Menopause or Rajonivritti as it is called in Sanskrit, is one of the most significant milestones in a woman’s life. If youth is the Spring season of our life, Menopause is like the Autumn! Cessation of menstrual cycles and end of reproductive phase of life are not the only highlights of menopause. It also has equally strong before and after math which influence women’s health for their lifetime.
Philosophers of Ayurveda have considered women’s physiology to be unique and much more complex than men due to the cyclical changes in their Dosha which take place every month from menarche (beginning of menses) to menopause. Due to the complexity of their physiology, maintaining balance of body tissues and Doshas is indeed a tight rope walk for women. This explains why premenstrual, post menstrual health disturbances, pre-menopausal difficulties and the entire event of menopausal syndrome are such a big deal in women!
Due to rapid urbanization and the overwhelming changes in the social dynamics menopause is no longer a mere physiological event! It has morphed into this event which lashes women with hot flushes, changes in metabolism, risk of osteoporosis (porous brittle bones due to loss of bone calcium), physical changes in the reproductive system (vaginal atrophy and reduced lubrication) and massive emotional turmoil leading to psychological imbalances like anxiety, depression etc. The normal for menopause is around 45-50 years of age. However, some women may experience menopause much earlier before 40 years of age due to premature ovarian failure (POF).
Although, hormonal imbalances sit at the helm of menopausal syndrome, Ayurveda approaches menopause in a much more holistic sense. Ayurveda considers in change in energy dynamics of the body and mind in the form of Dosha, which undergo a major shift during menopause. The decrease in tissue nourishing Kapha Dosha, instability of the Pitta Dosha as it comes to towards the end of its reign during the reproductive years of the adulthood and the rise in levels of Vata Dosha sums up the Dosha dynamics of menopause. These changes are physiological and are often relative to a women’s body type. However, imbalance of Dosha during this phase can give rise to the various symptoms of menopausal syndrome.
Such an imbalance gives rise to symptoms which can range from listlessness, apathy, weight gain and depression in women dominant in Kapha Dosha; anger, hot flushes, agitation in women with Pitta and fearfulness, accelerated osteoporosis, anxiety, sleep disturbances and emotional vulnerability in women with Vata body type. The depleting vitality of tissues; especially that of the reproductive tissues i.e. Shukra dhatu and also of Rasa dhatu– which nourishes the endometrium and controls the menstrual cycles as well as the loss of vitality of mind is also taken into consideration in Ayurveda. Conventional hormone replacement therapies have multiple side effects and often fail to address the huge emotional vulnerability of menopausal women. Hence, holistic solutions for dealing with menopausal issues are much needed. In this article we will discuss five Ayurvedic herbs which are excellent tonics for a healthy menopause-
Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus)
Shatavari literally means ‘100 spouses’ or ‘one who is acceptable to many’. This indeed gives a clear idea about the rejuvenating and re-vitalizing effects of this herb on female reproductive system. Shatavari is the best and one of the most superior Rasayana (tissue rejuvenating herb) for women mentioned in Ayurveda; as is Ashwagandha for males. It not only vitalizes the reproductive system, but also restores the vitality of all the seven body tissues. It is especially beneficial for women with Vata and Pitta body types as it balances both these Doshas. Italso helps in balancing the female sex hormones due to its natural phytoestrogen content.
Common menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, dryness of genitals and inflammation of the genitals are relieved effectively by shatavari.1 Also, the risk of osteoporosis which tags along with menopause is minimized by the use of Shatavari.2 It is also beneficial for relieving the emotional disturbances of menopause. Milk is the preferred medium for taking shatavari supplements. Also, taking shatavari on empty stomach ensures proper digestion and effectiveness of this herb. Those with Kapha body type and poor digestion or appetite should avoid shatavari or minimize its dose. Also pairing it with Kapha balancing herbs like fenugreek, ginger, turmeric can help in balancing its Kapha augmenting nature.
Vidarikand (Pueraria tuberosa)
Vidarikand or Indian kudzu is a perennial climber producing large tubers which are chopped, shade dried and then powdered for internal use. It is yet another effective herb which relieves the symptoms associated with menopause due to its Rasayana (tissue rejuvenating) effects on the female tissues. It has equally good effects on the male reproductive system as well. One of its most popular uses is for treating alcoholism!
