No one told me…
Gray hair, wrinkles, sagging skin, and weight gains. I know these are the inevitable changes that come with aging. But no one warned me about the crazy roller coaster ride of ever-shifting hormones.
Hot flashes – check. Mood swings – check. Irregular menstrual cycles – check. Brain fog – check.
Menopause is something we all have in common – and yet every woman experiences it differently. Menopause, like puberty, is a transitional time, and traditional herbs for women can help support us along the way.
Herbs for Menopause – The Wise Woman Approach
These transition years require compassionate self-care, and herbs are a wonderfully natural way to support ourselves through the changes. The following 10 herbs have a long history in supporting women’s health and they can offer us relief, bring balance, and support deep healing.
But remember, everyone responds differently to foods and herbs, and not all herbs work for all women. The best advice I can give you is do your research, and pay attention to the signals your body sends. You know your body better than anyone, and only you can decide if something is right for you.
Please Note: the information provided here is not intended to replace professional medical advice and care. It is simply my perspective for you to consider as you make good choices for you and your family’s health. The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and maintaining health. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and can interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care. The information provided has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not meant to diagnose any disease, nor is it intended to treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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The 10 Best Herbs for Women Over 40
There are so many herbs traditionally used for women’s health and menopause, but these are the top herbs chosen based on the recommendations of my community herbalist, teachers, through personal research and experience.
10 of the best herbs for women over 40 include:
- Angelica senensis (Dong quai)
- Lady’s mantle
- Raspberry leaf
- Black Cohosh
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)
Motherwort is loved by herbalist and recommended for women of all ages. Motherwort, or “Mother Herb” offers calming support for both the physical and emotional aspects associated with changing hormones.
Traditional uses of motherwort include:
- Calming the emotions
- Relieving heart palpitations (and strengthening the heart)
- Reducing general PMS
- Relieving menstrual cramping
- General menopausal support
- Reducing severity of hot flashes
Research studies are confirming the traditional uses of Motherwort. The compounds found in motherwort:
- Promote blood circulation, including healthy menstruation
- Protect the heart tissues
- Help regulate blood pressure and heart rhythm
- Support the nervous system – soothing anxiety, insomnia, and nervousness
Contraindications: Motherwort is not recommended for pregnancy and certain heart conditions. Motherwort can increase bleeding – avoid if you have heavy menstruation or are on blood thinners.
Drug Interactions: Motherwort may interact with sedative medications and cause increased sleepiness.
Angelica Sinensis – Dong quai
Angelica, also known as Dong quai, is used worldwide for women’s complaints, and is frequently called “female ginseng”. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, angelica is considered deeply nourishing and blood building.
Traditional uses include:
- Relieving hot flashes
- Improving menopausal insomnia
- Relief from menstrual cramping (analgesic and muscle relaxing properties)
- Replenishing the blood and increasing blood flow
- Regulating menstrual cycle
Research is looking at Angelica’s ability to:
- Balance estrogen levels
- Protect against cancer
- Reduce pain
- Open blood vessels
- Reduce blood pressure
- Stimulate and relax the muscles of the uterus
Contraindications: Do NOT use during pregnancy. Avoid use with heavy bleeding.
Drug Interactions: Angelica may interact with blood thinners and hormone medications.
Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris)
Lady’s mantle has been used for centuries as a woman’s herb. Modern herbalists use lady’s mantle in the treatment of menstrual and menopausal complaints including:
- heavy menstrual flow
- painful menses
- gastrointestinal disorders
- relaxant for muscle spasms
Contraindications: None known.
Raspberry Leaf (Rubus idaeus)
Raspberry leaf has been used medicinally for centuries. Well-loved by herbalists for toning and strengthening the uterine muscles, raspberry leaf is considered an important herb for women of all ages.
Traditional and modern uses for red raspberry leaf include:
- Relieving menstrual cramps
- Toning the uterus
Contraindications: None known
Vitex (Agnus castus)
Vitex, also known as chasteberry, has been used medicinally for over 2,000 years. Today we have clinical studies supporting the effectiveness of this remedy in hormone regulation.
Vitex works by stimulating and normalizing the pituitary gland, which regulates the balance of estrogen and progesterone in the body. Traditional and current research supports the use of Vitex in treating:
- Hot flashes
- Mood swings and irritability
- Insomnia associated with menopause
- Heavy menstrual flow
- Water retention
- Breast tenderness
- Irregular or scanty periods
Vitex is frequently given in combination with other herbs, most often with Angelica.
