How Chinese Herbal Medicine Can Support Women’s Hormones

By Jing Fan, Ph.D., M.D., LAc – September 1, 2021

Endocrine disorders are very common issues for women, which are often closely related to stress, diet, work and rest. It is believed that hyperinsulinemia is related to increased androgen levels, as well as obesity and type 2 diabetes. In turn, obesity can increase insulin levels, which results in the exacerbation of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Several other causes can manipulate the endocrine system in a way to create problems with female reproduction including obesity, thyroid disorders, adrenal hyperplasia and tumors in the pituitary gland. It can cause acne, irregular menstruation, insomnia, emotional instability, infertility, etc.

According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), endocrine disorders are mainly manifestations of yin deficiency (caused by stagnation of qi and blood, which blocks the body’s channels). This issue is very common in women. Therefore, for its treatment, we must start with regulating human hormones to make the body’s blood flow unblocked, thereby promoting blood circulation throughout the body. 

According to the principles of syndrome pattern differentiation and treatment in traditional Chinese medicine, for patients with the heat excess pattern, we should use treatment for nourishing yin. For patients with the deficiency pattern, we should pay attention to the treatment of tonifying blood and qi and supporting the kidney.

The traditional Chinese herbal medicines that regulate the endocrine system include Bai Shao, He Huan Pi, Chai Hu, Yu Jin, Suan Zao Ren and Dan Shen. We will introduce them in detail below:

 

  1. Bai Shao (Paeonia lactiflora Alba Radix)

Bai Shao is a good herb for women. It can not only nourish yin and blood but also regulate menstruation and relieve pain. It also has a certain protective effect on the liver. It can help ease chest tightness, abdominal pain, night sweats and hot flashes caused by endocrine disorders. It also can improve women’s irregular menstruation, dysmenorrhea and metrorrhagia. However, it is not suitable for patients with gallstones.

 

  1. He Huan Pi (Albizia julibrissin Cortex)

He Huan Pi can not only soothe the liver qi but also detoxify and invigorate blood. It has a good effect on activating blood, dredging the collaterals, improving depression and reducing swelling and toxins according to TCM. It is good for restlessness, insomnia, depression and internal and external injuries. So, it is effective for liver qi stagnation-induced endocrine disorders. When using it, you can take 10-15 grams of decoction orally, or take an appropriate amount of powders for topical use.

 

  1. Chai Hu (Bupleurum Chinense Radix)

The main function of Chai Hu is to soothe the liver qi, so it can play a very targeted treatment effect on endocrine problems caused by liver qi stagnation. For women with irregular menstruation, Chuan Xiong (Ligusticum chuanxiong Rhizoma), Bai Shao and Xiang Fu (Cyperus rotundus Rhizoma) are often used in combination. These herbs have a good effect on blood circulation and menstrual relief. For breast tenderness and loss of appetite caused by liver qi stagnation, Bai Shao and Bai Zhu (Atractylodes macrocephala Rhizoma) are often used in combination.

 

  1. Yu Jin (Curcuma aromatica Rhizoma)

Yu Jin is a commonly used herb in Chinese herbal medicine, especially for diseases caused by qi stagnation. For endocrine disorders, it can soothe the liver qi, promote blood circulation, dispel blood stasis and dredge the collaterals, according to TCM. So, problems like irregular menstruation and dysmenorrhea can be treated with this herb. In the case of liver qi stagnation, it can be combined with Chai Hu and Xiang Fu. In the case of liver heat, it can be combined with herbs such as Zhi Zi (Gardenia jasminoides Fructus) and Chuan Xiong.

 

  1. Suan Zao Ren (Ziziphus spinosa Semen)

The main function of Suan Zao Ren should be sedation. Many Chinese patent herbal medicines for insomnia and restlessness contain the ingredients of Suan Zao Ren. It goes to the channels of the liver, gallbladder and heart, so it has a good soothing effect on symptoms such as upset, insomnia, heart palpitations, night sweats and so on. The taste of this herb is somewhat sour, so it can also restrain the yang in the liver and clear the liver fire. It is generally used with herbs such as Bai Shao and Mai Dong.

 

  1. Dan Shen (Salvia miltiorrhiza Radix)

Dan Shen is a commonly used traditional Chinese herbal medicine, too. It is generally used together with Chuan Xiong and Dang Gui (Angelica sinensis Radicis). It has a good effect on promoting blood circulation, promoting qi, dispelling blood stasis, regulating menstruation and relieving pain. Therefore, it works especially for women’s endocrine problems, such as dysmenorrhea, dark blood clot, irregular menstruation, etc. According to the TCM records, Dan Shen can dissipate blood stasis and generate new blood. It is a very good Chinese herbal medicine for regulating the endocrine system for women.

Many Chinese herbal medicines can regulate the endocrine system, not limited to those listed above. However, herbal medicines also have some limitations — it cannot cover all issues. Therefore, we should always pay attention to lifestyle adjustment and proper exercise, which can also help maintain an optimistic mood, which is conducive to endocrine health. 

In addition, TCM treatment of endocrine disorders pays great attention to mediating emotions. From the perspective of traditional Chinese medicine, qing zhi (emotions) also have a great impact on the endocrine system. The so-called qing zhi actually refers to the mental and psychological state of people. The great Chinese classic text, Huangdi Neijing, repeatedly discusses the damage to human organs caused by bad mental and psychological state, saying that “anger hurts the liver,” “happy hurts the heart,” “worry hurts the spleen,” “sorrows hurt the lungs,” and “fear hurts the kidneys.” Emotions will directly affect the secretion of hormones such as estrogen and progesterone. So, it is necessary to actively regulate emotions and maintain a stable mood to improve the skin condition before and after the menstrual periods. 

 

About the Author

Dr. Fan received his Bachelor of Medicine (M.D. China), Master of Clinical Medicine, and Ph.D. in orthopedics of Chinese medicine at the Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine in Nanjing, China. He has been a faculty member and practicing acupuncturist at the AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine since 2016. Dr. Jing Fan’s clinical specialty is in the area of pain management from a systematic-complexity point of view in traditional Chinese medicine. He also has abundant experience in treating patients with neuro-musculoskeletal, digestive, respiratory, endocrine and gynecological diseases. For more information about acupuncture and AOMA, visit www.aoma.edu.

 
 

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