The treatment of menopause with Oriental medicine

The onset of men­o­pause rep­res­ents an import­ant step in a woman’s life. It is the point when men­stru­ation stops per­man­ently, and con­sequently the abil­ity to pro­duce a child dis­ap­pear forever. For many women, this hor­mon­al change brings many unwel­come side effects. Chinese herb­al medi­cine has been treat­ing these symp­toms suc­cess­fully for many years, and it is becom­ing increas­ingly pop­u­lar as an altern­at­ive to hor­mone replace­ment ther­apy
In Tra­di­tion­al Chinese Medi­cine, the kid­ney is respons­ible for the pren­at­al energy which we receive from our par­ents at con­cep­tion. It is the lead­ing force behind hor­mon­al changes, our growth, and sexu­al matur­ity. The onset of puberty and men­o­pause are a reflec­tion of the rise and decline of this prim­or­di­al force. It determ­ines our basic con­sti­tu­tion. It is our genet­ic foot­print, and the mater­i­al sub­stance needed for the form­a­tion of sperm in men and ova in women. If that sup­ply is inad­equate, it leads to impot­ence, retarded growth, and pre­ma­ture senil­ity.

In that Ori­ent­al med­ic­al frame­work, each kid­ney is clas­si­fied as either Yin or Yang. As we pre­vi­ously men­tioned, the kid­ney yin is regarded as the fun­da­ment­al sub­stance for birth, growth, and repro­duc­tion, while kid­ney yang is the lead­ing force being all physiolo­gic­al changes. Their mutu­al rela­tion­ship could be likened to an oil lamp, with the oil inside the lamp being rep­res­en­ted by kid­ney yin, and the flame provid­ing the heat, com­pared to kid­ney yang. When the oil decreases, so do the flame and vice versa. There­fore we can’t treat one suc­cess­fully without treat­ing the oth­er. Kid­ney Yang, which is called the gate of vital­ity (Ming Men), provides the heat and energy which is needed for all func­tion­al activ­it­ies in the body; it gives us our sexu­al drive.

As the fire of the gate of vital­ity declines with the advan­cing years, the func­tion­al activ­ity of our organs becomes impaired, lead­ing to tired­ness, depres­sion, decreased libido and cold extremit­ies. These unwel­come vis­it­ors would be very famil­i­ar to many men­o­paus­al women. In Tra­di­tion­al Chinese Medi­cine, the kid­neys have also an addi­tion­al attrib­ute; their essence is made up of a sub­stance called the mar­row, which is quite dif­fer­ent from the bone mar­row concept of west­ern medi­cine.

This mar­row sub­stance makes up our spin­al cord, and assists in the devel­op­ment of our brain, and its func­tions. So there is a con­nec­tion, in our ori­ent­al med­ic­al frame­work, between the role of the kid­neys, and our men­tal health. Poor kid­ney essence at birth will res­ult in men­tal retard­a­tion in chil­dren, and a decline in kid­ney func­tion in old age will leads to poor memory, dif­fi­culties with con­cen­tra­tion, dizzi­ness, and men­tal dis­turb­ances.
In addi­tion, this form of mar­row nour­ishes our bones and strengthens our teeth. Once again a pic­ture of poor phys­ic­al devel­op­ment in chil­dren, and osteo­poros­is, and teeth decay in old age comes to mind.
At treat­ment time, the ori­ent­al practitioner’s approach will be entirely dif­fer­ent wheth­er the main men­o­paus­al symp­toms arise from a yin type defi­ciency, or from its yang part­ner.

The first pat­tern is mani­fes­ted by some of the fol­low­ing symp­toms: dizzi­ness, hot flashes, abnor­mal sweat­ing, sore back, and knees, a dry skin or mouth and a red tongue. In our selec­ted treat­ment, some herbs will be aimed at strength­en­ing the kid­ney Yin and its essence, will oth­ers will tar­get the liv­er which is over­power­ing its kid­ney part­ner. Finally, there will be a few addi­tion­al herbs called assist­ants, which due to their cold nature, will be respons­ible for alle­vi­at­ing the hot flashes and excess per­spir­a­tion.
Inthe case of a female patient suf­fer­ing from a defi­ciency of Kid­ney Yang (the flame in the oil burn­er). the patient will be com­plain­ing of cold sen­sa­tion in her body, espe­cially in her hands and feet. She will have low energy and poor libido. Often, her urin­a­tion will be more fre­quent than it used to be, and she might be com­plain­ing of diarrhea. and of a sore lower back. Also, due to the lack of heat in her body, her tongue will be pale, and her pulse slower than expec­ted.
For this patient, a totally dif­fer­ent strategy will be adop­ted. Our herb­al selec­tion will include a few lead­ing herbs which are experts at strength­en­ing the kid­ney essence and sup­ple­ment­ing the blood. They will be com­ple­men­ted by a few assist­ants who will tar­get the liv­er and the spleen organs. These two organs have a power­ful influ­ence on the kid­ney func­tion, so they will need to be kept in check. Finally, a few selec­ted mem­bers of the warm­ing squad will make up the rest of the team. They will provide the heat neces­sary to relieve the back pain and assist the Yang, provid­ing the fuel to build up the fire again. This will facil­it­ate the meta­bol­ism of water, elim­in­ate diarrhea, and drain the excess urin­a­tion which has been caus­ing our patient so much grief.
Of course, oth­er dys­func­tions else­where will often have to be taken into account. This is what makes Chinese herb­al medi­cine an art, where the skill lies in the har­mo­ni­ous com­bin­a­tion of herbs with dif­fer­ent actions and fla­vors to provide a suc­cess­ful rem­edy which is unique for a spe­cif­ic patient, at a spe­cif­ic time.

Olivi­er Lejus is a registered acu­punc­tur­ist prac­ti­cing in Sydney, Aus­tralia.

About Olivier Lejus

I was born in France and I emigrated to Australia in 1980. I worked as a circus performer, puppeteer and actor before I began studying Traditional Chinese Medicine a the University of Technology of Sydney in 1997. I graduated in 2000 with a Bachelor of of science degree in Traditional Chinese medicine. I am now specializing in Japanese style acupuncture for the treatment of female and male infertility, pain, and anxiety.

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