Vitex requires a higher dose than the other herbs, and takes about 90 days (3 full menstrual cycles) to start working effectively, so be consistent and give it time.
Contraindications: It might be best to avoid vitex if you have a hormone-sensitive health condition — such as endometriosis or breast cancer, and avoid if pregnant. Vitex may interfere with some medications, including birth control, antipsychotics, and estrogen supplements.
Maca (Lepidium meyenii)
Maca has been used for thousands of years in regions of the Andes Mountains. Research is supporting many of maca’s traditional uses including:
- Balanced hormones and relief from symptoms of PMS and Menopause
- Increased sense of well-being and relief from depression
- Increased energy and stamina
- Positive effects on the body’s response to stress (Maca is an adaptogen herb)
- Improved adrenal and thyroid function
- Improved memory
- Increased libido
Maca has been consumed safely as food for thousands of years, and is considered safe for most people. However, when we begin taking supplemental doses of maca, typically in amounts greater than what can normally be consumed as food, we need to use caution. WebMD offers this:
Maca is LIKELY SAFE for most people when taken in amounts found in foods. Maca is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth in larger amounts as medicine (up to 3 grams daily) for up to 4 months. Maca seems to be well tolerated by most people.
Hormone-sensitive conditions such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: Extracts from maca might act like estrogen. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, do not use these extracts.
Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus)
Shatavari root is an ancient herb from the tradition of Ayurveda medicine. Ayurveda texts mention the use of shatavari as far back as 5,000 years. Today, research is looking at the benefits of shatavari, including:
- Reducing hot flashes
- Improving memory
- Increasing libido
- Reducing anxiety
- Adaptogen – helping the body cope with stress
- Improving digestion and bowel movements
Contraindications: Mild diuretic.
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Culinary sage has been used for thousands of years as both food and medicine and is a common ingredient in my herbal apothecary.
Although I have great faith in the benefits of herbal remedies for supporting health, I am always excited when the scientific evidence supports the traditional and folk remedies. Research is demonstrating the efficacy of sage leaves in reducing hot flashes in women experiencing menopause.
Sage is easy to use – simply make a tea with fresh or dried leaves (probably best sweetened with honey), and drink daily to ease your hot flashes.
Contraindications: Sage may interact with some medications – primarily diabetic medicines and anticonvulsants.
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
Ashwaghanda is another herb important in the Ayurveda tradition, going back many thousands of years. It is often called “Indian ginseng” and has similar properties to ginseng. Ashwaghanda is considered a nourishing and rejuvenating herb and is being studied for its properties including:
- Adaptogen for stress
- Muscle strengthening
- Remedy for hot flashes
- Calming for the mind and body
- Improving concentration
- Decreasing anxiety
Contraindications: The ashwaghanda plant is part of the nightshade family, and should be avoided by people who are unable to tolerate nightshades.
Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa/Cimicifuga racemosa)
The National Institute of Health has an excellent review of the research for the use of black cohosh for relief of menopausal symptoms. And Germany has approved black cohosh as a prescription alternative to hormone therapy (it’s available in the U.S. without a prescription.)
Some of the reported benefits of black cohosh include:
- Reduces hot flashes
- Improves sleep
- Reduces bone loss in osteoporosis
- Reduces anxiety
Contraindications: Although there have been reported cases of liver damage, the incidence is low and it is suspected the black cohosh products may have contained impurities or incorrect species. The U.S. Pharmacopeia (a nonprofit standard-setting organization for foods and drugs) advises that individuals with liver disorders should avoid black cohosh.
Good Sources – Where to Buy
Supplements are not regulated in the United States, and there is no guarantee of quality or safety. The following companies are most frequently used and recommended by the herbalists I know, and these are the sources I use for the herbal remedies I purchase. Many of their products are available through Amazon.com
Summary – Herbs for Menopause – the 10 Best Herbs for Women Over 40
Herbs are a wonderful way to support ourselves and can offer deep healing and relief. Although herbal remedies offer all-natural relief, they can interact with medications, and sometimes cause unpleasant side-effects. We all have unique constitutions – and not all herbs work the same for all women. It’s best to do your research and if you chose to work with the herbs, start with small doses.
Click HERE for a full list of references.