This post is the fourth in the menopause series of articles. While the advice is predominately natural remedies to help with menopausal itching it may be helpful for any itchy skin conditions. If your menstrual cycle is beginning to change and your skin starts to itch it is often an indicator of approaching menopause, the peri-menopause phase.
The medical term for itchy skin is pruritus. It may be mild or may be severe enough to disrupt sleep. It can be due to any number of factors or medical conditions. Sourcing the cause is equally important in treatment.
If your itching skin is due to peri-menopause or menopause it can cause misery especially if coinciding or aggravating other menopausal symptoms. In addition, if you have previously struggled with problem skin the onset of the menopause often aggravates this.
So why does your flesh feel like it is crawling?
Peri-menopausal or menopausal itching skin is unfortunately, still not completely understood. What is known? There are a variety of changes to the skin due to declining hormone levels. The main declining hormone being oestrogen.
Scientific studies of post-menopausal women found a lack of oestrogen associated with atrophy, dryness and poor wound healing. This reduction in moisture and elasticity of the skin, also unfortunately, leads to those dreaded wrinkles!
So … the natural remedies to help with menopausal itching
First up dietary …
Many of these have been covered in an earlier nutrition based article for menopause. Certainly reduce ‘drying’ alcohol and increase ‘moisturising’ water. Drinking a glass of water with some added freshly squeezed lemon juice every morning rouses the liver. This can be warm water, after boiling, if preferred.
Increasing omega 3 in the diet is another important one for skin health. Foods to increase include salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines.
These are great sources of omega 3 but not so great if you don’t like fish or choose not to due to a vegetarian or vegan diet. Hemp seeds, chia seeds and walnuts are other sources.
I would also include avocados or avocado oil in the diet. Although not an ‘essential’ omega, avocado does contain omega 9 and vitamin E. Both have an important role in skin health.
and herbal remedies to help with menopausal itching …
There are several natural remedies to help with menopausal itching that spring to mind. The following are some of the more effective and easily obtainable.
The humble dandelion. Often neglected as a garden weed, dandelion is a wonderful herbal ally. Taking two or three cupfuls of a dandelion root decoction each day supports the liver aiding the natural cleansing processes of the body.
Red clover is a herb I initially studied for the skin. It is so much more. A herbal lymphatic best taken as a herbal tea for fluid retention. I also included it in an earlier article for menopausal hot flushes. Make up as a herbal infusion, allow to cool, strain and soak a flannel in the liquid and dab over itchy skin.
Stellaria media (chickweed) is frequently used by medical herbalists in a lotion, cream or ointment to help with itching skin. It is a common wild medicinal. If you know the plant you can gather and harvest yourself.
Alternatively you will often find pre-made products available to purchase from herbal stores online (Neal’s Yard Remedies are one of the larger stores) or from your local medical herbalist. Here in France there are some consultants selling Neal’s Yard Remedies Stellaria cream.
Coconut oil is utilised in Ayurvedic medicine for persons of a Pitta constitution. In some individuals it can bring a cool relief to an itching skin or scalp. Source good quality coconut oil. Melt the coconut oil in your warm palms and massage into your skin.
Any keen porridge eaters are certain to have oats (Avena sativa) in their kitchen cupboard. Oats naturally moisturise the skin, remove dead skin cells and are effective in healing and relieving dry and itchy skin.
Take a bath with a handful of oats in a cotton sock or tied in a muslin cloth. Squeeze the sock in the water over the skin to soothe the itch.
Showers have often become more popular than baths. As a result many homes no longer have a bathtub. Alternatively use a warm basin of water and apply to the skin.
some final suggestions to reduce that itch …
Soaking in a warm bath with two cupfuls of Epsom salts is an age old remedy for relief of itching sunburn or insect bites. It works equally well for relief of any itchy skin conditions including those of a peri-menopausal or menopausal origin.
In addition, Epsom salts baths soften skin, reduces stress and eases sore, aching muscles. It is important to avoid the use of any soaps or body wash products which may interfere with the benefits of the salt bath.
However, remember that overly hot showers and baths can aggravate itchy skin and hot flushes. Ensure the water is warm but not hot.
Many synthetic highly perfumed products may also aggravate the skin. Products containing SLS (sodium laurel sulphate) are widely known to cause skin sensitivity and dermatitis in some individuals. It is best to avoid shower gels and lotions containing SLS with any skin conditions. Should you suffer with an itchy scalp seek out shampoos without SLS.
The above are a few natural remedies to help with menopausal itching. A combination of the above factors will bring welcome relief. If your problem is more severe or persistent you would be well advised to consult with a medical herbalist or your family physician.
So why dandelion? I have sat down to write this post for a friend. Ian is a fantastic photographer. Frequently his stunning photographs include trees, squirrels or his pet rabbit.
This time, he emailed through this most beautiful photograph of a dandelion ‘clock’ or seed head. He described it as looking “like a lampshade from Habitat”!
Nature is often far more beautiful than any manmade product and, albeit his photograph is manmade, he has captured the beauty of nature perfectly.
And so my reason for this post? I threatened to bore him with the medicinal properties. He assured me he would not be bored. We shall see! I have brewed a cup of dandelion root and sat down to commence… He has no idea of the documentary I am about to provide. It is certainly one medicinal ally I could not be without in my herbal dispensary.
going back to my roots… a little…
Thinking of Ian’s rabbit I do wonder if Boz likes dandelions. My own childhood rabbit loved them. Thoughts have now moved from rabbits to chickens. My neighbours have six chickens. They love dandelion leaves.
