Traditional Chinese herbal medicine and acupuncture help to smooth this transition into menopause by nourishing the Kidney organ system to bring the body and hormones into balance.  You may ask, ‘is there any scientific explanation for how these ancient Chinese herbal formulas and acupuncture effectively treat perimenopausal symptoms?”, and the answer is, Yes!

As Chinese herbal medicine and especially acupuncture are becoming more mainstream, they have been studied extensively and recognized by the World Health Organization and National Institute of Health, to demonstrate its actions and efficacy on various mechanisms in our body that:

  • Restores homeostasis of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and endorphins which is why it is often used in the treatment of pain, insomnia, anxiety and depression and recognized by WHO and NIH.
  • Regulates reproductive hormones by stimulating the hypothalamus-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis
  • Supports immune function and reduce inflammation
  • Improves peripheral blood flow

In a recent Danish Study conducted in 70 menopausal women, in which the test group received weekly acupuncture treatments for 5 weeks, in comparison to the control group who did not receive acupuncture, reported the women who received acupuncture had significant reductions in hot flashes, day and night sweats, sleep disturbance and emotional symptoms after just 3 weeks.

Results from a recent systemic review that combined data from 19 clinical trials involving over 2400 participants to identify the therapeutic effects and safety of Chinese herbal medicine for managing menopausal hot flashes, found that these commonly prescribed herbs had phytoestrogenic properties which reduced the severity of hot flashes.  In addition, there were no significant adverse effects even with long-term use.  Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring compounds in plants and are structurally similar to estrogens allowing them to bind to estrogen receptors and produce weak anti-estrogenic and estrogenic activity.  There is a lot of controversy regarding the health benefits of phytoestrogen in our diet as it can have both anti-estrogenic and estrogenic activity.   But in perimenopausal women, where there is a decline in endogenous estrogen, studies show phytoestrogens have an estrogenic effect and appear to influence not only hormonal activity but also benefit the cardiovascular system, bone health, metabolism and immune function without the side effects or breast cancer risk factors that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) does.  Caution should be taken and advice from a medical professional is important when deciding your treatment options.

Chinese herbs are prescribed as a formula that is synergistically balanced and taken in tea format or pill format.  Traditionally dried raw herbs are decocted which takes hours, so herbal granules which are easily dissolved with boiling water, are a lot more convenient and patients are more compliant.  However, the taste is strong – very earthy and bitter – so some people may prefer the pill format.

So how long do treatments take before perimenopausal women can notice relief? 

Although this really depends on the individual patient response and their underlying constitution based on TCM, in most studies, treatments are typically conducted over the course of 8-12 weeks with assessments on a weekly or monthly basis; and it is not unusual to notice relief early on in the course of treatment as seen in the Danish study. 

As a woman’s body and hormones are in constant fluctuation during perimenopause, there are other health factors to watch out for such as bone health, cardiovascular function and breast health. Ensuring you go for your annual physicals with your family physician can help keep an eye on these crucial markers.

Once hormone levels stabilize, most women feel rejuvenated and experience a renewed energy both physically and mentally as they step into “Second Spring” – their final phase in their reproductive life. When considering acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine as a treatment option, it is important to seek a Registered Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner.  Now armed with this knowledge and the understanding of the options available to help with perimenopausal symptoms (with scientific studies to back it up), perhaps we can all breeze through this next stage in our lives.

To find out more about this and other topics on Chinese Medecine visit www.acutoronto.com.

Ellice Yang is a Registered Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner (R.TCMP) with the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of Ontario (CTCMPAO). ... She is a Co-Founder of Acutoronto -Fertility and Wellness Centre (www.acutoronto.com) and a Teaching Assistant at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. Ellice has extensive experience working in the field of reproductive health, fertility and pregnancy and her success lies on bridging her knowledge of Chinese Medicine with her science background and evidence-based research.