It’s summertime. The A/C is cranking and the fan is blowing right on you. While your poor husband is shivering, you’ve got the blankets kicked off. You’re sweating as if you were running a marathon.
What gives? Because of perimenopause or, if you’re ovaries have already shut down and you’re fully menopausal, your hormones are out of whack. Obviously, that’s not the scientific terminology for it, but that’s essentially what’s happening.
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms related to perimenopause or menopause, your hormones levels are imbalanced:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Mood fluctuations and irritability
- Vaginal dryness
- Reduced libido
- Weight gain (mostly from increased stored body fat)
Menopausal hormone therapy (MHT), which is also known as hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is one of the most common interventions for correcting hormonal imbalance. However, it may cause harmful side effects, says the National Cancer Institute, including:
- Increased risk of stroke, blood clots and heart attack
- Vaginal bleeding
- Urinary Incontinence
- Increased risk of breast cancer (associated with estrogen therapy alone; not with estrogen and progesterone therapy)
Safe, Plant-Based Menopause Symptom Relief
There’s a misconception that natural treatments are safer than pharmaceutical remedies. However, any natural substance can produce dangerous side effects. But there’s one special class of herbs that have been shown to be safe, effective and non-toxic for hormone imbalance.
The herbs are called adaptogens, or adaptogenic herbs.
Out of the approximately 50,000 classified medicinal plants in the world, only a tiny percentage are considered adaptogenic.
What makes an herb adaptogenic?
One of the pioneering researchers in the field of these special herbs, Nilolai Lazarev, coined the phrase “adaptogens.” In the 1940s, Lazarev, a Russian scientist, attributed a few distinct characteristics to adaptogenic herbs:
- Unlike pharmaceuticals, which are designed with one action in mind (example: lower cholesterol), adaptogens don’t have a specific, singular function; they help the body “adapt” (hence the name) to stress of all different kinds, including the stress that comes from hormone imbalances.
- Adaptogens support equilibrium in the body; they help keep the body’s many systems function in balance, including the endocrine system, which controls hormones.
- Although adaptogens may interact with some medications, they are generally considered safe and non-toxic.
Adaptogens have become a recent health trend. Most adaptogenic herbs come in the form of powders or tinctures. These days, you can find meal replacement or superfood powders with adaptogenic ingredients, coffee infused with adaptogens, chocolate with adaptogenic ingredients. Just like with anything else, not all adaptogenic products are created equal.
The best adaptogenic herbs are formulated by master herbalists with many decades of experience researching and hand-crafting the product themselves. Remember, adaptogens don’t serve a single purpose such as hormone regulation. But by regulating the body in several different beneficial ways, adaptogens can help alleviate menopausal symptoms.
Best Adaptogenic Herbs for Menopause
If you’re looking for an article on WebMD or a similar authoritative medical website for proof that adaptogens balance hormones, don’t waste your time.
To run a gold-standard research study involves hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions for a large clinical trial. Pharmaceutical companies cannot patent an herb, so there’s no financial interest for them to do a study on a single herb.
However, there are studies on animals and small human trials that show adaptogens are beneficial for helping the body overcome the negative effects of stress.
Here are some of the most well-researched and most popular adaptogens:
- Maca root – Traditionally used to increase libido (This study shows maca works for early post-menopausal women.)
- Ashwagandha – Increases energy, stamina and endurance
- Rhodiola – Increase strength, lowers blood sugar, activates serotonin
- Licorice root – Supports respiratory health
- Reishi mushroom – Reduces inflammation
- Astragalus – Supports immune system function
- Guarana – Improves memory and alertness
- Panax Ginseng – Helps with fatigue and concentration
- Black cohosh – Perhaps the most well-known herbal remedy for menopause symptoms; some herbalists do not consider it as an adaptogen, and it may take several weeks or months to work.
There are several other adaptogens. Because adaptogens are non-specific in their actions, all of them may help support menopausal transition. There are other lesser-known adaptogenic herbs that have been shown in research studies to ease menopausal symptoms (as well as PMS) including,:
- Golden Angelica
- Chaste Tree Berry
- Tulsi (holy basil)
Adaptogens work very well together as a team. In other words, just like a multivitamin can be more beneficial than a single vitamin, supplements that contain several adaptogens are better than single herb products.
By helping regulate the body’s response to stress, adaptogens create a better balanced body. And a better balanced body means better balanced hormones.