I mentioned above the ‘clock’ or seed head. The proper name is pappus. I know some children used to play ‘clock’, however, I believed when I blew the pappus I was releasing captured fairies. I would make a wish and set them free to fairy land to make my wish come true, completely unaware in the process I was scattering seeds into any neighbouring garden lawns. Oh dear!
As I child I also remember the ‘ginger van’. This was a weekly van selling bottles of carbonated soft drinks, I guess it was run by Barr. Barr are now better known for Irn Bru. However, as a child the van had an array of soft drinks from cream soda or red cola to dandelion and burdock! We used to get to choose a bottle every week and you got money back the following week for returning your empty bottle. Recycling at its best!
Back to dandelion and burdock, I doubt very much the soft drink from the ginger van actually contained dandelion or burdock. It was probably flavourings and way too much sugar. A wonderful weekly childhood treat no less. I guess at some stage in history it probably stemmed from these two plant roots. Both excellent liver tonics.
The image of the dandelion pappus below is actually from my first website when I lived in Devon in the UK. I chose this as I liked the way the dandelion stood out strong and defiant against the blue backdrop.
First of all we ought to mention the name…
Here we go a little French. The name dandelion is possibly derived from ‘dent de lion’. This basically translates as ‘tooth of the lion’. Barker suggests this given name was possibly due to the jagged leaf edge. However, I recall the root was thought to resemble the white tooth of a lion although I cannot remember where I read this or where I heard it. Who knows?
And so do the French call it dent de lion? Well no. They call it ‘pissenlit’. So if I tell you ‘en lit’ translates as ‘in bed’. I’m guessing you’ll get the general idea. It is indeed a diuretic, particularly the leaf. Another good choice for a common name.
The scientific name, Taraxacum, probably stems from Greek. Grieve notes ‘taraxos’ is Greek for disorder and ‘akos’ for remedy. Although Barker notes it may also stem from Arabic referring to eyesight as it was apparently recommended in the Middle Ages for eye conditions (Barker).
Where to find a dandelion… Really?
Podlech tells us dandelion is throughout Europe and also in the west of Asia. Common in meadows, pastures, fields and waste ground. He describes the humble Taraxacum officinale a solitary yellow flower-head on a long leafless stem with ray florets.
The leaves are in a basal rosette and are long, narrow and lobed with the lobes pointing back toward the base. The hollow stems exude a milky white juice.
Interestingly, Messéngué believes the Greeks and Romans didn’t know it and therefore it was brought to Europe perhaps by barbarian invaders.
In one of his many herbals, Mills seemingly agrees. He believes dandelion originates from central Asia. Although now found growing in northern hemispheres it is in most parts of the world and even arctic regions. He adds, dandelion prefers moist soil in pastures, meadows, lawns, and waysides. Easily propagated from root division or sowing the seeds. He advises it quickly spreads, as we well know. To contain dandelion he recommends picking the flowers before they seed.
Unfortunately, in the garden lawn, it is all to often attacked by vicious herbicides.
I love this quote from Judith Berger taken from her book Herbal Rituals.
“… we imagine that the cures for our ills are complicated, exotic, and expensive, often the plants which are meant to be our constant companions love to settle at our feet. These plants are extremely beneficial to our vitality and resiliency. In the case of dandelion, nature has placed in our midst an exceptionally healing food and medicine plant.”
Traditional prescribing and research suggest the root has the stronger choleretic and cholagogue activities and the leaf has the stronger diuretic properties. Traditionally, the root and leaf were utilised for similar conditions albeit the leaf was considered weaker than the root except in its diuretic action (Bone). Personally I would agree and would choose the leaf for a diuretic action. Remember that French name.
Dandelion was traditionally used for cholecystitis, gallstones, jaundice, dyspepsia with constipation, enlargement of the liver or spleen, dropsy and uterine obstruction (Bone).
Nicolas Culpeper utilised for obstructions of the liver, gall and spleen. He found it had a cleansing property and suggested the herb for the passage of urine in both young and old. Also recommended for jaundice, fever, to procure rest and sleep and, for washing sores.
Messéngué advised eating as much dandelion salad as you liked as it would do “a power of good”. He also utilised the young buds as a substitute for capers. However, he particularly highlighted the medicinal properties, describing it a whole pharmacy of gold.
Many of the traditional uses remain today. Mills recommends dandelion as tonic for the liver and hepato-biliary functions. It supports and encourages these areas to adapt when under stress.
As a cooling bitter it has a gentle but strong ability to reduce fever with the additional advantage of stimulating the digestive system and useful in convalescence. As a result of the gentle eliminative properties it is recommended for constipation. Mills describes dandelion a choleretic herb improving bile production and cholagogic stimulating bile flow. Ideal for bilious conditions such as heaviness in the epigastrium possibly with nausea. Don’t you just love that word ‘bilious’.
Also recommended in treatment of arthritic disease to help remove toxic waste from the affected joints through the urine. And so we go back to Culpeper and his cleansing description.
Hoffmann recommends for congestive cases of jaundice and congestion of the liver and gallbladder suggesting dandelion has an ability to move things on.
Bone indicates dandelion for jaundice, gallstones, constipation, dyspepsia, flatulence, loss of appetite and intestinal bloating. Recommended for muscular rheumatism, chronic skin diseases and cystitis in combination with uva ursi. I imagine the cystitis use refers to the leaf. Certainly I would add dandelion leaf to most prescriptions for urinary tract infections.
