Many women seek herbal medicine and/or naturopathy to treat gynaecological complaints, especially if they want to avoid hormonal therapies which are the most frequently prescribed medical options.
Some gynaecological conditions do not have an underlying disease process however; are associated with significant impairment in quality of life. We refer to these complaints as functional disorders. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS), dysmenorrhoea, and disordered menstrual cycles are important examples of these types of conditions. Herbal medicine can also be used, either alone or in conjunction with conventional medical treatment, to manage conditions associated with an underlying pathology, such as endometriosis, adenomyosis and fibroids. For other gynaecological disorders, significantly polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), dietary and lifestyle interventions provide the principal mode of treatment. At MHHG, we have worked collaboratively with doctors at the Royal Women’s Hospital and the ‘Big Girl’s Group’ to help women manage PCOS and related issues such as weight gain, symptoms related to androgen excess and infertility.
The absence of menstruation (amenorrhoea) represents a significant health concern for women. There are a number of reasons why menstruation or ovulation fail to occur and we are experienced in the clinical evaluation and assessment to determine the cause. We also refer to gynaecological endocrinologists for further investigation when appropriate. While some women might prefer not to have a period, there are long term complications including decreased bone density, increased risk of endometrial cancer and of course, infertility. Other women may stop having periods because of medical treatments and our practitioners are experienced in assisting these women. Herbal therapies, lifestyle and dietary recommendations as well as nutritional supplements may form part of the appropriate treatment for some causes of amenorrhoea, including PCOS, hypothalamic amenorrhoea, hyperprolactinaemia, and premature ovarian failure.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine offer another effective means of managing gynaecological complaints.
The menstrual cycle is described in Chinese medicine in relation to the cycle of yin and yang. The first stage of the cycle, from day 1 to 14, is the yin phase. The loss of blood from day 1 to 4 is when the body is shedding the endometrium and many Chinese medicine practitioners would not prescribe herbs or perform acupuncture treatments at this time. Exceptions to this are when symptoms actually relate to menstruation, such as menstrual pain. For example, a woman with endometriosis would be given treatment with herbs and acupuncture one week before and during the period to decrease the viscosity of blood to improve the pain and dissolve adhesions.
After day 14 (and ovulation) the period is considered in the yang phase and this is the time to support and regulate the period if the period is irregular and also to support pregnancy when a couple is trying for conception.