There is so much interest amongst menopausal women regarding natural alternatives to HRT – and a desire to learn more about how to use them effectively. Our members are qualified in herbal medicine to degree levels, and they support thousands of women who are going through this transitional life phase.
Many of our members specialise in menopause support and we have helped thousands of women from all walks of life – women from all backgrounds and professions. We often work alongside GPs and gynaecologists, and many of our specialist members are affiliated with the British Menopause Society.
A consultation with a medical herbalist provides detailed, professional advice and an individualised care plan which results in positive outcomes for women suffering from menopausal symptoms. Our members support all women, whether they are taking HRT or not, and they are trained to safely work alongside prescription medication.
We’ve put together a range of perspectives from some of our members below. Hopefully these will help you to understand more about how a herbalist could help you, and if you’d like to have a conversation with a registered herbalist in your area, just visit our Find a Herbalist tool and enter your postcode.
Can herbal medicine really help with menopause?
Victoria Wright MNiMH
No-one can plan for where their life will be by the time they hit menopause. We may be at the top of our game, feeling successful, financially stable and happier than we’ve ever been before, or we could be going through traumatic life events, feeling lost and struggling with our physical or mental health.
Then, seemingly all of a sudden, our hormones start to go haywire. We could go from being emotionally mature, switched-on women juggling family and work life to weeping over….. well we’re not quite sure what any more but we can’t find our keys and we’re worried we have early onset dementia. And if this happens when we are already feeling vulnerable, anxious, or exhausted then the impact can be even more severe.
And yes, there are some lucky women who sail through menopause with no symptoms at all. To most of us, it seems like it is literally EVERY OTHER WOMAN. In reality, the number of women who are completely symptom-free is very small.
Seeing a medical herbalist
Herbal medicine can be a very powerful way to breeze through menopause naturally; especially if you work with a medical herbalist. Not only will a medical herbalist ask all the usual questions that your GP would ask, they also want to know about your diet, your medical history, and your lifestyle. A medical herbalist will take into account any existing medical conditions or allergies you may have, and any other medications you might be taking. A herbalist will discuss with you what symptoms you are struggling with and put together a medicine that is tailored just for you. This means it will include herbs that will help the symptoms you are suffering from as well as helping the underlying cause, which in the case of menopausal symptoms is hormone fluctuations.
What will herbal medicine do?
A prescribed herbal medicine will:
- Support your nervous system to help you cope with mood fluctuations and stress levels
- Improve your vitality so you have enough energy to face your day to day life
- Help your body manage stress and enhance resistance to stress
- Support your liver function to help you eliminate the excess hormones that are causing troublesome symptoms
- Help your body balance hormonal activity in the face of changing hormone levels
- Support the tissues of the female reproductive system, especially the uterus, so they can survive hormonal changes
- Help to reduce symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats
What’s in the medicine bottle?
There are so many different herbs that can help with our transition to menopause that it’s impossible to mention them all here but here are just a few that are in a herbalist’s medicine bag.
Shatavari, also known as wild asparagus, is a powerful female tonic. It is a known source of phytoestrogens (chemicals from plants which mimic hormones) which makes it great for smoothing out hormonal fluctuations as we transition to menopause. Research has found that formulas containing Shatavari to be effective in alleviating symptoms in menopausal women.
Common garden sage has been used traditionally for excess sweating (great if you have hot flushes) but that’s not all it’s good for. Recent research has found that it binds to neuroreceptors in the brain and that it can improve mood, anxiety and cognitive performance – great for the brain fog!
Lady’s mantle is particularly useful for our transition to menopause as not only can it relieve menopausal symptoms, it can also help to reduce the heavy bleeding that can frequently occur before we hit menopause.
Milk thistle is not usually called out as being a herb for menopause yet research shows it can decrease frequency and severity of hot flushes. It is mainly known for its ability to protect liver cells which is great as our liver metabolises oestrogen which, whilst on the decline, can often fluctuate causing menopausal symptoms.
Also known as Rhodiola, this herb can be great when the brain fog hits. There’s lots of research that shows it improves attention, cognitive function and mental performance. It can also improve physical endurance making it a perfect choice when stress and exhaustion are also part of the picture.
Trying out herbal medicine yourself can be a great starting point. But if you really want relief from your menopausal symptoms without HRT, then seeing a medical herbalist could be just what you need.
I spent 10 years working as a research scientist whilst trying to manage a chronic health condition that left me in pain on a daily basis. It was only when I started looking after my physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing that I was able to make transformative changes to my long term health and become pain free.
