Menopause is something which affects all women as they reach middle age. For some, it is an easy process but for others, it is a difficult time as changing hormone levels can cause both physical and emotional symptoms.
The most common symptoms relating to menopause are:
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Dry skin and hair
- Vaginal dryness
- Loss of sex drive
- Mood swings
- Increased risk of osteoporosis and heart disease
In western medical terms, these symptoms are a result of falling levels of the female sex hormone oestrogen. According to Chinese medicine, it is due to a decline in Kidney-yin and something known as “essence”. To fully understand this, first, we need to take a look at the ancient, oriental theory of yin and yang.
Yin and Yang
In Asian philosophy, yin and yang are two complementary but opposite forces of nature. Yin represents darkness, night-time, stillness, coolness, water and femininity. Yang represents light, daytime, activity, heat, fire and masculinity.
These two forces are present within our bodies as well as in the outside world. As long as they are in balance and harmony, we will be fit and healthy. However, if something causes them to become imbalanced for any reason, this is when problems/issue occurs.
In the body, the Kidneys are seen as the source of all of our yin and yang energy. This is because, in Chinese medicine, the Kidney system includes the reproductive organs and the adrenal glands as well as the kidneys themselves. Kidney-yang provides warmth and energy for all of the other organs to carry out their vital functions, whereas Kidney-yin acts as a cooling system, preventing them from overheating.
The Kidneys also have the important function of storing essence. This is a substance which controls our growth, development, reproduction and aging process. According to the Yellow Emperor’s Internal Classic (one of the oldest texts on Chinese medicine), a woman’s essence follows seven-year cycles throughout her life.
At the age of 14 (2×7 years) her essence is strong enough to trigger puberty and menstruation begins. At the age of 28 (4×7 years) a woman is seen as being at her physical peak, and by the age of 49 (7×7 years) her essence is beginning to decline and she stops menstruating.
Essence is yin in nature, so as this declines, so does a woman’s Kidney-yin. This leaves a relative imbalance between the yin and yang of the Kidneys. Without yin to cool and control it, yang can become overactive causing symptoms such as heat, dryness and restlessness. Hyperactive yang flares upwards causing hot flushes and sweating, and the lack of yin makes it difficult to sleep at night.
Because the Kidneys are closely related to the Liver, this deficiency of yin can also have a knock-on effect on this organ. If Liver-yin also becomes deficient, there may be symptoms such as joint pain, headaches and irritability.
In this situation, there is no more yang in the body than there was before the menopause, but because there is not enough yin, this causes a relative excess. Therefore, the aim of treatment is to nourish the yin of the Kidneys so that it is strong enough to restore balance throughout the body.
Acupuncture Points for Menopausal Symptoms
When reading the traditional text the most common acupuncture points used menopausal symptoms are those which nourish the Kidney system and strengthen Kidney-yin. Extra points can be added depending on each patient’s constitution and individual symptoms.
Some of the most commonly used acupuncture points for menopause include:
- Kidney 1 (Yongquan) – nourishes the Kidney and descends qi downwards
- Kidney 3 (Taixi) – nourishes the Kidneys
- Kidney 6 (Zhaohai) – nourishes the Kidneys, specifically Kidney-yin
- Kidney 10 (Yingu) – nourishes the Kidneys, specifically Kidney-yin
- Bladder 23 (Shenshu) – nourishes the Kidneys
- Liver 3 (Taichong) – nourishes the Liver
- Liver 8 (Ququan) – nourishes the Liver, specifically Liver-yin
- Gallbladder 20 (Fengchi) – descends qi downwards and relieves headaches
- Spleen 6 (Sanyinjiao) – nourishes yin of the Kidneys, Liver and Spleen
- Pericardium 7 (Daling) – nourishes yin and balances the emotions
Chinese Herbs for Menopausal Symptoms
Herbal formulae for menopause are also aimed at nourishing the Kidneys, supporting yin and supplementing essence. One of the most common prescriptions for nourishing the Kidneys is called “rehmannia six flavor combination”. The ingredients of this famous herbal medicine are:
- Prepared rehmannia root (Shu Di Huang)
- Cornus officianalis fruit (Shan Zhu Yu)
- Chinese yam rhizome (Shan Yao)
- Poria fungus (Fu Ling)
- Water plantain root (Ze Xie)
- Tree peony root (Mu Dan Pi)
Other herbs can be added or substituted depending on individual symptoms and constitutional needs.
On your initial consultation, your acupuncturist will discuss your symptoms with you in detail before deciding on the best course of action. They may also recommend dietary and lifestyle changes to help you to manage your symptoms between treatments.
For women, menopause is a fact of life. However, with Chinese medicine, it needn’t be a nightmare. So if you are suffering from menopausal symptoms, why not give it a try and see how it could benefit you?
Any new change should be consulted with a medical practitioner
The information and reference materials contained here are intended solely for the general information of the reader. It is not to be used for treatment purposes, but rather for discussion with the patient’s own physician. The information presented here is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of professional medical care.
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