Transition and Metamorphosis
Menopause is a period of transition and metamorphosis, like puberty. It consists of three stages: isolation, melt down, and emergence. Each stage calls forth new energies and new perceptions of ourselves. Each stage has different demands, different tasks, and different needs.
Wise Woman ways, such as simple ceremony, compassionate self-care, and daily use of dooryard plants, can be of tremendous benefit to women going through menopause. Please allow me to share with you some of my favorite herbs for easing hot flashes, sleeplessness, and other distresses of The Change. They're easy to find; you may already know them as weeds! These plants, and their cautions and contraindications, are described in detail in my book Menopausal Years, The Wise Woman Way. Please refer to it before you decide whether or not to use any of these green allies to aid you during your menopausal years.
Calcium intake during and after menopause must be high to maintain health. But calcium in pills can't compare to calcium in plants when it comes to maintaining healthy, flexible bones. Bones are made of a dozen minerals besides calcium (potassium, manganese, magnesium, silica, iron, zinc, selenium, boron, phosphorus, sulphur, and chromium), all of which are found in rich supply in the roots and leaves of edible weeds and herbs. Eating weeds is my preferred way of preventing osteoporosis and insuring freedom from heart disease, depression, headaches, leg cramps, and joint pain.
There are scores of calcium/mineral-rich plants to choose from, such as the aromatic leaves of sage, peppermint, lemon balm, bergamot, rosemary, and thyme; the cooked or fresh greens of lamb's quarters, amaranth, dandelion, chicory, comfrey, stinging nettle, chickweed, parsley, watercress, kale, collards, and cabbage; the flowers of red clover; and the roots of yellow dock, dandelion, chicory, and burdock.
For maximum extraction of mineral richness, I cook with these herbs, drink them as infusions, and steep them in vinegar. (See Old Sour Puss Mineral Mix in my book, page 256 , for recipe.)
Seaweeds have incredibly generous amounts of calcium and minerals, too. I make it a practice to eat seaweeds such as kelp, dulse, and nori daily, as condiments, and a seaweed such as wakame, hijiki, arame, and kombu once a weed, cooked with carrots or in a soup. I feed seaweed to my goats in the form of powdered kelp and to my plants in the form of a liquid emulsion. That's why we all have shiny hair, sleek skin, bright eyes, and lots of energy.
Hormones are a hot topic for menopausal women. To help myself with hormonal surges and drops, I prefer to use tinctures of plants rich in plant hormones (phytosterols) rather than prescribed hormones (estrogen replacement or hormone replacement), which actually elevate the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis, contrary to advertising, and are linked to increases in breast and uterine cancers. Women whose blood is rich in plant hormones have the lowest rates of cancer in the world. Plants rich in phytosterols include: roots of dong quai, ginseng, wild yam, black cohosh, black haw, dandelion; flowers of hops, yarrow, red clover; leaves of stinging nettle, sage; berries/seeds/hips of chaste tree/vitex, fenugreek, roses.
Favorite herbs for menopausal women:
Oatstraw infusion (Avena sativa) strengthens the nerves, helps reduce emotion distress, promotes sound sleep, keeps the bones and heart strong, and strengthens libido. The tincture is a stronger sedative but not nourishing to the bones and heart. Oats for breakfast is an excellent way to "take" this herb, but avoid pills and capsules. Oatstraw baths are exceptionally calming. Instructions for making one are in my green book: Healing Wise.
Nettle infusion (Urtica dioica) strengthens the adrenals, eases anxiety, increases energy, helps prevent night sweats, builds blood, protects bones and heart. Eating cooked nettle is another excellent way to gather its benefits, as is nettle vinegar. I avoid freeze-dried, encapsulated, or tinctured nettle, believing all these forms ineffective and over-priced.
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) -- tincture of the fresh flowering tops -- is a favorite with menopausal women, their daughters and their mothers. A few drops (up to 25 at a time) will calm emotions, relieve heart palpitations (and strengthen the heart), reduce the severity of hot flashes, increase vaginal lubrication, moderate and eliminate PMS and menstrual cramping. Motherwort vinegar is a fantastic tonic, and tasty, thank goodness. The tea is violently bitter and disliked by 99 out of 100 women, including me, yuck.