Six years of extensive training to be a Medical Herbalist gives me a rigorous and scientific approach to helping people understand their own health issues. I am a trained wellness coach and have developed a technique called compassionate coaching which brings together contemplative psychology and my 20 years of meditation experience with cognitive and motivational coaching techniques. I’m also a big science geek so I keep up to date with the latest scientific research.
If you’re looking for great tips on how to manage your menopause naturally, download my free menopause survival guide “Hot Women at Work” and get regular self-care tips straight to your inbox. Follow me on social media for the latest scientific research as well more self-care hacks. What if that’s not enough? Still suffering with symptoms? Or just want the personal touch? Then transform your menopause with one-to-one care. Both health coaching and herbal medicine can be effective in supporting your transition into menopause, so why not book a free 15 minute consultation to find out how I can help you.
Why herbalists think about menopause differently
Pamela has been fascinated by herbs since growing up surrounded by the fragrant wet markets of Singapore as a teenager. After a hectic career in film and television, she left to study herbal medicine in 2002 and has been running a successful clinical practice, writing and teaching about herbs ever since. Pamela is often spotted giving expert comment in the media, including her own BBC online series, Hello magazine, Women & Home and the Financial Times and has taught around the world, including Russia, East Africa, Italy and Germany helping connect people to their local plants and rediscover how they can profoundly impact wellbeing. She has been the Twinings herbal expert since 2016 advising on new herbal products for the global market and is the in-house medical herbalist for sofi.health developing herbal products for sleep and anxiety using new technology.
You can download her free guide ‘5 Ways to Supercharge Your Next Hot Drink’ to help take the first step into a natural approach to menopause.
A herbal approach to menopause
Keren Brynes MacLean, MNIMH
A large number of women use natural remedies to manage menopause and my experience as a prescribing Medical Herbalist has been wholly positive in using herbs to ease menopausal symptoms.
Often, in the initial stages of menopause, women choose to purchase an over-the-counter remedy such as sage or red clover to ease hot flushes. Sometimes these “simpler” remedies can be effective, however when a woman has a more complex array of symptoms or a more complex gynaecological history then a consultation is by far the best approach.
During an appointment a Medical Herbalist is always keen to know about the different and varied symptoms that are happening. Menopause is so much more than hot flushes, but for most women their flushes are the worst symptom of all, especially if they are disrupting sleep.
They can be dry, they can be wet, they can come with palpitations, they can come with a visibly flushed face, they can come on with stress, they can come on with a hot drink, they can come on at night, they can come on during the day, they can come on during that meeting and so on.
It’s those subtle differences that are key to a Medical Herbalist getting the right combination of herbs for the individual woman. It’s not simply a matter of replacing “missing” hormones to ease symptoms, the aim of treatment is to facilitate a gradual natural fall in hormone levels, thereby easing the turbulence of change.
Working in this holistic way means that the whole endocrine system is supported and that a herbal prescription will contain a synergistic blend of herbs to ease flushes, support the adrenal glands, support the nervous system and so on. Always being mindful of constitutional wellbeing and lifestyle allows a versatile and individually tailored treatment plan.
It also means that herbal medicines can safely be prescribed for women who have to avoid oestrogenic remedies or who are taking oestrogen blockers after having gone through breast cancer treatment. Likewise, women who have a history of endometriosis or fibroids might wish to approach menopause with less of an ‘oestrogen replacement’ approach.
There are a number of very effective herbs to ease flushes that don’t contain “hormonal” compounds but can bring about remarkable changes in symptoms. Other herbs act on hormonal receptor sites and contain the building blocks of oestrogen and progesterone. Yet more herbs are very good at calming nervous excitability and via nervous system pathways help to lessen the severity of symptoms.
As well as using herbs to tone, nourish and support the body making positive lifestyle and dietary changes can also bring about significant improvements in well-being and can have a positive impact on menopausal symptoms. Simple measures such as eating at regular times can help to reduce flushes.
During a consultation, a Medical Herbalist will ask lots of questions about your health, wellbeing and lifestyle. As well as a focused look at your hormonal history and a mapping of all your symptoms, you can expect a top to toe health enquiry to get a picture of your whole body health. This, coupled with a detailed nutritional appraisal and lifestyle overview, gives your Medical Herbalist vital information to help plan a treatment strategy.
You will of course be interested in your future health as well as your current health issues and looking at preventative measures to ensure good heart health and robust bone health will all be covered during the course of treatment with a Medical Herbalist.