Bone recommends caution in using the root if gallstones are present. His reasoning is not clear, nor is it clear if he meant you could use the leaf. I assume his caution relates to the possibility of moving the gallstones thereby obstructing the digestive tract. Personally I have not heard nor found evidence of this.
At the very least, I hope by now, you have grasped dandelion is probably a first port of call for happy kidney, liver and digestive function.
…kidney stone preventive and a bit of arthritic nutrition…
Weiss recommends taking high intake of dandelion tea once a week to stimulate diuresis and prevent recurrence of kidney stones. I assume he refers to the leaf here.
He also has a spring and autumn treatment regime for chronic arthritics where he suggests taking dandelion in salad, sandwiches and soup, as a tea and in fresh juice. This increases mobility and reduces stiffness.
I assume he means the leaf when discussing salad, sandwiches and fresh juice too. I have included dandelion, in combination with other herbs, in many prescriptions for arthritis.
and some other thoughts…
Duke recommends using dandelion as a preventive to osteoporosis. He describes dandelion as containing boron, calcium and silicon to strengthen the bone. Boron apparently works by increasing oestrogen levels in the blood.
He is not alone in this recommendation. Susun Weed uses “calcium and mineral-rich” dandelion in a vinegar for bone health. At a mere 5ft in height, and watching my mother, aunt and grandmother shrink, I’m all for the dandelion!
Weed utilises dandelion to ease hot flushes too. She prefers fresh leaf tincture. The root she uses fresh or dried in tincture form. She adds eating fresh dandelion leaves or drinking dandelion flower wine is also effective. Dandelion aids the liver in processing those menopausal hormones. Carrying along on the menopausal theme, Weed recommends dandelion tincture for those with itchy, sensitive skin and light-headedness. Common menopausal symptoms.
Duke adds the Chinese reputedly simmer the root in two or three cups of water until only half the liquid remains and use this remaining syrup mixture for tonsillitis. The Chinese also use the root as a compress to treat mastitis.
A bit of science…
The constituents include bitter glycosides, triterpenoids, tannins, volatile oil, inulin and potassium salts (Mills). Podlech also includes bitters, tannins and essential oils as the key constituents in addition to flavonoids. Bartram adds carotenoids and sesquiterpene lactones.
Hoffmann (1999) states up to 5% of dandelion is potassium, although it is not clear if he is referring to the root, leaf or the herb as a whole. He advises dandelion is one of the best natural sources of potassium. In addition to potassium, he includes glycosides, choline and triterpenoids in the constituent listing.
Weiss concludes that it is the sum of a large quantity of different constituents that give dandelion its real value and that it contains bitters, vitamins and enzyme acting substances that simulate the kidneys and liver function.
Cardiac glycosides may give dandelion its diuretic use in heart conditions and its ability to increase potassium levels in the blood. Iridoids and sesquiterpene lactones are bitter principles and bitters have a similar action to gastrin increasing hepatic bile flow and the appetite (Mills).
The leaf has a more pronounced diuretic effect and recommended for premenstrual fluid retention. However, root is preferred where additional signs of a sluggish liver, including constipation.
The leaf also has the higher content of potassium making it useful in the treatment of elevated systolic blood pressure. The root is indicated rather than leaf for cirrhosis of the liver. Also root as a hepato-protective agent to minimise damage to the liver when exposed to toxins. For severe morning sickness, in the first trimester of pregnancy, root is indicated (Mills).
Mills adds the leaf has so much potassium it increases blood potassium levels. Due to this it should be used as a diuretic in cases of heart failure.
Dosage in herbal medicine
Personally I prefer fresh tincture of leaf rather than a dried leaf tea. I very much enjoy a brew of the root and also use root in tincture form. When prescribing for patients tinctures are often easiest. The following lists dosage methods from some well-known herbalists.
Mills utilises root and/or the leaves. Roots prepared by decoction and the leaves by infusion. He recommends dosage of 2 to 8 g dried root or 4 to 10 g of dried leaf three times a day. If requiring the cholagogue or choleretic properties take thirty minutes before eating (Mills).
Hoffmann recommends tincture at a dose of 5 to 10 ml three times a day and leaves eaten raw in salads.
Roast and ground the roots to take freely as a coffee. Eat leaves raw in salads or cooked as spinach. Liquidise fresh plant and take as a juice at a dose of 1 to 4 teaspoons (Bartram).
Bone recommends a dose of 6 to 11.5 ml of 1:1 liquid extract of the leaf per day and 40 to 80 ml per week. For the root, 3 to 6 ml of 1:2 liquid extract per day and 20 to 40 ml per week.
Boil briefly a tea containing 1 to 2 teaspoons per cup of water of dried chopped root and leaf and leave for 15 minutes. Take every morning and evening for 4 to 6 weeks as a treatment in those with a tendency to form gallstones (Weiss).
Dandelion is a cooling herb. In the time of Culpeper, choler in the body was believed to cause conditions such as ‘dry scabbing’. Today believed to be eczema. Dry bowels with constipation, large hard veins suggested an excessively hot and dry liver. Dandelion, as a cooling herb was indicated.
Attenuating or discutient herbs were used for cutting and thinning humours. Discutients were cooler in action than attenuating herbs. These herbs have a dilating rather than astringent action. Dandelion is a discutient herb. Dandelion is also considered a cooling diuretic (Tobyn).
