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Natural Medicine: Balacing yin and yang to treat hot flashes

Posted Oct 14 2008 4:06am
Hot flashes are commonly experienced during menopause. They can begin as a momentary sensation of mild to intense warmth that spreads throughout the body. This often is followed by flushing of the skin, perspiration and finally a cold, clammy sensation. Hot flashes also can be preceded or accompanied by weakness, nausea, dizziness, faintness, headache, anxiety or rapid heartbeat. This experience can be difficult and uncomfortable, and often disrupts sleep at night.

According to Western medicine, hot flashes primarily are caused by hormonal changes, particularly a decrease in estrogen. The drop in estrogen tricks the temperature center in the brain into thinking the body temperature is too high, so the body cools by venting heat and sweating.

One form of treatment involves hormone replacement therapy, which presents unwanted risks and side effects.

In contrast, traditional Chinese medicine attributes the cause of hot flashes to an imbalance of yin and yang, where yin is cooling and water, while yang is warming and fire. In menopause, a decrease in cooling yin leads to an imbalance in which warming yang loses its counterbalance and breaks free, flaring up causing hot flashes.

Herbal remedies can be quite effective in treating hot flashes. One formula traditionally used to treat hot flashes, for example, focuses on building the yin while cooling the yang. In fact, this formula was shown to have a significant effect on the hormone imbalance that occurs in menopause, increasing estrogen levels by 20 percent after two months of use.

It is important to note that every woman experiences menopause uniquely. Symptoms vary in severity, duration and frequency. If you are interested in using Chinese herbal medicine to minimize discomfort during menopause, seek a licensed and experienced acupuncture and Oriental medicine practitioner.

-- Donah I. Natividad, M.S., L.A.c., acupuncture and Oriental medicine resident, Bastyr Center for Natural Health
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