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Menopause and low libido - Chinese medicine to improve female sex drive

Published:Thursday | August 20, 2015 | 12:00 AMTracey-Ann Brown



What is menopause?


Menopause is the natural termination of the menstrual cycle and reproductive years, usually occurring between age 48 to 55. At this time the ovaries start making less oestrogen and progesterone, the hormones that regulate menstruation.

Ideally, this process is smooth and easy. However, when the menopausal transformation is not harmonious, a variety of symptoms may present, common among them are: 'hot flashes', headaches, irritability, depression, insomnia, nervousness, leg cramps, night sweats, vaginal dryness and lethargy.

During this transition, some women have a noticeable reduction in their desire for sexual activity.

Chinese medicine, which primarily comprises the practice of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, can offer an additional or alternative method of facilitating this transition and improving libido.


How does acupuncture help?


In Chinese medicine, the symptoms of menopause are often characterised as an empty heat condition. In relieving the symptoms, acupuncture may be used to:

- Clear heat (primarily characterised by feelings of heat)

- Improve libido

- Nourish the fluids of the body (which are being depleted by excessive sweating and also evidenced by vaginal dryness)

- Calm the spirit

Extremely thin needles are inserted at specific acupuncture points and gently stimulated with minimal or no discomfort. These points are selected from acupuncture points on the body and ear, based on the presenting symptoms.


Chinese herbal remedies


Herbal formulas may be given alongside acupuncture or by themselves. These herbs are also used to improve libido, relieve/improve vaginal dryness, clear heat, nourish the fluids of the body and calm the spirit. In creating the ideal herbal formula, a number of herbs are typically combined to address the myriad symptoms.

- To improve libido: Yin Yang Huo (Horny Goat Weed), Tu Si Zi (Dodder Seed) and Hai Ma (Sea Horse) may be combined to increase libido.

- To clear heat, nourish fluids and relieve vaginal dryness: Bai He (Lily Bulb), Sheng Di Huang (Rehmannia) and Mu Li (Oyster Shell) may be combined to address symptoms such as: hot flashes, night sweating and vaginal dryness.

- To calm the spirit/shen: To improve symptoms such as insomnia, irritability and depression, the herbs Ling Zhi (Ganoderma), Xie Cao (Valerian root) and Zhen Zhu (Pearl) may be added.


Course of treatment


Whether the treatment given is acupuncture and/or herbal formulas, there is usually an improvement in symptoms almost immediately. Treatment will continue while symptoms are evident. For the many women who have menopausal problems, it is of some consolation to know that most symptoms are temporary and will usually pass.


Diet and lifestyle recommendations


As with any health-care programme, diet and lifestyle plays an important role.

Useful foods to include in the diet are:

- Black beans

- Soy products

- Saffron (stir spice into already cooked rice or vegetables)

- Aloe vera

- Wheat germ

-Mung beans

- String beans

- Seaweed

- Tofu

- Kidney beans

- Barley

- Black sesame seeds


- Coffee

- Alcohol

- Cigarettes

- Excess meat consumption

- Excessive amounts of stress

Additionally, useful supplements to include calcium, B complex, vitamin A, C and E.

- Dr Tracey-Ann Brown is an oriental medicine practitioner, herbalist and doctor of acupuncture; email: yourhealth@gleanerjm.com