Energetically ruled by Jupiter cold and dry in the second degree. Cooling stomach and liver. Opening, cleansing, healing and diuretic.
Magic and Witchcraft
Riva includes dandelion in her list of Herbs and Roots for Power. Take a handful of herb in a small bag and place in the tub for a herb bath. She describes this as stimulating and particularly beneficial for those with psychic talents or those wishing to summon spirits.
In addition, Riva adds, as a herb of Jupiter, Thursday is the best day for conducting spells with dandelion. She finds it a particularly favourable herb for those born under Sagittarius or Taurus.
Finally she recommends a cup of dandelion tea overcomes despondency and keeps you protected from disease.
A few more words…
Before I studied herbal medicine I often drank roasted dandelion root as a coffee substitute. I quite enjoyed it.
My first tasting of dandelion root as a decoction was as a student herbalist. It was a blind tasting. The smell reminded me of potatoes boiling but with a sweet-smelling undertone. I remember finding the taste sweet and, I felt, quite cooling.
At the time I imagined giving this herb to a person who was a bit floaty and in need of grounding, a little airy-fairy and dreamy. Someone always on the go, I felt it would help to ground them. My brother came to mind. When he was younger he was certainly a dreamer. He was, and still is, always on the go and never seems to have time to stop, sit-down and eat.
We tasted the leaf tea later in class. The smell of the leaf was similar to damp grass, though not quite as strong. The taste was slightly more metallic than the root.
Since qualifying I have used tinctures more than teas and probably root more than leaf. However, I do find the leaf has found its way into many prescriptions for urinary tract infections and fluid retention. I have also included it in some herbal prescriptions for high blood pressure.
If you ever meet Ian either in his capacity as a photographer or one of his many Woodland Trust ventures you can ask him about his knowledge of the humble dandelion. I’ll be eager to hear if I did indeed bore him with this rather lengthy narrative.
Nutritional Factors to Help with Menopausal Symptoms
So first up the sad part … those to reduce or avoid
In clinical research, caffeine has been shown to cause more frequent flushes and night sweats. Unfortunately, research does not show how many cups of coffee a day it takes only that it does! So try cutting back or cutting out the coffee for a couple of days and see if it has any benefit for you.
Remember tea includes some caffeine too so if you are a heavy tea drinker you may well benefit from reducing consumption of your favourite cuppa. Finally some fizzy drinks also contain caffeine too.
It is not only night sweats and flushes that are aggravated by caffeine. Caffeine intake may be part of the problem for other menopausal symptoms such as joint pains, panic attacks, anxiety or trouble sleeping.
Coffee exacerbates symptoms of bloating and fluid retention too. This is thought to be due to enzymes in the coffee rather than the actual caffeine.
Just one more glass of bubbly…
Alcohol is another culprit. We all know that alcohol increases body heat and flushing.
Unfortunately in women prone to hot flushes alcohol is sure to trigger a flush. So if you are out at lunch with a potential new work client you may want to reduce or avoid the alcohol consumption or risk resembling a Belisha Beacon.
In addition, alcohol is drying. If you feel like your skin is crawling and itchy alcohol will exacerbate this symptom too.
Feeling a little fruity…
Some women find acidic foods aggravate hot flushes and night sweats. Foods we more commonly think of as being acidic include fried foods, beef or seafood, sweeteners and sugar, processed cheese and processed foods. However, many fruit juices are acidic too. Indeed, some women find some of the more acidic citrus fruits and even tomatoes (mildly acidic) increase flushes or night sweats.
Some women struggle with stiff joints or even joint pain when menopausal. Some foods are believed to aggravate joint pain. This can vary considerably with individuals however, citrus fruits and tomatoes are often condemned.
Some sources suggest it is not only tomatoes but all foods in the Solanaceae or nightshade family. The nightshade food group includes a number of popular foods such as potatoes, peppers, aubergine as well as tomatoes. I’m not personally convinced the whole food group are culprits. For one, people often respond well to chilli (another nightshade food) for arthritic or joint pains. It really is down to the individual but it is certainly worth avoiding these foods for a couple of weeks and reintroducing one at a time to monitor any effects.
How about that bacon sarnie?
Unless you are vegan or vegetarian the smell of bacon cooking undoubtedly tingles the tastebuds. Several years ago I worked in the Middle East. In Saudi Arabia bacon was banned. People invariably sneaked it through customs and into the country. I will never forget the smell of someone cooking bacon. It was torture knowing you couldn’t go out and buy some even though I was never personally a great lover of bacon butties but oh that aroma.
We’ve already mentioned fried foods can increase flushes and night sweats so if you really need a bacon sarnie opt for grilled bacon.
However, if you have feelings of anger, grumpiness, irritability, low moods or depression with your menopause then it is definitely best to avoid all fatty foods. Sorry that includes bacon. Fatty foods lower serotonin levels.
Serotonin is extremely important in helping to maintain moods, stabilise sleep and lift libido. Three common menopausal symptoms.
Anyone for a little spice?
This is a difficult one. Countries with hotter temperatures (India and Thailand, South America and the Caribbean) often eat lots and lots of what we would consider hot spices. The irony here is hot foods do make you sweat and of course, sweating is your bodies natural way of cooling you down. So they actually can help cool you down. However, when you are already flushing over your hormones perhaps an added hot flush from your Thai or Indian food is not much fun.
Not convinced the above have any effect on you?
