Menopause and Hot Flashes

Menopause is the period of mental and physical changes a woman goes through due to the decrease in ovarian function. The effects can be felt over quite a range of time, including both before (perimenopause) and after the permanent end of menstruation.

According to Western medicine, menopause is caused by a decline in endocrine function which then affects the autonomic nervous system. This is usually due to the decrease of ovarian function, but can also be caused by functional disorders of the anterior pituitary, thyroid, pancreas, and/or adrenal glands.

Menopausal symptoms may include hot flashes, sweating, heart palpitations, edema, headaches, a heavy–headed feeling, and insomnia, ringing in the ears, depression, irritability, and a decline in memory, feeling tired or listless easily, gaining or losing weight, itchiness of the vulva, vaginal dryness, frequent urination, and more.

Western medicine’s main treatment for menopause is estrogen replacement therapy. This has been shown to be effective in relieving some symptoms, including atrophy of the uro-genital organs, and in preventing and decreasing osteoporosis after menopause.

However, research carried out by the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) (established by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the U.S. in 1991) reports that long-term use of hormone replacement therapy increases the incidences of coronary artery disease, stroke, breast cancer, and thromboembolism in women. Therefore it is now recommended that standard hormone replacement therapy for women during or after menopause be non-continuous.

Hot flashes are a common symptom of menopause. These don’t merely involve a reddening of the face, but may be accompanied by an intense sensation of heat, an increased heart rate, feeling of compression in the chest or head, and sweating. This sensation of heat occurs across the face and can extend to the neck and chest. If it happens at night it can disturb sleep and then decrease concentration during the day. It can lead to a decrease in memory, hypersensitivity, tiredness, and depression.

In Eastern medicine the causes of menopause are usually classified into 3 types (which often overlap with each other): liver blood deficiency with deficient heat, deficiency of both yin and yang in kidney, and heart yin deficiency. Herbal medicines are commonly used to treat menopause according to individual conditions.  One in particular – called Jia Wei Xiao Yao San – can be used in conjunction with hormone replacement therapy.

Herbal medicine actually improves certain (especially neuropsychiatric) symptoms which Western medicine is not able to decrease. This difference underlines the characteristic benefit of Eastern medicine’s focus on regulating the body’s overall condition rather than just treating the specific symptoms.

A research study done on the effects of herbal medicine on menopausal women with hot flashes has demonstrated improvement of many symptoms including: hot flashes (reduced frequency), level of sweating, heart palpitations, insomnia, stability of emotions and moods, daily activities and life in general. Furthermore, the study’s findings showed no side effects from these medications.

Menopause is a very natural phenomenon for women, so why not use a more natural approach to treat it?


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