Menopause and Oriental Medicine: Getting The Most Out of Your Change.
By Cameron Bishop DAOM, L.Ac

Copyright 2011

Oriental Medicine views menopause as a "Second Spring" in life. Rather than potential for producing offspring, it is time to produce wisdom. All of life goes through the seasons, the Spring is of being born, growing, and further maturity in Summer, the gathering in Fall, and reflection and decline of winter. Oriental Medicine views menopause as a shift into another period of life, a time of matriarchal tending of life's work. If you take care of yourself earlier in life your "Second Spring" will be easier.

For the average American women it is a time of power surges, mood swings, night sweats, insomnia, dryness, headaches and more. Oriental Medicine has many centuries of written herbal and acupuncture strategies for helping with this shift. It views it as a shift to another graceful season rather than the retaining the image of youth, while suppression the symptoms.

With the news of the hazards of estrogen replacement therapy, and doubts about bio-identical hormones, more and more women are seeking answers in the time tested Oriented Medicine.

Western medicine has taught us to take single substance for each symptom. For example: aspirin for a headache. Often this is applied to herbs: Black Cohosh for menopause symptoms. Which may work but it lacks looking at the bigger treatment picture.

A complete herbal formula is tailored to treat the life long constitution, life long damage, and present symptoms. A formula for "Type A" executive who burned out her core reserves, or a lifelong athlete, are different then a formula for someone who is cold their whole life verses someone who ran hot their whole life. Concurrent use with medication changes the treatment picture. Current age, family history, weight, food habits, sleep, drug, alcohol and stress levels will also affect the approach.

Night sweats are considered a false heat from a deficiency of the yin aspects of the organs. The classic picture is a dance throughout the night of feeling hot and throwing the covers off and then putting them back. Or sticking the feet and hands out to cool off but not uncovering the whole body. A person with true heat stands barefoot and shirtless in the snow and asks for ice tea as it melts around them. The herbals strategy is to both build the yin and blood but also reduce the heat. Timing is important too. It is easier to start this in the cool months and hardest to start at the peak of summer. You are fighting two heats: environmental and internal. Sometimes there is a third from foods that warm you up internally, such as, alcohol, sugar, lamb, some spices and more.

Women who have been cold their whole life need another herbal therapy. Cold constitutions require a formula that warms slightly, and strengthens the blood, but not too much to trigger hot flashes. How cold the foot is can also change the prescription. The toes alone being cold could be simple constraint of the energy, but the whole foot being cold requires a tonic herb. The toe/finger tips being cold indicate internal constraint that does not allow enough flow to the ends. While the whole hand/foot being chilled indicates not enough energy being produced to warm the periphery of the body.

As you can see herbal therapy is a complex art and always a simple one formula or single herb fits all scenarios. In the case of menopause one has to ready to commit to long time therapy, sometimes six months or more to "shift" the person into the next season. It is safe, effective, time tested and ready tailored to individual needs.