If in doubt keep a food diary. Note what you eat and drink. Add the number and severity of flushes or nights sweats. How did you feel? Were you more anxious, irritable, impatient or tearful?
No two women are the same and so no two women will experience exactly the same menopausal symptoms.
This post is a guideline of nutritional factors to help with menopausal symptoms. Keeping a food diary will allow you to tailor your own nutritional plan to help with your individual menopausal symptoms.
And now the good part … those to enjoy
Craving that Caffeine Fix?
Try replacing with a herbal tea. Often it is the habit of sitting down for a cuppa that people miss most. Opting for a herbal tea you are still having a brew. Try choosing a herb or blend of herbs that will actually help relieve your menopausal symptoms.
Feeling Jaded without your Fruit Juice?
Opt for vegetable juices instead. Cucumber is a cooling refreshing drink. It has so many wonderful health benefits. Add a little apple or a carrot if you prefer it sweeter.
Battling the Bacon aroma?
Instead of destroying your serotonin levels and knocking your moods for six help boost serotonin with good quality fats. Foods highest in tryptophan are turkey and chicken, whole milk, salmon and eggs. Serotonin is synthesised by tryptophan in the body.
Instead of the bacon butties for breakfast opt for ‘tryptophan breakfast’ of poached salmon with a poached egg for a serotonin boost. Delicious and much better for your moods and libido. In addition, salmon is bursting full of omega-3. Much needed for healthy skin to ease itchy skin and beat those wrinkles. Go for a brisk walk after breakfast or on your lunch break to further boost your mood.
Struggling without that Spice of life?
If you want a flavour burst with some spice try some of the less heating spices such as coriander or turmeric. Food doesn’t need to be boring and tasteless.
In Final, a summary of Nutritional Factors to Help with Menopausal Symptoms
Remember if you do find a favourite food is exacerbating any of your symptoms don’t despair. You can still enjoy these foods occasionally and once you have conquered the menopause you can probably reintroduce them without any problem.
In general eating a good, healthy and balanced diet includes all the nutritional factors to help with menopausal symptoms.
Natural Remedies to Help with Hot Flushes or Flashes
Whether you prefer to call them hot flushes or hot flashes they are a misery. Although an unfortunate natural reaction, some women find them embarrassing particularly when flushing in front of work colleagues. Also called vasomotor symptoms or VMS. They start suddenly with a heating sensation predominately in the head and neck and upper body including the back.
There is some suggestion that if flushing starts in the peri-menopausal period you will suffer longer and it can go on for several years. If the flushing commences after cessation of periods symptoms tend to last no more than 3 years.
Other suggestions include flushes last longer in smokers, anyone overweight or women suffering from stress or anxiety. However, no two women are identical in any menopausal symptoms. Duration, frequency and severity of hot flushes varies considerably in women.
Using Natural Remedies to Help with Hot Flushes
Aromatic Waters, Hydrosols or Hydrolats
Aromatic waters in a spray bottle are excellent on-the-go natural remedies for hot flushes. Easy to keep a spray bottle beside the bed, in your handbag or desk drawer and simply pull out and spray when you feel a hot flush coming on. I find them particularly refreshing on the face and pulse points of the wrist.
Three of the favoured ones for menopausal flushes are lavender, peppermint and rose. Each have slightly different benefits for menopausal symptoms. The descriptions below are a guideline to help you make the best choice.
Lavandula angustifolia – lavender
Hot Flushes with accompanied anxiety, irritability, stress or poor sleep are often helped with Lavandula angustifolia or lavender aromatic water. Irritability, stress and poor sleep aggravate hot flushes.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine lavender is energetically considered cooling particularly for the liver.
You could also spray the lavender aromatic water on your pillow to aid sleep.
Mentha piperita – peppermint
Mentha piperita or peppermint has a somewhat contradictory warming and cooling effect on the body. In small amounts it has a cool, fresh feel on the skin making it ideal for hot flushes.
The clarity of peppermint also makes this a better choice for those with menopausal mental fog, lack of focus or concentration.
Rosa damascena – rose
Finally, Rosa damascena or rose aromatic water. This is one of my personal favourites. I find it immensely uplifting, yet cool and calming. Rose is described as a cooling astringent.
I would favour this aromatic water for women with acne rosacea and have prescribed the aromatic water, in combination with other herbs, for patients with acne rosacea. Acne rosacea can affect some women during menopause.
Rose is a traditional aphrodisiac so may also help with a low libido. I often add rose buds or petals to a herbal tea blend. In addition to the medicinal benefits, it makes a particularly aromatic and pretty tea.
Sourcing Aromatic Waters
Note: Please be sure to purchase pure aromatic waters, hydrosols or hydrolats for therapeutic use. Some products are simply a few drops of essential oil in water and alcohol. These are not aromatic waters and must not be taken internally.
The three discussed above will have a shelf life of at least 18 months, if stored correctly, and probably longer for rose.
My top choice for herbal tea natural remedies to help with hot flushes are sage and red clover. As mentioned above I also like rose added to a herbal blend.
Salvia officinalis – sage
First of all the wonderful Salvia officinalis, more commonly known as sage. This is a great herb to have growing on hand in the garden or in a pot as it has so many wonderful medicinal uses. However, in this post, we focus on its well deserved reputation for menopause.
It is probably the number one in my go to herb list of natural remedies to help with hot flushes and would be particularly suitable if additional problems with lack of concentration and focus or poor memory. Common symptoms of the menopause. The studies below highlight these qualities.
