Menopause is a natural phase in a woman’s life that marks the end of her reproductive years. While it is a normal process, menopause can bring about a range of physical and emotional symptoms that can significantly impact a woman’s quality of life.
Western medicine normally uses Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) to treat menopause syndrome. Medication is prescribed to boost hormone levels (like estrogen and progesterone) to treat some of the symptoms. However, HRT may cause side effects like water retention and migraine, or may even increase risks such as endometrial cancer, breast cancer, stroke, and dementia. That’s why a lot of clients come to me for a safer, more natural, and holistic approach to getting through this special stage of life.
How does traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) see menopause?
In TCM, menopause is viewed as a time of change and transformation, where a woman’s body undergoes a shift in the balance of Yin and Yang energies. Yin represents the body's cooling, nourishing, and calming aspects, while Yang represents the active, warming, and energizing aspects. During menopause, there is a decline in Yin energy in the Kidney system resulting in symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats, thirst, itchy skin, dryness in eyes and vagina, constipation, weak knees, lower back pain, low libido, as well as irregular menstruation.
As the Yellow Emperors' Medicine Classic mentions, “The kidney forms the foundation for the body’s reproduction and development. As we age, the essence stored in our kidneys is depleted and Tian-Gui (like the reproductive hormones in Western medicine) is no longer produced and thus women will no longer be able to menstruate and become infertile.” In TCM, the Kidney system is responsible for reproductive and menstrual functions and is the root of life’s activities. Its weakness can also lead to disturbance in supporting and promoting the functions of the other organ systems.
For example, the Liver and Kidney systems are complementary to each other. If Kidney Yin fails to support the Liver, then hyperactive Liver-yang will lead to irritability, dizziness, blurred vision, headache, insomnia, chest discomfort, and unstable blood pressure. If Liver qi stagnation happens, there will be mood problems, abdominal distention, and breast tenderness. The Kidney Yin deficiency could also disturb the harmonized Heart-Kidney relationship resulting in problems like dream-disturbed sleep, abnormal heartbeat, restless mind, panic attacks, poor memory, mouth sores, and dry lips. In TCM, urination functions depend on Bladder and Kidney’s vaporization function. If the balance in the Kidney system is disturbed, bladder function would be affected, thus incontinence and frequent urination happen.
What are the three stages of menopause?
Traditionally, menopause has referred to the transition from reproductive fertility to the cessation of fertility. However, my perspective is that menopause could be divided into three different stages: perimenopause, menopause, and post-menopause. Perimenopause usually happens 4-5 years before the actual menopause happens. The objective of treatment in this stage would be regulating menstruation and delaying the occurrence of menopause. Then moving into a smooth transition to the menopausal stage while minimizing all the typical symptoms. Post menopause is the stage of life that follows menopause which leads to some medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease and artery ailments, osteoporosis, and urinary stress incontinence. Awareness of these stages could allow us to take preventive care for our patients.
How does TCM treat menopause?
1. Herbal medicine: Herbal remedies play a vital role in TCM’s approach to managing menopause. Various herbs and natural ingredients are customized according to one’s body constitution and used in tea, soups, and meals to nourish yin, tonify kidney energy and regulate hormonal fluctuations. Examples of commonly used ingredients include Chinese Angelica, tortoiseshell, silkie, Phellodendri Chinensis Cortex, Spine date seed, black cohosh, and many more. These ingredients could help restore balance, alleviate hot flashes, improve sleep quality, and enhance overall vitality. Sometimes we could even brew some of the ingredients in rice wine to enhance libido.
2. Acupuncture: Acupuncture is an effective therapy to regulate the flow of Qi (vital energy) and restore balance within the body. As disorders of the kidney and liver systems are generally considered the main cause of menopausal syndromes, acupoints that can reinforce and regulate the two systems would be selected. Needling would be inserted in acupoints such as Sanyinjiao (SP6), Hegu (LI4), Guanyuan (CV4), Fuliu (KI7) and Zigong (EX-CA1). According to some clinical research, these points are important to help relieve the following symptoms of menopause: hot flushes, night sweats, insomnia, anxiety, depression, fatigue, mood swings, headaches and migraines, palpitations, pain (low back pain, neck pain, osteoarthritis/knee pain). Also with the drop in the estrogen level during menopause, many ladies may notice skin changes like dryness and loss of collagen. Facial acupuncture is often applied as an anti-aging treatment to help improve skin quality.
3. Dietary Therapy: TCM greatly emphasizes nutrition's role in maintaining health and treating imbalances. Various soups are often enjoyed not only as delicacies but also as cures for numerous illnesses and have been used for medicinal purposes. The ingredients used are good for nourishing the Kidney system such as mulberry fruit, wolfberry, cashew, walnut, water chestnut, black soybean, black sesame, oyster, sea cucumber, shrimp, silkie, egg yolk, white peony root etc.
Below is an example of “American ginseng and Silkie soup” which is great for consumption during the menopausal stage to nourish the kidney Yin:
Silkie chicken 1kg
American ginseng 30g
Ginger 4 slices
Red dates 5 pieces
Goji berries 20g
Salt Appropriate amount
1. Chop silkie chicken and pork into smaller pieces.
2. Soak ginseng, red dates, and goji berries for 10 minutes to rinse off any dust and impurities.
3. Put silkie chicken pieces and pork into a big pot with water to cover and bring it to a boil. Scoop out the impurities and foam. Pour the chicken and pork into a colander and rinse with cold running tap water
4. Put all ingredients into a clean pot with 2L of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 60 minutes.
5. Add salt to suit your taste and ready to serve
4. Moxibustion: Moxibustion is a technique that complements and enhances acupuncture efficacy. It involves the burning of a Chinese herb named Mugwort near specific acupoints and the heat generated could stimulate blood circulation and enhance the function of the Kidney system. It could help alleviate menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, anxiety, and vaginal dryness.
5. Cupping Therapy: Cupping therapy puts special cups on specific acupoints or areas to create suction.
It is commonly used by TCM practitioners for detoxification, relieving muscle tension, reducing stress and anxiety, and enhancing metabolism. Menopausal clients who experience muscle pain and tightness, emotional imbalances, and weight gain would find cupping therapy very helpful.
6. Qi Gong: Qi Gong is a movement practice to optimize energy within the body, mind, and spirit. It has both psychological and physical components and involves the regulation of the mind, breath, and body’s movement and posture. Qigong for Menopause will help alleviate hot flashes & night sweats, restore restful sleep, reduce stress/anxiety, increase your energy, slow the decline of hormones, and enhance memory.
How often should one do the treatment to get the best result?
TCM sees everyone as a unique individual. So the treatment plan would depend on a patient’s unique body constitution and conditions. In general, I would recommend one to two times a week for four to six treatments, then once a week for another four to six weeks, and then once a month to maintain results. How to contact Ruth?