Herbs for Menopause and Perimenopause
by Karen Brennan, MSW, CN, BCHN, Herbalist
Around the age of 40 women begin perimenopause and the transition to menopause. During this time levels of estrogen, progesterone and the androgens fluctuate. Your body will spend years gradually and naturally going through this process. This transition can last 5 to 10 years and for some up to 13 years. Menopause typically occurs between the ages of 45-55. During this time your periods may stop and then start again or may occur more frequently and may increase or decrease in intensity and flow. You are officially in menopause when your period has stopped for one full year.
Herbs to Ease Perimenopause/Menopause Symptoms
Note: Always check first with your health professional when adding in herbs to your regimen. Some herbs interact with meds and some are not safe to take with certain health conditions.
Motherwort: This herb can be your ally in reducing irritability and anxiety that may occur during the transition time. It can calm the heart during perimenopause heart palpitations. If you have heavy bleeding during perimenopause, then don’t overdo the use of this herb. It can aid in menopausal insomnia. Avoid this herb if you have low blood pressure. Take in tea or in tincture. 50-80 drops 2-4 times per day in tincture form. As a tea use 1 tsp. of dried herb. Drink 4 oz. three times per day.
Shatavari: This herb is a wonderful one to use during these times of transition. It is useful for hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, anxiety and memory loss. It also is known to increase libido. Use 30-60 drops 1-2 times per day depending on the severity of your symptoms. As a tincture, use 40-80 drops 3x per day. As a tea use of dried root and consume up to 2 cups per day. Avoid if you have diarrhea and bloating or add ginger and consume as a tea only.
Passion Flower: This herb has many uses and it is useful for menopausal mood swings. It can aid in reducing panic attacks, calms irritability and helps with stress relief. If you can’t turn your mind off at night, use passion flower. Use in tea blend or take 60-80 drops of tincture 3 times per day. Avoid with bipolar, schizophrenia and manic phases. Do not use with MAOI’s.
Sage: This is beneficial for stimulating memory and is useful for the brain fog that is sometimes associated with perimenopause. It is also good for excessive sweating which means it can be supportive for those with night sweats during perimenopause. It is also used for anxiety, hot flashes and fatigue associated with menopausal symptoms. Take in tincture 30-60 drops 2-3 times per day or use 1 tsp. in a tea blend 3 times per day.
Fennel: While many of you may be familiar with fennel for digestive issues, fennel is used to offer hormonal support as well. One of its main components appears to have natural hormone like actions. It can be useful for bloating, menstrual pain and hot flashes. As a tea use 1-2 tsp in one cup hot water.
Skullcap: This herb is considered a brain tonic and is useful for ADD, poor memory and mental fatigue. It is also useful for PMS, menstrual pain/cramps, menopausal depression and mood swings, hot flashes and irritation. Use in a tea blend or take ½ t. of tincture as needed. Avoid with bipolar, schizophrenia and manic phases.
Kudzu root: This herb is beneficial for PMS and peri menopausal symptoms such as acne, hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings. Take in tincture form of 60 drops 2-3 times per day.
Lemon Balm: Use this herb for menstrual cramping and depression associated with perimenopause. This is considered a very safe herb and safe for children as well. However, if you have low thyroid uses it is best to minimize the amount of lemon balm you consume as it can lower thyroid function.
Hops: This herb is used for menstrual cramping. This is best used in tea or tincture. It also has a sedative effect. As a tincture, take 30-60 drops 2-3 times per day. Avoid with usage of sedative medication. Do not use if you have depression.
Black Cohosh: This herb has been popularized for use for hot flashes yet it also has many other beneficial uses. This herb can also be useful for those with depression. Avoid use of this herb if you have liver disease. Take 20-40 drops of tincture per day.
Chaste Tree Berry: Some of you may be familiar with Chaste Tree (Vitex) for hormonal support, however a word of caution-it is very easy to overdo it with this herb. Taking too much may increase progesterone levels and thus increase your symptoms. If using this herb, take only one capsule per day in the morning or 15 drops of tincture in the morning. Avoid usage if you are taking antipsychotic medications.
Going Beyond Herbs to Reduce Symptoms
For some of you with mild symptoms, an herb or two may do the trick. For those of you that continue to struggle with symptoms your body may need more support than just a few herbs. Addressing and identifying imbalances in the body will be key for you, such as addressing blood sugar, adrenals, thyroid, digestion and/or other areas to restore balance. Dietary changes along with targeted supplementation may be needed depending on your current diet and symptoms.
For instance, some of you may enter perimenopause sooner than others due to poor health or due to your diet.
Estrogen dominance becomes an issue along with its side effects during perimenopause for some due to low progesterone levels. The key is to find out what is the issue for you and then address it.
The bottom line is yes, there is something you can do instead of having to put up with these symptoms for years!
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Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Therapeutic Nutrition. CA: Bauman College
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Crow, D. (2016) Medicinal Plants & Spiritual Evolution Intensive. Online Program (notes from)
Mars, B. (2007) The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine. CA: Basic Health Publications, Inc.
Skenderi, G. (2003) Herbal Vade Mecum. NJ: Herbacy Press
Winston, D. & Maimes, S. (2007) Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief. VT: Healing
As a nutrition professional, Karen Brennan, of Tru Foods Nutrition Services LLC, does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.