Are you looking for relief from perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms?
An Article by Dawn Aarons
Published in Vitality Magazine, March 2009
is called a “Second Spring” in Chinese Medicine. This is distinct from the
“summer heat wave” or “winter storm” that some women describe.
woman has entered menopause when one year has passed from her last menstrual
period. The transitional phase leading up to that time is called perimenopause,
and it can last for many years beginning anywhere from a woman’s late 30’s to
to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), women’s bodies follow seven-year cycles.
From birth a young girl matures until the blood and energy in her body
overflows and brings menarche (the onset of menstruation) at around 2 x 7 years
of age. Then at about 7x7 years of age, the woman’s body needs to conserve
energy and blood and therefore enters menopause.This is a natural progression and a sign of health dictated
by the wisdom of the body. Menopause is a homeostatic mechanism that actually
slows down the aging process in women.
understanding of aging in TCM is directly linked to the concept of “Kidney
essence”. Essence represents our fundamental nature, that which is necessary
for life. Once all one’s essence is depleted in the process of living, one
dies. There are two types of Kidney essence – congenital and acquired.
Congenital essence (known in the West as genetic material) is inherited from
one’s parents. The quantity and quality of this essence depends on the vigor
and age of the father and mother at one’s conception as well as the health of
one’s mother during pregnancy. Acquired essence comes from the air we breathe
and the food and drink we consume throughout the course of our lives.And equal in importance as how we
receive essence, which underlies all of our bodies functions, is how we expend
it. Unhealthy lifestyles and excessive stress take a toll on our body’s balance
a line graph (see diagram) of a person’s life. At birth the person has a full
compliment of congenital essence. How quickly one uses up that essence depends
on one’s lifestyle. The healthier the lifestyle the less steep the downward
slope of the essence. Of course life is not always even, so this line will
waverat those times in which
essence is used up faster and times when it is used up more slowly – but the
line will eventually lower to the bottom of the graph. Reaching the x-axis
equals natural death.
complementary opposition to the essence line, is the wisdom line referring only
to that wisdom which is gained during life. At birth the wisdom line is down at
the x-axis. As the baby grows and learns this line rises. The slope of the line
likewise depends on the choices one makes and opportunities one enjoys, but
over time as wisdom accumulates, the line continually rises.
some point, these two lines will cross. For a menopausal woman, this crossover
represents a transition - wisdom is now predominant and the new focus of her
personal potential; it is the time of her Second Spring – an opportunity for a
rebirth of herself, for herself.
a Second Spring requires our acceptance of aging and change. In our culture, we
must contend with a great fear of death and aging that expresses itself in
reverence for the fountain of youth. But in most Asian countries, many women do
not suffer in menopause. This is partly explained by differences in diet and
lifestyle, but I believe the main difference is that age is respected and
valued in these cultures. This, of course, does not mean that at menopause one
cannot be energetic, beautiful and vibrant. Rather, it is possible to be all
these things at any age. Chinese Medicine celebrates the natural stages of our
lives, including menopause, and offers techniques for a smooth transition.
of the discomforts that women experience in perimenopause are an expression of
imbalances that have already existed in their bodies for years, sometimes
women who enter menopause after a hysterectomy, chemotherapy, or some other
medical intervention, the symptoms can be more dramatic. Balancing the body
with Chinese Medicine is also recommended in this case. Every situation is
unique, as every woman’s experience is unique.
Medicine does not separate mind and body – the woman’s whole life situation and
emotions are also considered in a treatment plan.In perimenopause, various emotional issues can arise. Women
often take a deep look at the meaning of their lives thus far and re-evaluate
themselves, their relationships, and their work.Menopause marks the end of a woman’s childbearing years – a
significant transition for women who have had children as well as women who
have not. For some women, this transition requires time to grieve. Menopause is
an emotional, mental and spiritual transition in addition to the experience of
I will outline some of the more common imbalances described in TCM that bring
discomfort in perimenopause and menopause (note that multiple imbalances can
exist at the same time). I will then discuss some remedies offered by
Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Medicine Patterns in Menopause:
1)Kidney-Yin deficiency- common symptoms of this imbalance include
dizziness, night sweating, hot flashes, sore back, dry mouth, dry hair, dry
skin, itching and constipation.
2)Kidney-Yang deficiency- hot flashes but cold hands and feet,
night-sweating in the early morning, pale complexion, depression, chilliness,
backache, swelling of the ankles.
3)Kidney-Yin and Kidney-Yang deficiency- a combination of yin and yang
deficiency symptoms such as hot flashes but cold hands and feet, night
sweating, frequent pale urination, slight agitation, ringing in the ears,
backache, dry throat, being flushed around the neck.
4)Kidney and Liver-Yin deficiency with Liver-Yang rising- irritability,
dizziness, ringing in the ears, blurred vision, dry eyes, dry skin, hot
flashes, ache in joints, night-sweating, sore back, headaches.
5)Kidneys and Heart not harmonized- hot flashes, palpitations, insomnia,
night-sweating, blurred vision, dizziness, anxiety, mental restlessness,
feeling of heat in the evening, dry mouth and throat, poor memory, dry stools.
6)Accumulation of phlegm and stagnation of Qi- obesity, a feeling of
oppression of the chest, a feeling of fullness of the stomach, swelling of
breasts, irritability, belching, nausea, no appetite, moodiness, depression.
7)Stasis of Blood- hot flashes, mental restlessness, irregular periods
with dark-clotted blood, insomnia, high blood pressure, abdominal pain.
Acupuncture and Herbs – A combination of acupuncture and herbs are recommended
for treating menopausal complaints. Treatment depends on the presenting
patterns (see above) with the goal of clearing blockages, nourishing
deficiencies and relaxing excesses.The length and frequency of treatments depend on the individual’s
condition. I recommend starting treatment once a week and then adjusting
according to your needs. Once a week allows time for herbal remedies to take
effect between treatments and is frequent enough that improvement can
accumulate from treatment to treatment. As a woman is feeling better and
incorporating lifestyle recommendations, treatments can be spread to once every
two weeks, then once a month, and so on. Even when we are in optimal health, it
is recommended that we receive acupuncture every season to support the body in
staying healthy and making seasonal transitions smoothly.
Qigong: Gentle Exercises and Deep Breathing) – Relieving stress and getting
moving is good for both body and mind. Menopause is a wonderful time for women
to connect more deeply with themselves. Deep breathing, mindfulness meditation
and yoga are all recommended. In Chinese Medicine, the practice of Qigong
(“work with energy”) incorporates breathing techniques with gentle exercises
and meditation. There are many different Qigong practices that deal directly
with balancing energy in the body. Qigong exercises can help menopausal women
to relax, clear excess heat, and balance yin/yang. These exercises are easy to
learn and practice in almost any environment.
is a life transition that offers challenges and gifts. Like all things in life,
it presents both its “yin” and “yang”. Chinese Medicine offers approaches and
treatments that can ease the transition, supportingthe journey that is ultimately a woman’s own.
and Recommended Books:
with Science and Soul, Judith Boice, Celestial Arts, 2007
and Gynecology in Chinese Medicine,Giovanni Maciocia, Churchill Livingstone, 1998
A Second Spring, Honora Lee Wolfe, Blue Poppy Press,1995
Years; The Wise Woman Way, Susun S Weed, Ash Tree Publishing, 1992
Aarons, BA, D.AC. OAATCM is an acupuncturist and Qigong instructor working in
Toronto. She graduated from The Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine in
1996. For more information, please visit her website at www.dawnaarons.com or call 647-209-8259.