Alternatives to HRT – The role of Adaptogen Chinese herbal teas in Perimenopause and Menopause

The biggest ever study published in August 2017 shows that HRT triples the risk of breast cancer. Following more than a decade of controversy about HRT, the study by the Institute of Cancer Research and Breast Cancer shows that some previous studies underestimated the risk of breast cancer with combined oestrogen-progestogen HRT.

The study of 100,000 women over 40 years found those who took the combined oestrogen and progestogen pill for around five years were 2.7 times more likely to develop cancer compared to women who took nothing, or only the oestrogen pill. The risk rose to 3.3 times for women who took the drugs for 15 years or more. Around 14 in 1,000 women in their 50s are expected to develop breast cancer, but that rises to 34 in 1000 for women taking the combined pill, the study suggests.

Life Rituals Chinese herbalist and acupuncturist Jo George, talks about the alternatives to HRT and the role of Adaptogen Chinese herbs in Peri-menopause and Menopause, and how using Life Rituals Organic Herbal Teas Daytime Calm, Eight Treasures Vitality  and Bedtime Ritual can help ease symptoms.

She says ‘Women are socialised to be the caretakers of others. More women than men have both a career outside the home and continue to try to juggle traditional responsibilities after hours. In fact, over 70 per cent of married women with children under the age of 18 are employed outside the home. Women are often known as “multi-taskers’ — struggling to balance a career with the role as ‘perfect’ wife and mother at home. Women face these stressors on a daily basis, as well as lack of physical exercise, insufficient rest, poor diet, environmental toxins, electromagnetic radiation, which all undermine the adrenal, hormonal and stress regulating systems at a critical time of change.’

Jo explains further “One of the important factors for a woman during “The Change” is the health of her adrenal glands, yet we hear very little about it. During peri-menopause, when our ovaries decrease their production of estrogen and progesterone, our adrenals are part of a back-up system for us, making smaller but steady amounts of these hormones. They also regulate minerals in the body, aid in digestion, and work with the thyroid to maintain energy levels. The adrenals are commonly known as our “stress glands” because they release hormones including adrenaline in response to stress. What my patients see and hear about peri-menopause and menopause often focuses solely on estrogen “deficiency,” while adrenals are ignored.”

So, what effect does this have on the peri- menopause and menopause?

Jo George says “A lot – for one thing, many of the symptoms of adrenal burnout are the same ones often attributed to menopause itself: high blood pressure, dizziness, headaches, sleep- disturbances, joint aches and pains, overwhelming fatigue, and mood disorders.

For another, if the adrenals aren’t functioning properly they will be unable to do their part in making the replacement hormones our bodies need to compensate for the ovaries’ decreased output. Therefore, supporting and protecting the adrenals is a major part of my treatment approach as a practitioner of (TCM) Traditional Chinese Medicine; This approach is the most successful when my patients ask for support in coming off of HRT and want to stabilise their bodies whilst they withdraw the drug” sense of well-being.

Listen to Jo’s patient as she discusses her experience of using acupuncture and herbal medicine for joint and muscle pain, and how it helped her get off of HRT medication and cope with night sweats. For her sleepless nights she used Jo’s unique herbal tea Life Rituals Organic Bedtime Tea

Jo George goes on to explain “When we’re under stress (including the stress of peri-menopause), our nutritional needs dramatically increase, and the adrenal glands need higher concentrations of key elements to function. Diets high in refined foods like white flour products and sugar take nutrients away from us. Products containing caffeine like coffee, teas, chocolate have the same effect, as does alcohol. When we eat these foods we are not only depriving our bodies of nutrients that we should be getting from our food, but we are also adding yet another stress to the system, further contributing to adrenal burnout. 

Premenstrual syndrome and peri- menopause are their own kind of stress on the system and many women find their threshold of tolerating stress decreases and fatigue can result. Fluctuations in estrogen, progesterone, cortisol and thyroid interact with brain neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, GABA and therefore can cause depression and high anxiety. Astralagus an adaptogen therefore is used commonly in Chinese medicine as a beneficial herb to restore vitality in women who are chronically fatigued or who have decreased mental and physical performance and/or stamina and decrease anxiety. A simple way to incorporate Adaptogens into daily life is by drinking Life Rituals Daytime Calm or Life Rituals Eight Treasures Vitality Tea . Adaptogenic herbs are one of the most important groups of herbs to take into the 21st century, and have been used for centuries by Chinese medicine. Adaptogens not only increase the resistance to the adverse effects of long-term stress but the majority  their ‘adapting affect’ on the adrenals is also known to boost the immune system, and help fight infections.

Finally, Jo George says “We need to put all this into a bigger picture which involves getting enough sleep and enough relaxation and down time during the day. It is during these times that the adrenals restore themselves. Regular exercise is also important for glandular health, as well as simplifying our lives to make them less stressful. The humble cuppa also should not be underestimated especially when designed to restore balance to the overworked adrenals”

Try these Herbal Tea Blends for Menopause:

Life Rituals Daytime CalmBedtime Ritual and Eight Treasures Vitality or contact Jo for a acupuncture and herb consultation.