A clinical study by Bommer et al in 2011 found the mean total number of hot flushes per day decreased significantly each week over a period of 8 weeks in 71 women taking fresh sage.
Sage has also been reviewed quite extensively for its benefit on cognitive function. Miroddi et al in 2014 reviewed six of these studies and found Salvia officinalis enhanced cognitive performance in healthy subjects and patients with dementia or cognitive impairment.
Trifolium pratense – red clover
Red clover is another beneficial herb for menopausal hot flushes. This would be a favourable choice with any associated skin problems. In addition a study below highlights its benefit in vaginal dryness another common menopausal symptom.
The Journal of Phytomedicine published a review early in 2017. Myers et al reviewed several studies of Trifolium pratense (red clover) in the treatment of menopausal hot flashes and found a clinically significant benefit.
In addition, a study from 2016 published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found symptoms of vaginal atrophy were significantly helped with Trifolium pratense (Ghazanfarpour et al).
Sourcing Dried Herbs
Many herbs are easily grown in the garden or in pots. Sage is one of these herbs. Use herbs from the garden fresh and dry some for use overwinter or alternatively make into a plant tincture.
Red clover is a common wildflower. Caution is advised on picking where there may have been pesticide use.
Should you wish to purchase and use dried herb there are several options. In the UK stores like Woodland Herbs and Neal’s Yard Remedies offer an online delivery service. You should also be able to source these herbs from your local medical herbalist. In France several dried herbs are available from stalls in many of the outdoor markets or in the bio (organic) food stores.
Wearing layers is definitely best. Removing a layer at the onset of a flush can help the body adapt. Loose fitting clothes in breathable fabrics are also better.
As much as possible avoid stressful situations. This will aggravate flushes. Of course, this may not be easy if the stressful situation is work related.
The above are some of the more popular and easy to obtain natural remedies to help with hot flushes.
We’ve all heard the jokes about menopause. The similarities to the 7 dwarves with the new names of Itchy, Bitchy, Sweaty, Bloated, Psycho and whatever other symptoms fit the bill.
And of course, the joke about all female problems start with MEN: menopause, menstruation, mental anxiety etc, etc. However, one thing menopause is not, is a joke!
The last couple of months I’ve had an increase in people contacting me about night sweats, mood swings, poor sleep. All menopause related. So, I thought an article about natural remedies to help with menopausal symptoms was long overdue.
Menopause and the Role of Herbal Medicine
Many women opt for the HRT route. Sometimes they are apprehensive about taking this step but know of no other options. I’m often surprised by how little women realise herbal medicine can help with the menopause.
Research is expensive and, for the main part, carried out by pharmaceutical corporations. However, in 2007, the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH) actually conducted research into treatment of menopausal symptoms by qualified herbal practitioners.
Most studies are of single herbs. The NIMH research looked at actual clinical practice and was ground breaking. The research showed the treatment by medical herbalists can reduce menopausal symptoms. Some particularly effective symptom treatments were raising libido, reducing hot flushes and night sweats.
It is quite a complex issue to write about in one little article. This is largely due to the fact that no two women have exactly the same symptoms, in fact they can vary widely. We are all individuals.
Natural Remedies to Help with Menopausal Symptoms
So where to start? As a traditionally trained medical herbalist, the synergy of all constituents within a plant, or plant part, is most important. That being so, I am not in favour of ‘herbal supplements’ such as capsules sold in health food stores. My training was in the whole plant and not an extract of individual ‘active’ constituents. As a result, I only recommend herbal teas, tinctures, and other naturally made products with the plant rather than a so called active constituent or standardised extract.
Over the next few weeks several articles posted will include menopausal symptoms such as those listed in the cloud box above. Please check back regularly to learn about natural remedies to help with menopausal symptoms.
Also if there is a particular menopausal symptom you would like natural remedy advice for please feel free to add a comment to this post.
Some of the posts written including natural remedies to help with menopausal symptoms:
Most of us require between 6 to 8 hours sleep a night. For some people this is far from their ‘normal’. Trouble sleeping is no fun!
An inability to sleep or chronic sleeplessness is known as insomnia and can, unfortunately, be quite common.
Sleep is a necessity to maintain a healthy mind and body. Poor quality sleep or lack of sleep can lead to ill-health.
Causes of Insomnia
Insomnia can be caused by stress and tension but there are many more causes.
Difficulty breathing perhaps due to a cough, cold, catarrh or asthma can all have an effect on sleep.
Other causes of poor sleep can be digestive problems such as heartburn or even hormonal problems such as hot flushes in menopausal women. Itchy skin conditions or pain may also affect the quality of our sleep.
Some people find drinking warm milk to be a relaxing sedative before bed. Others find a bath helps them unwind. A bath with epsom salts eases pains. In addition an epsom salt bath will soothe itchy skin.
Certainly avoiding stimulating drinks for several hours prior to going to bed is essential. This includes caffeine containing drinks such as coffee, tea and some fizzy drinks. It would also include alcohol.
A regular routine is important. Choose a specific time, and keep to it, for going to bed at night. For an hour before bed avoid watching TV or using any electronic devices which have potential to stimulate the mind. Unwind with a bath or a book or sip herbal tea or hot milk instead.
… Insomnia? What is the cause…
The most effective way to treat insomnia with plant medicine is by ascertaining the cause. There are many causes for insomnia and a wide range of plant medicines to choose from depending on the cause. The following are a few easier to obtain herbs.
