Chinese Herbal Medicine and acupuncture have been used to support women's health for thousands of years. However Chinese Medicine views women’s health differently from Western medicine and rather than treating a specific western medicine diagnosis, Chinese Medicine primarily treats women’s health conditions on a case by case basis taking signs and symptoms of the client especially those important markers relating to the menstrual cycle into account. They will look at the client as a whole person rather than just their main complaint and will use the signs and symptoms to formulate and treat a Chinese medical pattern rather than western medical diagnosis. Chinese Medicine can also treat western diagnosed disorders such as PCOS or endometriosis by using signs and symptoms to determine pattern differentiation in Chinese Medicine.
At Village Remedies Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine clinic we use Chinese herbal medicine in granule form to help women regulate their menstrual cycle, assisting with painful/irregular/absent periods, menopausal symptoms, pregnancy support and supporting fertility to name a few. On average we prefer to treat a client for three months or three menstrual cycles so that we are able to track changes and show ongoing improvement from the first month to the third month.
Chinese herbal formulas are tailored to the particular signs and symptoms of the client and often Chinese herbal formulas and single herbs prescribed will differ greatly from one person to the next, however there are a key group of single herbs that are commonly used to help with women’s health issues due to their benefits to women’s health disorders.
Bai Shao - White Peony Root
Bai Shao is cultivated by growing the Chinese Peony for 4-5 years, the roots are dug up, cleaned with water and bark and rootlets removed. The root is then boiled for a short time, dried in the sun and then sliced. From a Chinese medicine perspective Bai Shao invigorates and nourishes liver blood, but from a modern take we see this as regulating menstruation, alleviating period pain or cramping as well as pain or spasms in the musculoskeletal system.
A study bolsters the Chinese medicine view and has shown that Bai Shao may also have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antioxidant and immunomodulatory effects and has been used in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, dysmenorrhea, muscle cramping, spasms and fever to name a few.
Paeoniflorin is a glucoside and major constituent of Bai Shao which has regularly been used in the treatment of gynecological disorders but in addition to this, studies have exhibited anti-androgenic capabilities by inhibiting the production of testosterone and encouraging the aromatisation of testosterone into estrogen making this compound useful in the treatment of PCOS.
Dang Gui - Chinese Angelica Root
Dang Gui is the cultivated dried root of the Angelica Sinensus plant indigenous to China and often called the female ginseng due to its benefits in women's health. From a Chinese medicine perspective it is used to invigorate the blood and regulate menses which in modern times we now use for the treatment of irregular period, period pain (dysmenorrhea) or absent menstruation (amenorrhea) and aid in digestion by unblocking the bowels.
Dang Gui has been observed to contain phytoestrogens that mimic the effects of estrogen in the body. This allows for regulation and balance of menopausal symptoms and promotes regulation of the menstrual cycle if taken correctly on instruction from a registered Chinese medicine practitioner.
Huang Lian - Goldthread Root
Huang Lian is the dried root of the flowering goldthread plant (Coptis Rhizome) and has been used commonly in Chinese herbal medicine for thousands of years but more recently has become more popular due to its benefits in regulating the menstrual cycle and managing diabetes (via its antidiabetic effect). From a Chinese medicine perspective it is seen to clear heat and drain dampness, from a modern view we see this as helping with water retention, digestion and metabolism.
A journal suggests Huang Lian has been found to be high in the chemical compound berberine which possesses antimicrobial properties and has also consistently exhibited an antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, antineoplastic and anti-obesity effect. Berberine also improves parameters such as lipid profile and is cardio protective which makes it an interesting treatment option for metabolic related disorders such as PCOS.
Clinical studies have also shown that berberine increases the frequency and regularity of the menstrual cycle while also significantly improving insulin resistance evaluated by homeostatic assay and male androgens making it a key herb in the regulation of the menstrual cycle and the balance of hormones.
Gan Cao - Licorice Root
Gan Cao refers to the dried root of the Licorice plant (Glycyrrhiza uralensis) and is probably the most widely used single herb in Chinese medicine. It is used as a harmoniser in most Chinese herbal formulas to reduce any harsh properties of other herbs, it is also used to guide the formula to all twelve Chinese medicine channels.
From a Chinese medicine perspective it strengthens qi, moistens dryness, moderates spasms and pain and is used to detoxify other herbs. From a modern view we see this as improving energy, promoting homeostasis and proper function of physiological processes as well as harmonising other herbs.
Although the above herbs are very important in treating women’s health, it should be emphasised that all Chinese herbal formulas should be tailored to the client and prescribed by a registered Chinese medicine practitioner.