptogens you can take period, for women or men! And while it returns your hormonal profile to a more natural state, it has the added benefit of ramping up your metabolism so you can lose those unwanted pounds that are normally associated with menopause and its aftereffects.
Pine pollen must be mentioned for the hormonal balancing act it helps to promote in the body. It does this by clearing out xeno- and phyto-estrogens from your system, which are much higher in today’s world than they were in great-grandmother’s time. To do this, your testosterone levels are rebalanced from the androgens found in the pollen.
Testosterone and estrogen are linked in a very delicate seesaw that everyone should be aware of. Too much estrogen is a horrible thing, causing secondary feminine features in men and huge disruptions in both sexes healthy hormone levels.
Everyone, men and women, requires testosterone to function. Women will not grow hair or huge bulging muscles from consuming this nature-made herb because it is just re-balancing their testosterone levels to their normal levels. In fact, women are more likely to experience reduced menstrual issues, such as cramping and PMS. This is in marked contrast to high levels of estrogen, which can exacerbate these symptoms.
In the book, Timeless Secrets of Health & Rejuvenation, Andreas Moritz writes:
The ovaries of a woman entering menopause purposely reduce their production of estrogen. Menopause is not a sign of becoming old or the body becoming useless; it simply prevents a women from conceiving children so that she can devote the rest of her time and energy to the process of developing and maturing new, formerly untapped skills and capabilities….Since she cannot reproduce any longer, it would actually be harmful if she did maintain the old levels of hormones. (High estrogen levels are responsible for breast cancer.) So menopause, as such, does not cause hormone deficiencies at all. The story, however, is very different if a woman hasn’t been healthy before onset of menopause.
Clearly, anything that would help lower those unnatural estrogens the body has accumulated is going to help with menopause symptoms and to reduce the chances of breast cancer even post-menopause. Pine pollen cannot be ignored for assisting in this process.
Green Tea Pollen
Finally, Camellia sinensis (green tea pollen) has the ability to support the entire endocrine system. The endocrine system is composed of all the glands that release hormones into the blood stream to regulate bodily functions.
Medical science is catching up to other more ancient systems in the knowledge of just how important it is to maintain harmony in the endocrine system. This is hugely important for menopause as the body’s hormone levels are changing at a rate that is difficult to comprehend. Green tea pollen can only help in assisting these glands and providing important nutrients for healing through this period.
Shilajit, pine pollen and green tea pollen can significantly benefit anyone’s health — not just women about to go through or going through menopause. Everyone under the sun stands to benefit in some way by regular consumption of these herbs. But if menopause is looming on the horizon, or you or someone you know is having difficulty with the transition, these herbs may have even greater potential benefits.
Ultimately, keep in mind that menopause does not mean a woman is somehow less or worse then she was before. We end on a thoughtful note by Andreas Moritz:
Menopausal problems can be an opportunity for a woman to put her life in order on all levels. Menopause brings to the surface whatever issues a woman may not have dealt with successfully while she was busy taking care of her family or career. The midlife phase doesn’t need to be a midlife crisis. Instead, it can be a woman’s greatest opportunity to deal with any unresolved issues in her life, thereby freeing her from all kinds of limitations-physical, emotional and spiritual. The first and most important step in that direction is to know that menopause isn’t a disease and that the body isn’t doing anything wrong. Supporting it and treating it with kindness and respect during this important time in a women’s life can make all the difference.
Nora T. Gedgaudas, “Primal Body, Primal Mind.” Healing Arts Press, 2011
Andreas Moritz, “Timeless Secrets of Health & Rejuvenation.” Ener-chi Wellness Press, 2007
Zane Kosmale-Christopher is a passionate health promoter and natural whole food enthusiast. He works exhaustively to study the myriad ways that nutrition can help those around him succeed at living longer, more fulfilling lives. Zane is one of three brothers who run the family business, SupermanHerbs.com, a relatively new company focused on bringing ancient Chinese and Indian medicinal herbs to the attention of the general public, so that everyone may experience the life-enhancing properties of these magic substances. An avid barefoot runner, his knowledge and skill were just proven at two marathons this past May. Zane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook.
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Article updated on: July 21st, 2012