Feeling tense …
Many people find the use of lavender to be particularly helpful where the cause of insomnia is stress or tension.
Lavender is useful in many ways. Try aromatic water as a spray on bed linen. A few drops of essential oil on a handkerchief beside the bed or on the pillow helps some people relax.
I love to add aromatic waters or essential oils to bed linens. Lavender is one of my favourites for this. The smell instantly relaxes me when my head hits the pillow.
Try a warm evening herb bath using either a strong infusion of lavender tea, aromatic water or diluted essential oil to ease tension.
Stressed or digestive upset ?
However, lavender is not a favourable smell to everyone. Chamomile is one alternative. Chamomile is available as aromatic water and essential oil too. Both Roman and German chamomile are available. Roman chamomile is usually cheaper in price. The German is slightly more anti-inflammatory. Use as lavender above or take dried herb as an evening cup of tea.
Heartburn or indigestion has a natural habit of intensifying at night! Try drinking regular chamomile tea.
Make a chamomile tea for children with an upset tummy and trouble sleeping.
Dry or itchy skin
Adding epsom salts to the bath helps soothe an itchy, dry skin. Alternatively place oats in a muslin cloth or cotton sock and add to the bath. Gently squeeze the oat filled sock or cloth over the itchy, dry skin to soothe.
Hormonal trouble sleeping
Drink a cooled infusion of sage tea to help reduce night sweats in menopause. Take a cup before retiring to bed. Leave a cup or glassful in the bedroom to sip during the night if needed.
An old traditional remedy?
It is! However, efficacy of fresh sage for the treatment of hot flashes during menopause was proven in clinical trial.
Colds and flu and viruses
Troublesome cold? All you need is a good nights sleep to feel better. But you have trouble sleeping due to a pesky sore throat, cough or sniffles.
If a sore throat is disturbing sleep try gargling cooled sage tea. There are several studies documenting the antibacterial properties of sage.
Sweet violet is a pleasant, soothing tea for an irritating cough.
Lime flower is relaxing. If restlessness is a problem, then try relaxing with a cup of lime flower tea. A comforting tea and helpful in recovery from cold or flu particularly with trouble sleeping.
You can also utilise the healing benefits of essential oils to help you breathe more easily.
Make a herbal blend
Often a combination of some of the above selections will work best. For example for an achy flu with a cough take an epsom salt bath. Sip a herbal tea with sweet violet and lime flower combined. Add some antiseptic lavender to a handkerchief beside the bed.
A restless child with an upset tummy try a relaxing bath. Add two or three drops of mandarin essential oil to a tablespoon of olive oil or full fat milk and pour in a night-time bath. Alternatively add a strong infusion of chamomile and lime flower to the bath water. Make a soothing cup of tea to sip with chamomile and lime flower combined.
Chamomile is anti-inflammatory and a beneficial addition to a bath with oats for itchy, dry skin.
Finally there are many more herbal blends to help aid sleep. I particularly enjoy combining a small amount of lavender flowers with chamomile and lime flower in a tea. I find this blend very comforting and pleasant tasting.
The above are a few simple suggestions you can try out yourself to help aid a natural sleep.
Culpeper believed the name (motherwort) was chosen as women are joyful mothers and it settles their wombs. The Latin name ‘cardiaca‘, because it is very useful for a trembling heart and for fainting.
‘Leonurus‘ is thought from Greek meaning ‘lion tail’. Do you think it resembles the tail of a lion?
Bremness describes motherwort as found in northern temperate areas in woodland and along hedge banks. Barker describes the flowers as pinky-white.
Hoffmann suggests gathering aerial parts when flowering between early summer and early autumn. Barker recommends flowering tops used fresh suggesting it is better to make a tincture rather than drying for tea for use later in the year.
The images here are from my garden in the Aude. Taken late May/ early June.
Bone advises traditionally motherwort was used for female reproductive problems.
Culpeper suggested there was no better herb to strengthen and make the heart merry. He recommended motherwort for conditions needing warming and drying. Painful veins, painful joints, cramps and phlegm are included in his list of medicinal uses. He used motherwort for women with period pains and particularly for abnormal absence of periods (amenorrhoea).
Barker advises motherwort has long traditional use for anxiety in late stages of pregnancy and also in early stages of labour. He highlights use as a cardiac tonic specifically for simple tachycardia and useful in management of hypertension. In addition, he suggests use for nervous indigestion with symptoms of flatulence and/or distension.
Hoffmann agrees and utilises motherwort for over-rapid heartbeat particularly if preceded by anxiety. Describing motherwort as strengthening the heart without straining it and recommends for all heart conditions related to anxiety. Motherwort, in Hoffmann’s book, is under circulatory system and described as nervine.
He indicates for heart weakness, palpitations and angina pectoris describing motherwort as normalising heart activity. He also suggests motherwort be added to a prescription to strengthen the heart of a patient with a cough or for someone who has asthma attacks. These symptoms will cause strain on a weak heart. Nervine properties may also be worth considering with skin conditions brought about by stress and/or anxiety. Motherwort, he describes, invaluable for delayed menstruation and menopausal symptoms as an emotional and endocrine balancer.
Bone specifically indicates Leonurus for amenorrhoea, dysmenorrhoea and ovarian pain.
Weed describes motherwort as one of her ‘mint goddesses’. Describing motherwort a bitter ‘mint’ rather than an aromatic one. Like Barker, Weed recommends fresh preferably as tincture of fresh flowering tops. Motherwort tones the uterine muscle and will, after taking for four months, stop menstrual cramps. Weed describes it as healing the heart and as one of the best heart tonics.
