While Western medicine believes the symptoms associated with menopause are relate to shifting hormone levels, Chinese Medicine looks at this issue through a different lens. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the kidneys are largely responsible for the development and decline of female fertility.
The kidneys manage the process of conception, and are closely tied to the liver, which governs blood. Together these two organs are seen to control the process of menarche, fertility, menstruation, and the eventual transition into menopause.
Falling levels of kidney yin (the cooling aspect of the kidneys), are thought to cause insomnia, irritability, night sweats, and hot flashes. To understand the concept of yin, you might view it like coolant in a car. Without it, a car overheats.
Why Women Get Hot Flashes
Women handle incredible workloads, raising families, managing households, and often working full time. Without adequate rest, they must pull from their reserve tanks to get through the day. In Chinese Medicine, the kidneys act as their reserve tank.’The kidneys also govern the menstrual process, so several decades of menstrual cycles can further deplete this system. The net effect is a condition called yin deficiency.
Since yin is like the coolant in your car, the body overheats when yin is not available in sufficient amounts. A lack of yin
leads to hot flashes, night sweats, and thirst. If this heat travels to the heart, symptoms like irritability, anxiety, and insomnia will also appear. You might think of yin deficiency as dehydration on a deeper level. It can’t be restored by drinking water.
Treating Hot Flashes
While acupuncture is excellent at restoring balance and calming the mind, herbal medicine is really the most effective approach in addressing menopausal symptoms. To understand how herbs work, an analogy is helpful. Imagine pouring water onto a sheet of glass. It runs right off. Now imagine if we could change that piece of glass into a sponge. This time when you pour the water, it is easily absorbed. Herbs that support kidney yin do just that—they help to ‘rehydrate’ the body on a deeper level and relieve the many symptoms associated with menopause.
Creating a Customized Approach that Works for You
While many women experience a common set of symptoms associated with menopause (night sweats, hot flashes, fatigue, and irritability), it’s important to take an individualized approach. One strength of Chinese Herbal Medicine is its ability to combine herbs into a formula that is both right for the patient and right for the symptoms. When done correctly, an herbal formula will quickly relieve symptoms without side effects commonly seen in medications.
One Size Does Not Fit All
A clinical trial of the herb Dang Gui showed mixed results when given to menopausal women for the treatment of hot flashes.This comes as no surprise to the trained Chinese herbalist. That’s because DangGui is understood to be a warm herb that acts a blood tonic and blood mover. If you’re a women running hot, you most certainly don’t want a single herb formula to warm you up.
What to Expect at Your Acupuncture or Herbal Visit
A typical herbal consultation may last up to 45 minutes and involves the following:
Reading Your Pulse
An herbalist will palpate the radial artery on both wrists to evaluate not only the rate and rhythm, but also the qualities. There are over 20 specific and unique qualities that can found on the wrists; each quality tells something about the state of health or disease in your body.
Learning from Your Tongue
Like the pulse, the tongue reveals much about current status of the body. The herbalist will take note of the color, coat, shape, cracks, moisture, size, and any unusual depressions. Specific areas of the tongue relate to different organs in the body. For example, the front of the tongue relates to the heart and lungs, while the back of the tongue relates to the kidneys.
A Customized Approach that Works for You
Using the information gleaned in your health history as well as the pulse and tongue evaluation, your herbalist will create a formula custom-tailored to meet your needs. In this way, both the cause (root) and the symptoms (branch) can be addressed.
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