Herbal Help to Avoid menopause symptoms (ہربل)
By: Nancy Beckham (UrduTotkay.com)
The aim of this article is to provide information on non-harmful ways of overcoming the problems of menopause. The information given may also be applicable to women who already have osteoporosis or for younger women who have had their ovaries removed, however these two categories of women should seek professional guidance.
Twenty-five per cent of women in the 45-55 age range have no menopausal symptoms. Of the 75 per cent who have problems, the following is a breakdown of the symptoms:
Flushing and sweats 80% Lethargy 70% Nervous problems such as anxiety, depression, irritability 70% Reduced sex drive 65% Insomnia 60% Other symptoms include hair and skin changes, poor memory and lack of concentration, headaches, dry vagina, pain during intercourse, loss of confidence, loss of femininity and urinary symptoms. Of course, not all of these are necessarily linked to low oestrogen levels and could be related to dietary and lifestyle factors and the ‘normal’ aging process. After middle age, men also find they have less energy, a lower sex drive and generally sleep less.
Osteoporosis is the most serious problem associated with menopause because as much as 50 per cent of total bone mass may be lost by the time a woman reaches 70 years of age, which means that bones can fracture easily and healing may be prolonged. This disease does not affect all regions it is rare in African Negroes and there are areas where it affects more men than women; InAustralia, it is estimated that about 25 per cent of post-menopausal women have osteoporosis. I will deal with this in detail next issue.
What happens when the ovaries stop functioning?
The major factor is the lowered production of oestrogen. However, this hormone can be produced in other glands, such as the adrenals, but obviously, in many women, this does not occur quickly enough or in sufficient quantities. Basically, the hormonal system works on a feedback system; when the circulating levels are high, a chemical ‘messenger’ instructs our endocrine system not to produce any more of that particular hormone. Obviously, if we flood our system with a hormonal drug, the messages to our endocrine system will be to stop production. This may explain why some women do not menstruate for varying periods when they stop taking the Pill.
Most menopausal-age women will need to give their bodies as much assistance as possible so that sufficient oestrogen is produced to offset flushing and other symptoms, in
nearly every case, this apparently happens over a period of time as the obvious symptoms gradually lessen and disappear. This added function of the adrenals may partly explain why some women have difficulty handling stress at menopause.
The controversial topic of hormonal replacement therapy will be discussed in detail later but in view of this feedback mechanism, it may not be wise to completely dampen the corrective biological function which already exists.
I am not suggesting that we can avoid the inevitability of aging, but I can’t accept that whatever power ‘designed’ us also programmed that we were predestined to suffer a range of serious problems after middle age. We must be doing something wrong or there must be non-harmful methods of preventing the symptoms.
OESTROGENS IN FOODS AND HERBS AND HOW TO USE THEM
Since the 1920s over 50 different species of “plant have been found to contain oestrogenic substances. Most of the published research papers relate to the effects on animals, particularly in respect’of clovers and alfalfa (lucerne) causing infertility in farm animals. It so happens that a number of these plants have been used by herbalists over the centuries and this ‘tested’ use on humans has verified the hormonal effect. The tiny quantities of oestrogens in plants are extremely weak compared to pharmaceutical hormones but many women alleviate symptoms through sensible dietary changes.
Some of these oestrogen containing plants are:
The sprouts are particularly recommended as they have the added advantage of being very low in calories, readily available in shops or you can make your own, palatable in salads or sandwiches, mildly alkaline and rich in nutrients, especially calcium and potassium.
Alfalfa sprouts are somewhat controversial at the moment as the Gerson Institute inMexicohas reported that they suppress the immune system and aggravate conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). The origin of this report was that two women had seemingly reactivated SLE following the ingestion of 10 and 15 alfalfa tablets per day. A particular constituent L-canavanine, was extracted from alfalfa and when this isolated extract was given to susceptible animals, SLE was reactivated.
My own view is that, as SLE is a condition which has relative periods of aggravation and remission, it would be difficult to ‘blame’ one particular dietary item. Over 25 pharmaceuticals exacerbate the disease, isolated extracts of plants are in the nature of drugs and one would therefore expect side-effects and. most importantly, if this type of criterion were applied to almost any edible food, there would be very little left for us to eat. However, it may be prudent for sufferers of SLE to avoid alfalfa, all sprouted seeds and legumes, such as lentils, because these also contain the suspected irritant.
This is commonly sold as a herbal tea but I suggest you buy the seeds and sprout them. Please do not pick the clover yourself because the medicinal species, called Trifolium pratense, is difficult 10 distinguish from some non-edible clovers. Red clover is also used by professional herbalists for skin and respiratory conditions.
The common garden sage or red sage is used. It is better to grow your own but sage can be difficult to cultivate, mainly because it prefers a light, well-drained soil.
Sage has been used for centuries for excess sweating and heat, and scientific research has confirmed its oestrogen content. The best way to prepare it as a remedy for flushing is to soak two tablespoons of finely chopped fresh leaves (or one tablespoon dried) in 500 ml tepid water with the juice of a lemon. Leave it stand in a covered jar overnight. Strain and keep in the fridge. In severe cases you would drink the whole quantity throughout the day; where the symptoms are relatively minor, then the 500 ml could be spread over two or three days. To make it more palatable, you could mix it with a fruit or vegetable juice, or add in some crushed fennel or aniseed. The high dose may need to be used for up to four weeks, then it could be gradually reduced to a cup per day.
