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Menstrual Symptoms, Menopause, and PMS: CAM Therapies for Specific Conditions

  • DHEA, a steroid hormone, is used in Europe to combat menopause-related depression, and is being used with estrogen for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms. DHEA also appears to be of value for postmenopausal women.


  • Tang kuei, tang quai, or dong quai, is a traditional Chinese herb used as a treatment for menopausal symptoms. For utmost effectiveness, the herb is administered as part of a complete program, which includes other herbs. Typical preparations and doses taken three times a day are any one of the following: 1-2 g of dried root; 3-5 ml of a 1:5 alcohol solution; .5-2 ml of a 1:1 fluid extract.


  • Herbs are used to treat menopause in the United States and internationally. In a 1997 Prevention magazine study, menopause was the tenth-most common condition treated by herbs. Menopause accounted for 4 percent of all herbal use in America.


  • A commonly applied herb for menstrual symptoms is black cohosh, which was originally used by Native Americans. This herb appears to improve the function of certain elements of the endocrine system.


  • Feverfew was used as early as Greco-Roman times for menstrual difficulties. A member of the daisy family, the herb has been studied primarily as a treatment for the prevention of migraines and treatment of arthritis pain.


  • Naturopathic medicine appears to be effective in the treatment of menstrual symptoms. Among the primary components of naturopathy that are generally applied are dietary therapy, nutritional supplementation, botanical medication, and physical medicine including exercise. Considerable research supports this approach.

Caution: For PMS, the herb tang quai can be taken from day fourteen until menstruation, but discontinue if heavy menstrual bleeding develops. It should not be taken during pregnancy, and can cause photosensitivity. Avoid during menstruation if you have fibroids. It may cause or aggravate bloating and diarrhea. Do not take with thrombolytic or blood thinning medications.

Caution: Commission E in Germany recommends the use of black cohosh for not more than six months. Potential side effects of black cohosh are heavy menstrual bleeding, headaches, dizziness, slow pulse, nausea, vomiting, and visual disturbances. For menopausal or PMS symptoms, the recommendation is 40 mg twice per day for a week to ten days prior to period. With menstrual cramps, take 40 mg three or four times per day as needed, preferably with meals. Overdose can result in extreme symptoms of all of these, as well as severe slow pulse, nausea, and vomiting. Typical preparation and doses are 10-15 drops of an alcohol solution one to two times daily, or 60 mg per day of the dry powder extract with meals. Capsules or tablets should be standardized to contain 2.5 percent triterpenes. More side effects occur with dry powder forms. Allow up to eight weeks to determine benefits for menopausal problems, it should not be used for more than six months. Do not exceed these dosages.

Caution: In a study, the steroid hormone DHEA was found to produce liver cancer in fourteen of sixteen rats. While this does not necessarily mean it would produce cancer in humans, if such a response were to occur in human research, DHEA would probably be banned by the FDA. DHEA is a hormone, and replacing any hormone that declines normally with aging must be carefully researched. DHEA levels in the blood are associated with increased body mass and impaired glucose tolerance. Serum levels of steroids should be monitored medically while taking DHEA supplements. Most important, there are a number of truly natural, completely safe ways to increase DHEA: stop smoking, reduce stress, exercise three to five times per week, take vitamin C, be sure your magnesium intake is adequate, and occasionally use Siberian ginseng (take 12-16 ml of fluid extract or 100-200 mg of standardized extract, one to three times per day).





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