By Dee Atkinson, FNIMH



Over the last few years I have seen many patients who are looking for alternatives to Hormone Replacement Therapy, or who are struggling with menopause symptoms. The onset of the menopause can bring with it a lot of varying symptoms, both physical and mood wise. Every women is different and some sail through menopause while others experience many and varied symptoms. 

Hormone change is not a simple flick of a switch happening. Rather it is a gradual shift in monthly hormone pattern and as such it can be difficult to spot it happening. The big headline symptoms such as hot flushes and night sweats do happen , but they are often at the end of a whole series of smaller less noticeable changes. Often it is only when one starts to look at all these symptoms together, that the full picture of hormonal change emerges. 

The most common symptoms can be variations in the normal monthly hormone patterns. The cycle can get longer, the mood fluctuations around the period can become more extreme and often symptoms of anxiety and feelings of being unable to cope come to the fore. 

These symptoms, along with hot flushes and night sweats can lead to a lack of sleep, that can lead women to look for support. 

In my clinic I work with many women who want to find an alternative to HRT to manage their symptoms, either before they start taking HRT, or if they are already taking it, they want help in coming off it. 

Many of my patients are directly referred to me by their doctor and this has been increasing over the years as Herbal Medicine has moved more into the realm of mainstream medicine and worries about HRT have increased. The decision as to whether or not to take hormone replacement needs to be made by the patient themselves, in discussion with their Doctor or Herbal practitioner. 




There are certain foods that can help to ease menopause symptoms and the buzz word here is ‘phytoestrogen’. These are plants and even foods that have oestrogen-like actions. Their chemical structure resembles that of oestrogen, but is not identical. They are able to occupy oestrogen receptors in the body without actually activating them. A bit like putting a key in a lock but being unable to turn it. 

Soya, linseeds, beans and pluses are some foods that exhibit these properties as well as the plants Liquorice, Red clover and Sage. By combining herbs such as these, making dietary changes and using gentle hormone regulating herbs such as Vitex agnus castus, the herbalist is able to tailor make a prescription for the patient. 

Exercise and diet are important parts of everyone’s health care, and this is especially important for women going through the change of life. Exercise helps to keep weight under control, the cardio vascular system healthy and helps prevent osteoporosis. This is a time when many women can feel particularly low and unable to motivate themselves to exercise and eat healthily. 

Qualified practitioners will be able to help women work out a treatment plan that includes all aspects of the problem and will use natural remedies to help the body through what is, after all, a very natural process. The length of time one needs to take herbs for can vary but, the majority of my menopause patients are on herbs form anywhere between 6 to 18 months. 




As a woman moves closer to menopause, she is said to be “peri-menopausal”. At this stage, it is often the case that by using herbs we can regulate the cycle and ease the peri-menopausal symptoms with a few months of herbs correcting most problems. However, the longer the gaps between periods, the more pronounced the menopause symptoms tend to become - although one is not considered menopausal until a year has elapsed since their last period. 

Menopause symptoms are varied and can include: hot flushes and night sweats, mood swings, forgetfulness, changes in the texture of skin and hair, palpitations, anxiety, sleeplessness, weight gain, joint pains, vaginal dryness and lack of libido. 

These symptoms can come and go and they don’t all happen at the same time. It can be a confusing time and often a time when women have other stresses, with teenage children and elderly relatives to care for. Herbal formulas, as prescribed by a herbal practitioner, are built for the individual and can have a profoundly beneficial effect. 


Be Safe 


One word of caution. Just as one would never take hormone replacement without first consulting their doctor, only embark on a course of herbs after consultation with a qualified practitioner. 

If you are on HRT and want to stop, consult a herbal practitioner before you stop. If you have undergone treatment for cancer and want to use herbs, you must never try and self treat as some herbs are contraindicated. Always consult a qualified practitioner. 

I help many women who have undergone cancer treatment to manage their health, and we can use herbs to reduce menopause symptoms, but we do need to make sure that we use the correct herbs. Many herbs are contra indicated in this situation. 


If you are experiencing the symptoms of menopause and prefer to try an across the counter remedy first, here are some suggestions: 


Sage (Salvia officinalis): is one of the first remedies to try for Menopausal hot flushes and night sweats. It has a cooling drying action and contains plant oestrogens. It not only reduces sweats but also helps the body adapt to the hormonal changes involved. It has a long history of use as a nerve tonic, calming and stimulating the nervous system. Cold sage tea prepared from the dried leaves is also great to use in the summer months. Sage is available as a liquid medicine tincture either on its own or as part of a blend. 


Chaste Tree Berry (Vitex agnus castus): is of most use in treating menopausal symptoms which exist prior to the cessation of menstruation. It has a hormone balancing action and is best taken in the morning when the hypothalamic-pituitary axis in the brain is most active as it will have the best hormonal influence at this time. It is, to date, the only herb with a progesterone–type activity. Vitex may also help with migraines linked to the menstrual cycle. Vitex is usually used when there are still menstrual periods. Vitex is available as a liquid medicine. 


St John's Wort (Hypericum perforatum):is a very useful herb for menopause. It is of particular use for symptoms of low mood or anxiety which are common in menopausal women. Interestingly, St Johns wort has been show to reduce hot flushes. St Johns wort is available in capsule or liquid form, either on its own or as part of a blend. Caution – contraindicated with a number of medications. Please consult product leaflet or label for full list, or discus with a herbalist.  


Black Cohosh & Sage Blend - is a formula that I developed for women who have uncomplicated menopause symptoms. It is a gentle formula that will support the management of a number of menopause symptoms. Black cohosh for hormone balance; Sage to reduce flushing; St Johns Wort for mood swings; Cleavers for cooling and lymphatic help; and Red Clover for its hormone balancing properties. This product is available from Napiers Herbalist.  


If you'd like more specific and personalised advice, to build a supportive and sustainable treatment plan with my guidance, go ahead and BOOK AN APPOINTMENT with me.  


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