For the hot ladies!

Feeling prickly. Flushed. Breaking out in a sweat. Waking up at night with the sheets all drenched. So hot, you itch. Like you might never feel cool again. Summer in Texas? Try Summer in Texas and going through menopause.

If you’re reading this for someone else and never had a hot flash? (Say, too young, or male?) If you aren’t prone to low blood pressure, you can simulate one by taking 30 to 50 mg of niacin. (Not niacinamide, and check with your doctor first if you are on any medications.) In the summer, this is an uncomfortable exercise in empathy. In the winter, it’s a pretty neat trick to make doing the dishes more comfortable when on camping trips. While Asian women experience hot flashes less than many demographics, Traditional East Asian Medicine (TEAM) has a well developed explanation of the phenomenon.

TEAM has its roots in balance. The modern medical term would be homeostasis, keeping the internal environment of a living organism stable. For life processes, temperature, pH, concentrations of water, sugar, and electrolytes, among other things, need to be in a pretty narrow range.

The most fundamental TEAM balance is the yin/yang balance. Yin and yang are opposite, but complementary. Like light and dark, something is not precisely one or the other, but they are on a scale. An overcast day is darker than a sunny one but is lighter than the night of a new moon. A man can be empathetic, and a woman can be strong.



















As modern medicine explains menopause as estrogen withdrawal, TEAM looks at it as declining yin in the body balance. When there is not enough yin, yang takes over, resulting in symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, and irritability. Fortunately, there are ways to supplement yin that aren’t straight hormone replacement!

So how can you beat the heat from the inside and out?

Some very basic yin boosts include staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, and taking time to relax. Smoking or being around a lot of secondhand smoke is particularly bad for menopause–fire is about as yang as you can get! Although stillness is yin, exercise is beneficial. Regular activity from the muscles leads to the internal organs not having to work as hard.

While Black Cohosh is a very popular western herb, it is not in the TEAM materia medica for menopause. It is in the chapter for the common cold, though. Eating a slice of watermelon every day (nibble on the rind a bit; that part is beneficial, too) can help clear heat from the body. More fruits and vegetables are good in general. Meat, dairy, and alcohol promote heat. One drink may promote relaxation and benefit the heart. More than one makes the body work harder, so cut yourself off.

For more specialized treatment, see a licensed acupuncturist. Acupuncture is generally very relaxing and has recently gotten good press for diminishing hot flashes. In my clinical experience, herbs are more effective and efficient for these symptoms. In Texas, acupuncturists take a national exam for herbs as well as acupuncture. There are a few very commonly used formulas for hot flashes, but your particular case may call for something different.

I would recommend to everyone trying to survive summer, wear layers and wicking fabrics. Carry a water bottle–you’ll drink if it’s with you. I hope this helps you stay cool!

frankincense and myrrh

Of the gifts of the magi, in the modern world, we’re most familiar with gold. It’s an easy seasonal joke to say something along the lines of, “What’s the other stuff for?” Wikipedia says they were used in embalming and to mask the smell from funeral pyres. Incense. That sounds about right.

From plants grown in East Africa and Arabia, frankincense and myrrh are useful items in the Chinese Materia Medica, particularly for pain relief and to promote healing. Ru Xiang and Mo Yao (frankincense and myrrh, respectively) both invigorate the blood, reduce swelling, and alleviate pain. While they both address pain of the chest and abdomen as well as carbuncles, swellings and traumatic injuries, ru xiang also relaxes the sinews. It is used for rigidity and spasms, while mo yao is better for severe, stabbing, pain. In Chinese medicine, this is stasis pain, and mo yao is also indicated for immobile abdominal masses. Topically, they are both used to promote healing. Ru Xiang is used for traumatic injury and is said to “generate flesh,” while Mo Yao is better for chronic, nonhealing sores.

In clinical research, ru xiang treated tuberculosis in rats. Mo yao lowered serum cholesterol and prevented plaque formation in rabbits with diet-induced hypercholesterolemia. It also was shown to stimulate gastrointestinal motility and kill fungus. You may have heard of boswellia, or some derivative of the word, for arthritis, or as a component of skin cream. The genus of trees that produce frankincense is Boswellia.
Bensky, Dan and Andrew Gamble. Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica. Revised ed. Seatttle, WA: Eastland Press, 1993.