Are adaptogens queen when it comes to menopause?
Adaptogens are herbs or mushrooms that help the body adapt to stress. They have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese and ayurvedic medicine, but western medicine is just catching up. There are an increasing number of studies demonstrating their benefits.
Adaptogens are unique because they can fine tune levels of hormones and neurotransmitters and harmonise the immune system to restore balance.
There are many different adaptogenic herbs and proponents of eastern medicine will tell you that each herb has a different energetic property. Herbalists are trained to match adaptogens to your individual constitution. However, looking broadly, there are a number of adaptogens that may be helpful for menopausal women.
Maca (Lepidium meyenii)
Maca is a Peruvian herb that has been linked to hormonal balance, libido and fertility for over 2000 years. This root vegetable is credited for the success of the Incan empire.
According to ancient legend, Inca warriors would use Maca before going into battle to make them strong and increase their endurance on the battlefield, however after successfully conquering a city the warriors were banned from using it to protect the women from their increased libidos!
More recently, studies have shown that when used in early postmenopausal women, maca indirectly increases levels of both oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone as well as significantly reducing menopausal symptoms, in particular hot flushes and night sweats.
Panax ginseng is a widely studied adaptogen and is considered to be one of the most stimulating. This makes it an ideal herb for those women who are depleted and feel like they are running on empty. Its reported benefits include improved energy levels and libido as well as improving cognition and focus. However, for women experiencing anxiety or insomnia it can be too stimulating.
Siberian ginseng (Elutherococcus)
Siberian ginseg is another option. This herb has a milder, but still energising effect. As well as improving both mental and physical endurance, it can help women struggling with sleep issues because it improves the quality of sleep and reduces night-time waking episodes.
Rhodiola (Rhodiola Rosea)
Rhodiola is used to increase physical and mental strength and endurance. It is considered to be an energy tonic and is often recommended in cases of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. It increases the ability to deal with stress and improves attention span, concentration and memory. It can be overstimulating in many women.
Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera)
Ashwaganda is known for its calming effect, helping reduce anxiety, fatigue, insomnia and brain fog. Clinical trials have shown improvements in menopausal symptoms. In addition, it gently supports thyroid function which can be a contributing factor to the symptoms that we can experience in midlife such as low mood, fatigue and weight gain.
Holy Basil is another calming adaptogen. Found in India, where it is highly revered for its ability to nourish and restore, it is used in ayurvedic medicine to relieve brain fog and improve poor memory and concentration. Holy Basil has been shown in modern scientific studies to reduce the cortisol response to stress and helps reduce high blood glucose and cholesterol levels.
Overall, adaptogens can improve general well-being by harmonising brain chemistry and hormones and help counteract the effects of stress. So, if you’re not sleeping well, are exhausted, suffer with low mood or anxiety, struggle to focus or concentrate or are just feeling run down, an adaptogen may be the kickstart you need to get you back to optimal health.
It is important to remember that although adaptogens are natural remedies they can be quite potent. Always check with a qualified health practitioner or your GP before starting any supplements, they may interact with medications or be unsuitable for use if you have certain medical conditions.
You are unique, so at WomenWise we use at home tests and an in-depth questionnaire to reveal the underlying causes of your symptoms. Only then do we give you fully researched and personalised recommendations to restore your vitality. These will include how to support your oestrogen and progesterone levels, how to improve your diet, understand which targeted supplements your body might need and how to build your ability to handle stress.
Hormone-Balancing Effect of Pre-Gelatinized Organic Maca (Lepidium peruvianum Chacon): (III) Clinical responses of early-postmenopausal women to Maca in double blind, randomized, Placebo-controlled, crossover configuration, outpatient study