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Menopause is the cessation of menstruation and fertility in women, which usually occurs between the ages of 45 and 55. The woman's body produces less estrogen and progesterone (female sex hormones), and her ovaries stop producing eggs. There are many symptoms that can occur for years due to the drop in hormones. Common complaints include hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, headaches, insomnia, depression and inability to concentrate. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help relieve symptoms but according to several major studies, HRT may increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer, blood clots, heart attacks and strokes. Before taking hormones, you may want to consider the following herbal teas for menopause symptoms.
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Black cohosh, a plant native to North America belonging to the buttercup family, was used over 200 years ago by the Native Americans to treat gynecological complaints like menopause symptoms. A compound, fukinolic acid, in black cohosh was shown to have estrogenic activity in vitro. This herb has been used for over 40 years in Europe and has been approved in Germany to treat symptoms of menopause. Many studies have been done. Some have shown positive results while others have shown no effects. According to one study, 86 percent of 629 women who took a special extract of black cohosh had improvement in hot flashes within six to eight weeks.
To prepare this herbal tea, add 20 grams of dried root in 34 ounces of water, bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer for 20-30 minutes until the water is reduced by a third and strain. Drink up to three cups a day. Cover leftover tea and store in the refrigerator. If the tea does not appear to help with your symptoms, you may want to try a standardized preparation of black cohosh like Remifemin (use as directed).
Some doctors recommend using this herb for a short term period (less than six months) until further studies are done on the safety of long term use.
St. John's Wort
St. John's wort has been used as an herbal remedy for centuries to treat a number of problems. Several studies show it to be an effective treatment in people with mild to moderate depression. According to some, St. John's wort appeared to work as well as antidepressant drugs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors - SSRIs) such as Prozac and Zoloft. Other studies suggest it is useful in relieving mood and anxiety changes in women during menopause, especially in combination with black cohosh.
To prepare a cup of black cohosh tea, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2-4 teaspoons of dried herb, cover and steep for 10 minutes. Drink up to three cups a day for four to six weeks.
In Latin, sage (salvia) means "to heal". This herb, a member of the mint family, has been used to treat virtually every ailment over many years. It is a source of estrogen and can reduce secretions of the sweat glands, making it a wonderful remedy in preventing night sweats.
To prepare a cup of sage tea, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of dried leaves, cover and steep for 10 minutes. Drink the tea after it cools down.
Valerian root is believed to have similar effects as benzodiazepine drugs like Valium. It is used to treat anxiety and insomnia. To prepare a cup, pour 1 cup of boiling water over 1 teaspoon of dried root, cover and steep for 5-10 minutes.
Consult your health care provider before using the above herbal teas for menopause if you are taking hormones, taking medications or you have a medical condition.
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 Planta Medica 65: 763-764, 1999.
Michael Murray, N.D. and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine (1998)
University of Maryland Medical Center: Black cohosh - http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/black-cohosh-000226.htm
University of Maryland Medical Center: St. John's wort - http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/st-johns-000276.htm
Photo by MariaP. / Flickr
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