Chinese herbs belong to the same medical system as acupuncture, cupping, moxibustion, acupressure and other traditional Chinese medical modalities. This means that Chinese herbs aren’t meant to treat specific conditions, but, rather, they are designed to regulate the entire organism. Moreover, Chinese herbs are typically used in combinations, so that the beneficial effects can be enhanced and unwanted effects can be diminished. Such holistic approach is particularly important in treatment of menopause, because it involves a number of symptoms, such as “hot flashes, sleep problems, mood disorders, sexual dysfunction, weight gain, and declines in cognitive functioning” (Johnson, Roberts, & Elkins, 2019), and for best results the formulas need to be adjusted for each individual patient.
Single Chinese Herbs vs Formulas for Menopause Symptoms
Despite the traditional method of combining herbs into formulas and adjusting each formula for individual patients, researchers often test the effects of single herbs on menopause and its symptoms. One such study used the extract of the root Angelica sinensis (Dong quai). The result was: “Dong quai was not superior to placebo for the reduction of menopausal symptoms and did not show any estrogenic effects in endometrial tissues or vaginal cells” (Johnson, Roberts, & Elkins, 2019). When the extract of the root Angelica sinensis was combined with Matricaria chamomilla, however, the results were “clinically significant improvement in the frequency and intensity of hot flashes (90%-96%) compared with placebo (15%-20%) over the 3-month trial” (Johnson, Roberts, & Elkins, 2019). Research has also shown that herbal medicines can help with reduction of cholesterol levels and weight loss when they are related to menopause (Nie et al., 2020).
Combining Chinese Herbs with Acupuncture for Menopause
In one recent review and analysis of research studies, the authors concluded that Chinese herbs can be effective in treating symptoms associated with menopause, but their effects were significantly enhanced when herbs were combined with acupuncture. In fact, combining Chinese medicinal plants with acupuncture demonstrated greater success rate even in such difficult-to-treat symptom as depression, which researchers concluded that this combination “reduced severity of depression” (Di et al., 2019). The authors of another study stated their conclusion this way: “The results suggest that either acupuncture, or Chinese Herbal Medicine or combined therapy offer safe improvement of mood disorder symptoms for menopausal women. However, the combination therapy was associated with more stable effects in the follow-up period and a superior effect on improving depression symptoms” (Wang et al., 2023).
- Di, Y. M., Yang, L., Shergis, J. L., Zhang, A. L., Li, Y., Guo, X., … & Lu, C. (2019). Clinical evidence of Chinese medicine therapies for depression in women during perimenopause and menopause. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 47, 102071.
- Johnson, A., Roberts, L., & Elkins, G. (2019). Complementary and alternative medicine for menopause. Journal of evidence-based integrative medicine, 24, 2515690X19829380.
- Nie, G., Yang, H., Liu, J., Cao, X., Cheng, F., Du, Q., & Wang, X. (2020). Effect of Chinese herbal medicine on serum lipids in postmenopausal women with mild dyslipidemia: a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Menopause, 27(7), 801-807.
- Wang, J., Liao, Y., You, Y., Liang, W., Wan, L., Yang, H., … & Nie, G. (2023). Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine for menopausal mood disorder: a randomized controlled trial. Climacteric, 1-9.