… not only for the heart and female health…
Weed includes the tincture in her first aid kit and uses it for pain relief. She finds it will help any pain but notes those with fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue respond particularly well to motherwort.
… some thoughts on taste…
Grieve, quoting a young unknown writer, advises a conserve of the fresh young tops is best. A decoction, or strong infusion, described as ‘very unpleasant’. Culpeper also recommended taking as a syrup or conserve.
I believe my first taste of this herb, as a herbal infusion, was as a student herbalist. The initial smell of the tea provided a nutty aroma. Although it had a bitter taste I did not find it lingering or particularly ‘unpleasant’.
However, I would certainly agree with Weed that it is a bitter, rather than aromatic, member of the mint/thyme family. Add a little honey to an infusion or include Leonurus in a herbal mix with other less bitter, more palatable herbs if you find it unpleasant. The tincture is certainly easier to take and perhaps a better choice for those with a dislike for bitters.
… and some science stuff…
Hoffmann lists Leonurus as containing bitter glycosides particularly leonurin and leonuridine and alkaloids such as leonuinine and stachydrene. Bartram included flavonoids, iridoids (rutin) and diterpenes in his list of constituents for Leonurus.
Pengelly advises flavonoids have a proven effect on the heart and circulatory system for strengthening the capillaries. They are anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic. Diterpenes tend to be bitter tasting and are particularly abundant in the Lamiaceae family. Alkaloids have a more prominent effect on the nervous system.
… and a bit of research…
Bone mentions pharmacological research from 1976 and also 1988 on the alkaloid leonurine indicating this particular constituent to be a uterine tonic.
The alkaloids contribute to the activity of motherwort. In particular leonurine, possibly with the aid of stachydrine, is thought to produce the central nervous depressant and hypotensive effects (Blumenthal et al).
As mentioned Culpeper recommended motherwort for conditions needing warmed and dried up. Motherwort, he described, as herb of Venus in Leo. Tobyn describes Venus as calming and soothing.
Holmes indicates motherwort for Liver Yang rising. This includes palpitations, rapid heartbeat, anxiety, irritability and stress. He provides the following description of motherwort:
“… an important example of a plant that treats both the heart and uterus, tailor-made for women presenting PMS with anxiety, frustration, palpitations and insomnia.”
Holmes highlights the energetic connection between the heart and uterus. In particular, he notes ancient Chinese medical texts with pathology of the Heart-Uterus meridian, Greek medicine and ‘uterus rising’ and Rudolf Steiner discussing a close energetic relation between the two organs in his lectures.
Surely Leonurus, as Weed suggests, has well and truly earned her goddess reputation and her position in the herbal first aid kit!
Bremness describes red clover as having red-purple flowers with leaves of three oval leaflets. Weed suggests it is bright pink rather than red. What do you think – red? purple? bright pink?
The veined oval leaflets often have a white mark on them (as can be seen from the photograph to right). The stipules are attached to the leaf stalk.
Bremness notes it prefers moist, grassy places in cultivated land found throughout Europe. Podlech advises flowering is between May and October. The images in this post were all taken in May in l’Haute-Vallée de l’Aude.
Culpeper mentions different types of clover and it is not entirely clear when he is discussing red clover. He found clover to be good for wounds and to be useful if taken long-term for fainting ladies!
Bone lists chronic skin disease, bronchitis, whooping cough and cancer as traditional uses.
Bone notes skin and respiratory conditions as modern uses too. In particular, he highlights Trifolium for skin disorders like eczema, psoriasis and ulcers and for respiratory conditions with a spasmodic cough. He does not specify whether the herb is better for dry, hot or weeping skin disorders.
Menzies-Trull describes the herb as promoting granulation tissue. He includes many of the traditional and modern day uses adding it supports oestrogen and progesterone balance indicating the herb for menopausal and hormonal imbalance.
Weed describes red clover as one of the “most cherished fertility increasing plants”. The recommended preparation is an ounce of dried blossoms, placed in a jar and covered with boiling water. Screw the lid on tight and leave to steep for at least four hours although ideally overnight. She recommends up to four cups a day for several months.
Frawley finds it has an action on circulatory, respiratory and lymphatic systems. Ideal for cough, bronchitis, skin eruptions and infections. He is quite specific in preparation method. Advising the herb as a wash for dry, scaly skin conditions and a poultice for healing sores.
Mills describes red clover as an alterative with eliminative properties for use in most skin, connective tissue and joint disease. He suggests it is lymphatic and expectorant in its eliminative action.
some science stuff…
Barker lists the plant as containing flavonoids, salicylic acid, phenolic glycosides and a volatile oil. He suggests these provide mild anti-spasmodic and expectorant actions. However, he finds the key action to be dermatological.
and some more science from a bit of research…
Trifiolium pratense is rich in isoflavone (Dabkeviciene et al., 2012). Used to treat menopausal disorders (Beck et al., 2003).
and a bit of energetics…
Energetically, Holmes recommends Trifolium for a melancholic constitution suggesting the plant has neutral and moist qualities and is possibly more cooling.
He recommends Trifolium for damp cold skin conditions such as skin eruptions and rashes but he also recommends it for damp heat and chronic eczema where there is Yin or blood deficiency.
Deficient Yin is described as empty heat needing an increase in cold. The menopause is often considered a deficient Yin condition, supporting use for menopausal symptoms.