The old sage you have had in your cupboard since two Christmases ago probably no longer retains any therapeutic properties; good-quality dried sage will still have a reasonably good colour and its characteristic strong odour.
This common culinary herb has oestrogen-like activity and I would suggest a handful per day; it may not be wise to use larger quantities because of the myristicin and apiol content.
Use the crushed seeds as a herbal tea or in cooking, for example in homemade bread. The seeds could also be added to apple cider vinegar and used in salad dressings. Finely chopped fresh leaves can be added to salads, steamed vegetables and soups. Aniseed is also helpful for minor digestive problems and coughs.
The seeds and finely chopped fresh leaves can be used in a similar way to aniseed. There is one species of fennel (Florence) which develops a bulb-like base and this may be used like celery or lightly steamed. Some greengrocers call it aniseed root. Wild fennel is a common weed and, although the seeds and leaves could be used, this plant is often contaminated with environmental pollutants. Similar culinary herbs, such as dill and caraway, probably contain mild oestrogen-like substances.
Some health-food stores sell dried hops. It is somewhat bitter, which may also stimulate the digestive function, but the tea should be made quite weak otherwise it is not very palatable. An important feature of hops is that it has a sedative function and for this reason herbal extracts of hops are not used by professional herbalists where there is depression. Many people find that hops helps with insomnia -a herbal pillow using dried hops can be quite beneficial.
The hormonal content of hops has been verified; females harvesting it have altered menstrual periods solely from external contact. I am not sure whether or not beer, after all the processing, would retain any oestrogenic properties.
Sprouts are the best way to have these, particularly as the sprouting dramatically increases the oestrogen content. However, they are quite difficult to sprout because they go mouldy and smelly if not washed and drained thoroughly and often. They are amazingly tasty but wait until you have learned to sprout alfalfa and mung beans before trying them. I add soya bean sprouts to salads or use them to thicken soups and casseroles.
Dried soya beans need to be soaked and cooked for a long time and they are probably best used in soups and casseroles but there are many ways of preparing them to make them more appetising. They are cheap, an excellent protein when combined with a grain and have other benefits, such as being protective against atherosclerosis.
If you don’t normally eat dried beans then you must start with small quantities, soaked overnight and very well cooked, otherwise you will probably have severe abdominal colic and flatulence. This is partly because certain enzymes have to be activated to handle such foods and your digestive system needs time to adjust.
Soya beans are also a leguminous plant so, theoretically, could have the same cautions as indicated under alfalfa.
Dried red beans and common green beans are also mildly oestrogenic so could be included in the diet on a regular basis.
There is some evidence that all young sprouts, including sprouted grains and legumes, have oestrogenic proper- ties and, as sprouts are cheap, pesticide and chemical free, rich in nutrients and low in calories, I recommend that you learn how to do your own and have at least one cup per day if you are a menopause age female. You can buy small paperback books giving you basic instructions for sprouting and use jars, so the starting equipment is not expensive.
Some words of warning: When using seeds to sprout, never use those that are intended for agricultural purposes because they would have been treated with fungicides or other chemicals which are potentially dangerous.
Fenugreek Contains precursors of progesterone, another female hormone commonly deficient in menopausal women. Unfortunately, the curry-like smell is readily excreted through the skin but this is not so noticeable if the seeds are sprouted.
There are other herbal and naturopathic remedies for menopausal problems but these are not normally available at retail outlets so you would need to visit a practitioner to obtain these. As with most health problems, there are mild symptoms which require no treatment or simple home remedies; then there are other instances where professional naturopathic advice is helpful and appropriate: and, finally, there are severe cases which require medical diagnosis and treatment.
Potassium sulphate, used in the form of tissue salts, may be helpful for flushing, Use the dosage on the label, but take double the dose for the first week.
Vitamin E has also alleviated some cases of flushing; furthermore, a study on rats showed that a vitamin E deficiency leads to lower bone weight. As this vitamin has benefits to the cardiovascular system, a supplement of 500 iu. per day would do no harm and may give marked benefits.
Cigarette smoking tends to bring on early menopause and is not recommended for this and other well-publicised reasons.
Low calorie diets are not recommended for a number of reasons which are given later, but one important factor is that fat cells are able to convert hormones from the adrenal glands into oestrogen. Although modern women, including myself, don’t want or need to be obese, it may be that ‘nature’ intended us to carry more weight as we age.
Readers may be interested in a few snippets from some of the research material which 1 have collected.
Journal of Food Protection, Vol. 42, July 1979, states that ‘human exposure to dietary oestrogens is below physiological levels. ..but the possibility of metabolic alterations to more or less active forms should not be ignored since effects of this kind have been demon”, started in experimental animals.’ Oestrogenic Constituents of Forage Plants, E.M. Bickoff, Review Series 1/1968, published by the Common wealth Bureau of Pastures and Field Crops, Hurley, Berkshire, reports that ‘the classical infertility
syndrome in ewes is associated with the cumulative effects of exposure to oestrogenic feeding for six months or longer, but short-term exposure has also caused reproductive disturbances.
The effect of oestrogenic plant substances is judged by changes in the anatomy of animals, for example in- creased uterine and ovarian weight, teat length and thicker vaginal skin.
A particularly interesting piece of research has shown that genistein, a weak plant oestrogen, is able to displace oestradiol from receptors in the tissues which could explain why some herbal remedies are traditionally used for ‘balancing’ hormones.
Both the liver and the kidneys have a capacity for converting and deactivating different types of oestrogens; there are also other regulatory mechanisms, such as the prostaglandins.