Mar 132016
 

Black cohosh is one of the most widely researched herbs related to menopauseFor some women, going through the menopause can be hell. But there are ways in which we can help ourselves glide through this natural period of transition with grace, understanding and the minimum amount of physical and emotional upset. Seriously, it can be done!

The menopause is a natural, normal process.

It is one of many transitions in life that women’s bodies adapt to. Strictly speaking, this period of change and adaptation is known as the perimenopause, as it can span a number of years.

Symptoms associated with the menopause

These include changes to the menstrual cycle (periods can become less, or more, frequent; heavier, or lighter), anxiety, irritability, mood swings, depression, poor memory and concentration levels, sleep problems, fatigue, loss of libido, hot flashes, night sweats, dizziness and palpitations, vaginal dryness and soreness, urinary problems such as cystitis and thrush, and stiff, aching joints.

Stress plays a part

Some women experience the odd symptom or two, and others, unfortunately, have a really tough time of it. Reasons for this include factors such as how much stress they have in their lives, and more importantly how they manage this, along with many other lifestyle factors. Diet also plays a very important part in preventing and relieving symptoms associated with the perimenopause.

Herbal remedies for the menopause

There are many herbal remedies that really do work like magic when it comes to relieving menopausal symptoms. But here’s the thing: they are not a magic bullet. They work best when used in conjunction with a healthy diet and lifestyle. They help to support a woman both physically and emotionally as her body adapts to its changing status, making it a smoother, easier ride, if you like.

Natural HRT

There is a group of plants called phyto-oestrogens, which behave like oestrogen and help ease the adjustment period, and relieve symptoms of the perimenopause. These plants are sometimes referred to as natural hormone replacement therapy, or natural HRT. The distinction between these and pharmaceutical HRT is that phyto-oestrogens are natural compounds, not synthetic or chemical substitutes, and that they do not ‘replace’ oestrogen. Without wishing to get too complicated, they work on different oestrogen receptor sites in the body.

Black cohosh and the menopause

There are many other herbs that can be extremely useful during the perimenopause. For example, by supporting the digestive system, the nervous system (moods, emotions, sleep etc), and the musculoskeletal system (aching joints and muscles), by boosting memory and concentration, and helping us cope with fatigue. There is also a group of medicinal plants known as adaptogens which, as the name suggests, help us adapt to changing circumstances, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Black cohosh (pictured above) is one of the most widely researched medicinal plants associated with menopausal symptoms.

Support for women during the perimenopause

I have supported many women through this natural transitional period, seeing women as patients, writing articles, giving talks and running workshops, and by being a woman who has been through menopause herself. I have also helped women withdraw from hormone replacement therapy (HRT), for which herbal medicine, in combination with a healthy diet and lifestyle, can be very effective.

Early menopause

Taking a natural approach, using diet, lifestyle and herbal remedies, is also a positive strategy for women who are going through an early menopause, due to health problems or genetic factors.

Getting help for the menopause

I do consultations via Skype, FaceTime, telephone and, if you live in travelling distance, face-to-face in Cornwall. I am always available in between consultations, while I support you through the perimenopause.

Workshops

My next workshop, for those who live in Cornwall, is on Saturday March 19th 2016, 10am-12.30pm, at the Inspiring Health natural health clinic,17 Fish Strand Hill, Falmouth TR11 3BD. As the workshops are for small groups only, booking is essential. Please phone 01326 212112 or email info@inspiringhealth.org.uk to book your place. For more information about me, and herbal medicine, please visit my website at www.deannegreenwood.com. Or email me at deannegreenwood@me.com.

 

Jan 242015
 

Hay fever seasonNettles (Urtica dioica) have antihistamine properties and are often used in herbal medicine for the prevention and relief of hay fever and other allergies. Medical herbalist Deanne Greenwood prepares many of her own herbal remedies at her home on the Lizard in Cornwall, for use in her practices in Falmouth, Helston and Penzance.

Depending on which particular plant pollen you are allergic to, you may already be dreading the start of the hay fever season. People who are allergic to tree pollen can start experiencing symptoms as early as February (usually lasting through to June). Grass pollen is released from May to July, and weed pollen spans April to September. Some particularly sensitive individuals may be allergic to all or a combination of plants, meaning that they can suffer for many months. People who are allergic to mould (a big problem in Cornwall, where I live and practice) may suffer symptoms all year round, although peak season is September and October.

Hay fever symptoms

People who suffer from hay fever often only seek treatment when they start experiencing symptoms, which include streaming and itchy nose, throat and eyes, or blocked nose and sinuses, fatigue, headache, poor sleep and low mood. Prior to the onset of symptoms, they tend to take an optimistic ‘wait-and-see’ approach: it might not be as bad this year. And sometimes it isn’t. But when it is as bad as ever, or worse, there is little to be done apart from treat the symptoms (and stay indoors).

Side effects

Herbal medicine can help relieve and manage the symptoms of hay fever and alleviate the need to take conventional medication which can have side effects and lead to other health problems. When you see a qualified, experienced herbalist, the underlying cause of hay fever, ie why you react adversely to substances that other people cope perfectly well with, will also be addressed, the aim being to reduce your sensitivity and therefore your allergic reaction.

Desensitise your body

A more effective strategy  is to seek herbal help before the hay fever season starts and you start experiencing symptoms. Using a personalised approach and herbs chosen specifically for you, a herbalist can help rebalance, strengthen and, in effect, desensitise your body, reducing and hopefully preventing a reaction to the substances it was previously sensitive to. A herbalist will take into consideration any other allergies or sensitivities you may have. Allergies tend to have a cumulative effect, so the more substances you are sensitive to, the more you are likely to become sensitive to, or the more severe your symptoms may become, as your body becomes more and more stressed and weakened, and less able to cope.

Anti-histamine herbs

There is a wide choice of herbs to choose from, including those with antihistamine, anti-inflammatory, anti-pruritic (anti-itching) properties, and it is the skill of the herbalist that determines which herbs are best suited to you.

Natural vaccines

I believe that using local plants is particularly beneficial, in the same way that many people find eating local honey helps alleviate their symptoms. The theory is that the local bees are feeding off the same pollens to which your are allergic, so their honey has an immunomodulatory effect. In other words, it acts like a natural vaccine.

Herbs for hay fever

I harvest my own herbs, and prepare my own tinctures for use when treating people for hay fever and other allergies. I live on The Lizard peninsula in Cornwall, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, where much of the land is organic, and the medicinal plants and herbs I harvest here are rich, strong and vibrant, and have an almost tangible energy. Those that commonly feature in remedies for hay fever include nettle, plantain, elderflower and eyebright.

Pre-hay fever season

The sooner someone with hay fever seeks herbal help, the better. Ideally, I like to see patients 2-3 months before ‘their’ hay fever season starts. That way, we can strengthen and rebalance all the body systems, including the immune system, so that it recognises, and stops overreacting to, natural substances.

Find out more about herbal medicine

If you’d like to find out more about how herbal medicine works, please take a look at my About Herbal Medicine page.