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)-- any part, in any form -- is a superb strengthener for the liver, the control center for hot flashes. Dandelion improves digestion, especially of calcium, helps relieve headaches, and sees to it that the liver provides steady blood sugar supplies. Dandelion wine (from the blossoms) is the most elegant way to take this remedy, but the cooked leaves and vinegars (as well as the pickled parts) of the roots and/or leaves are also excellent nourishing digestives. The tincture, especially of the root, is considered the strongest medicine, but doesn't contain bone-building nutrients, so is less ideal than the other forms.
Startling facts about menopause:
*The Grandmother Hypothesis maintains that "menopause, like a big brain and an upright posture, is one of the essential traits of the human which allowed us to colonize the world."
*Menopause is not a recent phenomenon, but an ancient women's mystery, with special gifts for the woman who uses its energies wisely.
*Estrogen is not one hormone, but many, and our bodies continue to make estrogens all of our lives. The adrenals, the fat tissues, and perhaps the uterus make estrogens.
*The levels of hormones in a woman's blood are never higher than when she is in menopause.
*Herbal hormone (phytosterols, or phytoestrogens) are usable by the body and, in contrast to prescribed hormones, protect against breast cancer.
(All photos above illustrating story are by Jane Sherry of Dandelion Flower; Basket of Peas, Nettles & Dandelion; Motherwort and Dandelion Leaves)
This article was reprinted with the kind permission of the author.
SusunWeed, green witch and wise woman, is an extraordinary teacher with a joyous spirit, a powerful presence, and an encyclopedic knowledge of herbs and health. She is the voice of the
Wise Woman Way, where common weeds, simple ceremony, and compassionate listening support and nourish health/wholeness/holiness. She has opened hearts to the magic and medicine of the green nations for three decades. Ms. Weed's four herbal medicine books focus on women's health topics including: menopause, childbearing, and breast health. Visit her website for information on her workshops, apprenticeships, correspondence courses and more! Browse the publishing site Ash Tree Publishing to learn more about her alternative health books. Venture into the NEW Menopause site to learn all about the Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way.
Old Sour Puss Mineral Mix
Yellow Dock (Rumex) Leaves & Roots
Dandelion (Taraxacum) Leaves & Roots
Plantain (Plantago) Leaves
Nettle (Urtica) Leaves
Raspberry (Rubus) Leaves & Canes & Berries
Croneswort/Mugwort (Artemisia Vulgaris) Leaves
Comfrey (Symphytum) Leaves & Flower Stalks
Red Clover (Trifolium Pratense) Blossoms
Clean Eggshells, or clean bones may also be used
Completely fill a quart/liter jar with one or more of these calcium rich herbs. Use only fresh plant material.
Pour apple cider vinegar over the herbs until the jar is full. COver with a plastic lid and let sit for six weeks.
Use this calcium-rich vinegar as a refreshing drink beore meals by mixing a tablespoon/30 ml of molasses. (Adds 150 mg more calcium, too.)
Also great added to soups and bean dishes, and as a salad dressings.
Vinegar has the amazing ability to dissolve calcium (and other minerals) and hold it in solution, ready for your ingestion and assimilation. A tablespoon/30 ml of this vinegar will supply about 150-200 mg calcium. Taken before or with your meals, this vinegar increases the digestibility of the minerals in your entire meal.
(Note from founder, Jane Sherry: this recipe of one of several useful, easy to make indispensible brews, tinctures & teas I keep in my kitchen. This mineral rich vinegar makes a lovely gift at holiday or any celebration time, and is a favorite in my black bean dishes, adding flavor and digestibility! I highly advise any peri or post menopausal woman [that would be all of us!] to buy the Menopausal Years to have a great resource on your shelves! You can find all of Susun's books at her publishing website Ash Tree Publishing or to learn more about her alternative health books. Venture into the NEW Menopause site to learn all about the Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way.)