Like shatavari, vidarikand is rich in phytoestrogens (isoflavones) which help in soothing the hormonal imbalance of menopause. It also helps in lowering blood cholesterol and increases HDL or the good cholesterol.3 It also rejuvenates the mind and improves blood circulation to the heart and brain. It also helps in relieving the annoying emotional symptoms associated with menopause.4 Vidarikand pacifies Vata, Pitta and increases Kapha. Hence, those with strong Kapha traits should avoid Vidarikand or couple it with Kapha energizing herbs. Like Shatavari, Vidarikand should be taken preferably with milk and on empty stomach.
Methika (Trigonella foenum-graecum)
Methika or fenugreek is a common spice used in Indian cooking which is famous for its anti-diabetic effects. Fenugreek is also an excellent herb for treating the hot flushes of menopause. Due its natural phytoestrogen content, it is considered as one of the best remedies for hot flushes associated with menopause. Fenugreek balances Vata, Kapha and enhances Pitta. Hence women with Pitta body types should take care while using fenugreek. If absolutely needed, Pitta people should use fenugreek during early morning hours, as it will be best tolerated during this time of the day. Kapha and Vata dominant symptoms like lack of appetite, apathy, sluggish metabolism, weight gain, insulin resistance, joint pain, body ache, muscular spasms etc. are ideal conditions for the use of fenugreek. Under the supervision of your physician, fenugreek can also be used to reduce excess cholesterol and for glycemic control in Type 2 Diabetes. About 1 tsp. freshly powdered fenugreek seeds can be taken three times a day with warm water on empty stomach for best results.
Yashtimadhu/Licorice (Glycerrhiza glabra)
Well there is more to licorice than just a candy flavor! This potent anti-inflammatory and immune strengthening herb is also useful in menopausal symptoms. It has been used in Indian, Chinese and Egyptian culture for its medicinal qualities since thousands of years. It helps in relieving the depression, emotional instability, headaches, fatigue, vaginal dryness, inflammation and sexual debility associated with menopause. The natural phytoestrogens called elignans and isoflavones found in licorice may also help in reducing hot flushes. Licorice pacifies Vata, Pitta and elevates Kapha. Hence, women with Kapha should take licorice in minimal doses and preferably with Kapha energizing herbs. Apart from menopausal symptoms, licorice also helps in relieving constipation, gastritis and painful urination. Licorice can be taken in powder form or made into a tea. ½ to 1 tsp. of root powder can be taken before meals with warm water or milk. People with strong Vata or Pitta body type can also try Licorice fortified organic Cow’s ghee (clarified butter) for better results.
Contraindications: People with high blood pressure, heart and kidney diseases should strictly AVOID taking licorice asit tends to retain water in body and increases blood pressure.
Mandookparni (Centella asiatica)
Gotu Kola or Pennywort is a multifaceted herb popular for its memory boosting, immunity strengthening and rejuvenating qualities. It has been given the status of a ‘divine great herb’ the sears of Ayurveda. Depression, irritability, anxiety, apathy etc. have major impact on the quality of life in menopausal women. Gotu Kola being an excellent nerve nutrient is the ideal supplement for alleviating these symptoms. When included in your menopausal care routine, it helps in reducing the psychological and emotional symptoms of menopause. It also improves tissue healing, blood circulation and boosts memory. Gotu kola all the three Doshas and hence is safe for people of Vata, Pitta as well as Kapha dominant body types. However, owing to its bitter- astringent taste, it may moderately increase Vata. Gotu Kola can be taken as freshly expressed juice, powder (whole plant) or tea. It is best taken early in the morning, on empty stomach for maximum efficacy. Pairing Gotu kola with organic Cow’s ghee (clarified butter) is one of the best ways of ensuring complete rejuvenation of the nervous system as ghee is one of the best adjuvants for this herb. Gotu kola fortified ghee can be massaged to the inner portions of the nostrils every morning and Gotu kola infused oil can be used for head and foot massage too for additional benefits.
- Komal Sharma, Asparagus Racemosus (Shatavari): A Versatile Female Tonic, International Journal Of Pharmaceutical And Biological Archive, Vol 2, No 3 (2011)
- Jasmine Japee (Gujarathi), MA Pandya, A Comparative Study on Shatavari and Kukkutanda Twak Bhasma in Minimizing the Risk of Postmenopausal Osteoporosis,2009, Volume : 30, 3;317
- Tanwar, Y.S., Goyal, S. And Ramawat, K.G. Hypolipidemic Effects Of Tubers Of Indian Kudzu(Pueraria Tuberosa),Journal of Herbal Medicine and Toxicology 2 (1) 21-25 (2008)