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There are many ways to use herbs for menopause, from nutritional support to hormone balancing to acute distress like hot flashes.
How to Use Herbs for Menopause as Nutritional Support
Herbs can be used similar to nutrient-dense foods to support your health. Many contain plentiful amounts of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients.
For example, when I was pregnant with my son, I made herbal infusions of stinging nettles and red raspberry leaf. I drank these infusions daily throughout my pregnancy. I am certain they contributed to my incredibly easy labor and fast delivery of my son (4 hours total), when many otherwise healthy women my age (I was 41)were struggling to have natural births.
Stinging nettle and oatstraw are some herbs for menopause that can be used for nutritional support.
For extra calcium, chromium, magnesium, potassium and zinc
Stinging nettles (Urtica dioica) are very high in minerals, especially calcium, chromium, magnesium potassium and zinc. Nettles are very nourishing to the adrenals, the kidneys and the cardiovascular system.
Use them as a liquid source of easily absorbed vitamins and minerals that your body will recognize.
Another herbal remedy for menopause is oatstraw or (Avena sativa). Oatstraw is rich in many minerals, especially magnesium, calcium and chromium. It is a gentle, deeply nourishing aid to your nervous system. It helps with high stress. It can relieve insomnia.
These herbs can be made into infusions:
To make an infusion, pour one quart of boiling water over 1 ounce of herb. Cover tightly and leave at room temperature for four – eight hours. Strain and drink. I like to add a bit of cherry flavor to my nettles to cut the strong taste – I use ½ teaspoon flavoring to ½ cup of infusion. You can use other liquids to make it taste the way you want – milk, stevia, honey. These will last one-two days in the refrigerator.
You can make an infusion in the time it takes to make a cup of tea. Just remember to make it at least 4 hours ahead of when you want to drink it. I make mine in the morning before I go to work so that I can have a refreshing, healthy drink ready when I get home.
Herbs can be used to support specific body systems, such as your endocrine and nervous systems. These are two systems, along with your digestive system, that often benefit from extra support going through menopause.
When your ovaries stop producing estrogen and progesterone, your adrenals (which are part of your endocrine system) have to take over that production. If they have been overused or overstressed (which is true for most American women today), they can benefit greatly from some extra support during this time.
Also as we age our digestive system becomes less efficient, and especially if we have eaten poorly during our life, our digestion will become less than optimal. Now is a great time to learn to nourish it and treat it well.
See stress and menopause for herbs to support your adrenals, endocrine and nervous systems.
Herbs to tone your digestive system and support your liver can be found at menopause and digestion.
The Best Way to Take Herbs
Some herbs are best as tea or infusion (leaves and flowers), and others as a decoction (roots and stems). Still others are best as tinctures. Occasionally they will work as capsules (I take Eleutheroccocus in capsule or softgel form). I never take them as tablets.
In addition to taking your herbs in the most effective form, you will need to pay special attention to the quality. The easiest way to do this is to buy from a reputable source. This would not include discount stores or groceries.
Infusions are made by pouring just-boiled water over an herb, then covering and letting sit for 4 – 8 hours. Infusions are used for leaves of plants.
Decoctions are made by simmering the herb in water for 20 minutes, then discard the herb and drink the liquid. This is the best way to prepare roots.
Tinctures, also called extracts, are fresh or dried plant material steeped in alcohol to extract the medicinal properties. Most are made with alcohol, but some can be made with glycerin for those who don't tolerate alcohol.
Many doctors and others recommend standardized extracts because the quality is consistent and you know what you're getting. The downside to this is you don't get the synergistic qualities of the herb, which is what the historical data is based on.
When you find that vitex, or chaste tree berry, has been used all over the world for many years to help balance female hormones, it was not used in a standardized form. Often when science tries to find the active compound in an herb, they can't do it. This is because there are many compounds all working together to produce the result. It can't be done with an isolated compound. The other thing that happens with an isolated compound is that it becomes more powerful and may have more serious side effects.
How to Begin
Let's start with the idea that if you're having bothersome menopause symptoms then maybe your body is out of balance. The place to start is always with your diet. Food is the foundation for your health. Make sure your diet is health-supportive.
Next add some tonic herbs for menopause. Do you need additional calcium, magnesium, or other minerals? Try some nettles infusion. Are you stressed out? Add in some oatstraw and maybe ginseng.
For acute distress:
Hot flashes can be relieved through liver-supportive herbs (see link, above) and hormone balancing herbs.
Insomnia responds well to stress-relieving herbs.
Mood swings can be helped with stress-relieving and hormone-balancing herbs.