It seems that when the weather warms up, some women do too. More specifically, I tend to see more women seeking acupuncture treatment for menopausal symptoms during the warmer months. Don’t get me wrong–we see women struggling with hot flashes, night sweats, and menopause-related insomnia all year long; it just seems that we see more of them when the temperature rises in the spring.
For some women, a few sessions on the acupuncture table is enough to cool them off. For others, we need to enlist the help of a Chinese herbal formula.
In most cases, menopausal symptoms are related to a substance in your body called Yin, which acts a little like a moistening coolant. Heat symptoms associated with menopause tend to be caused by a reduction of Yin. This is relevant because the nature of estrogen and the other sex hormones are considered to be very Yin and cooling. When that Yin becomes depleted, it’s a little like being down a quart of coolant in your car–your engine boils over, causing your body to overheat in the form of hot flashes and night sweats.
As I mentioned earlier, in some cases acupuncture isn’t enough to cool the heat from Yin deficiency. In Chinese medicine, it may be necessary to supplement Yin with moistening, cooling herbal formulas. Here are a few of my favorites:
Six Flavors with Rehmania (Liu Wei Di Huang Wan) This formula is all about nourishing Yin and not so much about cooling you off. The idea with this gentle formula is that if you supplement with some Yin-nourishing herbs, the resulting symptoms will take care of themselves. This formula is especially good for night sweats accompanied by a sore low back, light-headedness, dizziness, and dryness symptoms, like a dry sore throat, dry skin, and night time thirst.
Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan This is the above formula with two additional herbs added that are very cooling. Like the Six Flavors formula, this one also nourishes Yin, but the added herbs also ramp things up a notch in clearing heat.
Great Tonify Yin Pill (Da Bu Yin Wan) This is a cold formula primarily aimed at clearing heat, especially in the form of night sweats. It supplements Yin somewhat, but I often prescribe it if one of the above formulas hasn’t worked well enough in cooling a patient off, . Once the heat symptoms have calmed, I may recommend a more Yin nourishing formula later.
Free and Easy Wanderer with Added Ingredients (Jia Wei Xiao Yao Wan) In some cases, a woman’s symptoms are either caused or aggravated by stress. In that case, this is my go to formula for calming frayed emotions as well as calming heat. In fact, this is also a good formula for stressed out people in general who find themselves irritable, warm, thirsty and feeling like they’re at the end of their rope.
Two Immortals (Er Xian Wan) I have used this formula in cases where both Yin and Yang are depleted. If Yin is considered to be your body’s nourishing coolant, then Yang is more like your warming, active pilot light. It’s possible to be depleted in both. I find that those woman who have tended to run cold before menopause, but have heat symptoms during are good candidates for this formula. Beyond feeling cold much of the time, symptoms of Yang deficiency might also include fatigue, depression, and urinary frequency.
In addition to an herbal formula, it’s possible to build up your body’s Yin (and Yang) through diet. There are foods that are considered to be very cooling and nourishing. Your Chinese medical practitioner can be helpful in choosing a plan specific to your needs.