Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) is considered the standard allopathic treatment for menopausal symptoms. HRT supplies the body with an external source of hormones, mainly estrogen andor progesterone. They may help alleviate symptoms of hot flashes and osteoporosis. Premarin (conjugated estrogen) and Provera (medroxyprogesterone) are the most popular brands. Despite possible benefits, the use of HRT is controversial. One of the biggest disadvantages is the large number of side effects associated with estrogen therapy. These include but are not limited to increased risk of breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, gallbladder disease, fluid retention, nausea, headaches and photosensitvity. Progesterone is prescribed in combination with estrogen to reduce the risk of endometrial cancer. However, it may cause increase in cholesterol levels, edema, weight gain and irregular bleeding. Due to these adverse side effects, there are many women who choose not to take HRT.
From a Chinese perspective, the Kidney system is responsible for growth, reproduction and aging. Therefore the changes that occur during menopausal are generally due to a decline of Kidney-Essence energy. The severity of a woman’s symptoms depends on the lifestyle and dietary habits throughout her life. Emotional stress is an extremely important cause of menopausal problems, building up before the onset of menopause. Worry, fear and anxiety weaken the Kidneys and lead to Yin deficiency, especially when these emotions occur against a background of overwork as is usually the case.
Herbal treatment is effective at nourishing the Essence. Herbs provide a gentle and steady tonification of the Kidney Essence without any side effects. There is a wide variety of Chinese herbal formulas that can be helpful in menopause. In order to choose the proper formula, an acupuncturist will identify a specific pattern of imbalance and prescribe herbs on an individual basis. Herbal medicine can help a woman in transition in a slow gradual way unlike the quick results offered through HRT.
It is important to note that if a woman is having HRT treatment, treatment with Chinese herbs is not in contradiction with it as the two work in different ways. HRT essentially works by tricking the body into thinking it is still ovulating but it does not tonify the Kidneys. Chinese medicine, on the other hand, works by gently strengthening the vital energy and nourishing the body as it grows older.