Treatment duration will of course vary from woman to woman and at the outset of treatment your Medical Herbalist will not be able to tell you how long you will need to take herbs. However, you can expect to get results reasonably quickly with herbal medicine and feel a noticeable difference within a few weeks of treatment, if not days.
Keren has been a practicing member of the NIMH since 1996, having qualified from The School of Phytotherapy in Sussex from their correspondence course.
She very much runs a general practice with herbs and nutrition and work in a functional/integrative way, although like most Herbalists also draw on traditional energetics and of course intuitive hunches! She has learnt a lot from my patients over the years and see them as our best teachers.
When managing urinary issues she considers not only the classic urinary antiseptics, but also thinks about tone, inflammation (and histamine), nervous function, hormonal health and biomechanics.
She owns Health Food and More, a health food shop, clinic and dispensary in Kirkcaldy, Fife. She gained her early years herbal experience working for Napiers in Edinburgh under Dee Atkinson’s watchful eye and enjoys the public interface that retail brings to a herbal practice.
She welcomes Heartwood students into her clinic and has always been open to sharing her experience and knowledge with those learning our craft.
The best people to explain why a herbal approach to menopause has transformed the lives of so many women are the women themselves;
“I am so pleased to say that I am coming though my menopause and have been really fortunate to have met Sara and her approach to health and wellbeing. Not be mention her amazing herbs which have supported me though the last 4-5 years. I had been struggling with my sleep, anxiety, night sweats and hot flushes and after a detailed consultation with Sara she created two mixes for me and adapted these as my symptoms changed and my body started to work with the herbs. So now I am herb free and feeling great. I know that as I go into another phase of my life and experience other health related issues I may need some some help to support my journey. It’s great to know Sara is on hand if needed… ”
“After my initial consultation I had a huge improvement with my menopause symptoms, my hot flushes are very infrequent, my fatigue has improved and after I developed joint pain my prescription was altered so that has reduced significantly as well. I’m so happy I decided to try a bespoke herbal prescription to help with my menopause symptoms.”
“Finding Michaela at Bespoke Botanicals has been a life saver, I’d reached a point where I thought I couldn’t carry on with my perimenopausal symptoms – the doctor didn’t take me very seriously and I wanted a more natural option than the drastic hysterectomy that was suggested. Some of my system (but by no means all) were; heavy bleeding, flooding, intense pain, horrendous PMT, swelling just about anywhere, but particularly the breasts, bloating, difficult digestion, not to mention the huge emotional swings, erratic feelings and sensations, heart palpitations, stress and anxiety the list goes on… That was Christmas 2019 and 6 months on I am a changed woman, embracing the change naturally. I can wholeheartedly say that every aspect of my life has improved and I barely notice when I am due my period. The difficult build up and tension has nearly all but disappeared. I also have more energy, my ‘mojo’ is back and I thank Michaela for this, without the herbs I would be lost. I particularly like that the herbs are tailored to your needs and specific symptoms. There appears to be a herb for everything! I am extremely grateful to Bespoke Botanicals my sincerest thanks.”
“I just wanted to drop a message to say HUGE thank you ever so much for the supplements that you’ve provided for my Mum’s menopause, she’s noticed such a difference as she’s not suffering from hot flashes and sweats at night anymore (that was one of biggest challenges). Mum is ever so grateful for your recommendations! 🤗 ”
“I didn’t feel the help I needed was out there, and I was feeling so hopeless before I came to see you. After a few weeks working with you the changes in me and my body are so HUGE I cannot thank you enough! You have given me hope.”
“This week I have slept so well, hardly any night sweats and the hot flushes have definitely gone down through the day. Your advice has been invaluable and it was so reassuring to speak to someone who understands the holistic view of menopause”
“My herbalist has such an insightful and informative understanding of the menopause and how it it impacts women. She’s able to talk about the emotional and spiritual side as well as the physical aspect. The herbs she prescribed were specially selected for my body, and I couldn’t believe how quickly they made a difference”
“I found out about Hannah from one of her other patients who talked about her on social media. At the time I was having terrible trouble with insomnia, hot flushes and weight gain. I didn’t want to use HRT because I’d had cancer before, and I was looking into alternatives. It was obvious to me that my hormones were out of balance and I needed some help, so I decided to try herbal medicine. Very soon after starting, I noticed that I was sleeping better, and I had much more energy during the day. My hot flushes went, and I even began to lose some weight! I would definitely recommend one of Hannah’s programmes if you need help with your menopause.”
These testimonials come from our members including: