I was in your amazing and extremely interesting Intensive at the Green Nations Gathering! After your class, I threw out my favorite Bronner's Peppermint Soap that I had been using for years. Upon arriving home, I also dispensed of all my essential oils. I never knew that the essential oil was volatile or that it could affect hormones and kidney function.
I was so grateful for that information regarding essential oils. What I'm confused about is that you recommend the use of essential oils in your book, "The New Menopausal Years, The Wise Woman Way".
Is it only certain essential oils that are dangerous? Is it just safer to stay away from all of them? Respectfully, Kathy :-)
As you can see from the article, you start from the most nourishing and gentle ideas and work up to the most extreme… EO’s belong with the latter steps and if you’ve gone thru the others and are comfortable with it, then EO’s can come into play… The big problem is that EO’s are everywhere and people use them indiscriminately – the soaps, the candles, the body washes, the detergents, perfumes, etc. Way too much exposure …
If you're ready to go deeper with your herbal studies, join Susun on her new Mentorship website. Get new content weekly such as the expanded herbal ezine, replays of teleseminars, videos, audio of Susuns past lectures, many articles by Susun, and even personal one on one mentorship from Susun. www.wisewomanmentor.com
To the MD, menopause is the last drop of blood a woman sheds. A woman can be peri-menopausal (around menopause) or post-menopausal (after menopause) but she can never be menopausal, according to this definition.
To most women, however, the years between the first suspicion of change and the final menses constitute the menopausal years, and we are menopausal throughout that time. This decade of transition is compared by some to non-stop PMS, by others to an extended pregnancy. I see it as a second puberty.
Menopause is puberty prime, and the change from a familiar, known self to new and unknown self is the same: amazing, difficult, rewarding, exasperating, and momentous.
"Do not become alarmed when you experience yourself in totally new ways," sighs Grandmother Growth tenderly. "You are changing, getting ready to be initiated into the third stage of your life. Are you ready for the ride of your life?" Susun Weed, Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way, Woodstock: Ash Tree, 2002
THE STORY OF MENOPAUSE
The onerous physical/emotional changes that accompany puberty and menopause are strongly influenced - both positively and negatively - by cultural, familial, and personal beliefs.
If we expect our new self to be more powerful, more exciting, more interesting than our old self, we willingly undergo discomfort, pain, sleeplessness, emotional variability, and a host of annoyances and distresses. In America today, this is may be the case when we experience puberty, pregnancy, birth, and lactation.
If we expect our new self to be a weaker, less interesting, grayed-out version of our older self, we will naturally resist changing and find the normal abnormalities of change intolerable. This is often the case when American women encounter menopause
The purpose of this article is not to examine why this is so, or how it came to be so, but to offer a different view of menopause. I want to share with you the teachings I have received from the Ancient Ones, the ancient grandmothers who tell the women's mystery stories. That your journey may be made richer.
"The joy of menopause is the world's best-kept secret. Like venturing through the gateway to enter an ancient temple, in order to claim that joy a woman must be willing to pass beyond the monsters who guard its gate. As you stand at the brink of it, it can appear that only darkness, danger and decay lie beyond. [But] ... as thousands of women from all cultures throughout history have whispered to each other, it is the most exciting passage a woman ever makes." Leslie Kenton, Passage to Power. London: Ebury Press; 1995
And let's take some simple herbal helpers with us on our menopausal journey. Their abilities are subtle and far-reaching. They can help us ease symptoms, provide us with optimum nourishment, help us create healthy hearts and healthy bones, and open us to the uplifting power of Nature.
Nourishing herbal infusions provide an abundance of minerals, vitamins, proteins, and phytoestrogens (plant hormones that are similar to estrogen) at low cost and with little effort.
To make a nourishing herbal infusion:
Place one ounce by weight (about a cup by volume) of dried herb (do not use fresh) in a quart jar and fill to the top with boiling water.
Cover tightly and allow to steep for at least four hours. Overnight is fine.
Strain and refrigerate.
Drink 2-4 cups a day, hot or cold, mixed with other liquids (water, juice, rum, coffee for example) or taken neat.
I rotate through four nourishing herbs: oatstraw, stinging nettle, red clover, and comfrey leaf. Each herb has special benefits for menopausal women. These four herbs, taken one at a time, and infused in water, are completely safe to use. (They may not be safe if taken in tinctures or encapsulated). I have drunk nourishing herbal infusions on a daily basis for more than twenty years.
But before we go further, let's talk about the purpose of menopause.
"She [the postmenopausal woman] is not a sentiment, she is a requirement." Kristen Hawkes, 1997
THE PURPOSE OF MENOPAUSE
Menopause may be a prime factor in women's greater longevity.(1)
Dr. Kristen Hawkes of the University of Utah reports that Hadza women in their 50s, 60s, 70s, and beyond gather more food than men or women of other ages and they are as important to the survival of their grandchildren as the children’s mothers are. (2)
The postmenopausal woman is the one who has the stored wisdom to help her community survive. She is the Wise Woman, the one who gives us all a survival edge. Dr. Jared Diamond of the University of California at Los Angeles Medical School maintains that menopause is "among the biological traits essential for making us human." (3)
Dr. Hawkes believes that not only did prehistoric women survive past the age of menopause, but that they were instrumental in freeing our ancestors to exploit new habitats, explore new places, and ultimately to spread across the entire planet. (4)
“Kundalini [is] the root [of] all spiritual experiences ....” RE Svoboda, Kundalini Aghora II. Albuquerque, NM. 1993
MENOPAUSE AS ENLIGHTENMENT
As a long-time student of yoga, I am struck by the many similarities between menopausal symptoms and the well-known esoteric goal of “awakening of the Kundalini.”
Kundalini is a special kind of energy known in many cultures, including Tibetan, Indian, Sumerian, Chinese, Irish, Aztec, and Greek. Kundalini is said to be hot, fast, powerful, and large. It exists within the earth, within all life, and within each person.
Kundalini is usually represented as a serpent coiled at the base of the spine, but women’s mystery stories locate it in the uterus - or the area where the uterus was, if a hysterectomy has occurred.
Yogis spend lifetimes learning how to wake up their Kundalini sothey may experience enlightenment. Success causes a surge of super-heated energy to travel through the body, firing the nerves, dilating blood vessels, and altering the nature of reality. Sounds like a hot flash to me.
If Kundalini is released over and over, as it is during menopause, it causes changes in the functioning of the endocrine, cardiovascular, and nervous systems.
Wise women use nourishing herbal infusions, especially nervous-system strengthening oatstraw, fermented foods, such as yogurt, and seaweed (as a food, not a supplement), to help ensure that these changes add to their vitality and longevity, creating what Margaret Mead called "postmenopausal zest".
MAIDEN, MOTHER, CRONE
When we are children, we exist within Kundalini; it is primarily outside the body. At puberty, a two-valved energy “gate” opens, and Kundalini circulates up from the earth and into the root chakra. The maiden becomes the mother. Kundalini builds up in the uterus and pelvic tissues, ready to create a new life. This stored Kundalini can intensify emotions and sensations, expose powerful feelings, trigger creative outpourings, and generate house-cleaning frenzies. If pregnancy occurs, the Kundalini continues to build for the duration of the pregnancy and is used in the act of birth. If no egg is fertilized, the Kundalini flows out with the menstrual blood, returning to the earth.
At menopause, one “valve” of the root chakra closes. The mother becomes the crone. The open valve allows Kundalini to enter; the closed one prevents it from leaving. When Kundalini collects in the uterus without an outlet, it causes problems including incontinence, broken hips, loss of libido, and excessively dry vaginal tissues.
But if the Kundalini is guided (by thought or by hot flashes, for instance) up the spine, then it confers enlightenment not incontinence, flexibility not fractures, vitality not debility, and abundance not withering. Stinging nettle infusion replaces the nutrients and proteins that Kundalini uses up. By strengthening the adrenals and kidneys, and increasing stamina, nettle helps us surf the waves and ski the slopes of our hot flashes.
Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) is a wonderful ally for the woman who is awakened by night sweats, whose hair is falling out or becoming brittle, whose energy is flagging (or gone!), whose vagina is dry, who wants to avoid adult-onset diabetes, for the woman who wants to increase her metabolic rate, improve the flexibility of her blood vessels, strengthen her immune system, and find ease for sore joints.
Loaded with folic acid, vitamin E, calcium, magnesium, carotenes, zinc, boron, and iron, nettle is a nutritional powerhouse. One cup of infusion supplies 500mg of calcium plus vitamin D, vitamin K, protein, and special lipids, which contribute to magnificent bone health.
SEVEN ENERGY CENTERS
The root energy center is one of seven main energy centers, each of which corresponds to endocrine glands. In even the healthiest of women, disruption of some sort, in one or more of the energy centers (chakras), will occur for at least a short while during the menopausal years.
It is important to remember that the vast majority of uncomfortable symptoms caused by menopause and the movement of Kundalini will be short-lived (less than a year).
Healthy women who have had one or no children generally seem to have the strongest symptoms as Kundalini arises. Women with low vitality, including women who have given birth to six or more children, may have few or no symptoms at all.
Menopausal symptoms at the root center include menstrual pain, growth of fibroid tumors, flooding, urinary problems, cervical/uterine/endometrial growths/cancers, brittle hips, constipation, diarrhea, vaginal infections and irritations, and hemorrhoids.
Get help from:
Motherwort tincture (Leonurus cardiaca). A dose of 10-15 drops counters cramps as it eases hot flashes.
Red clover (Trifolium pratense), the world's best-known, best-regarded anti-cancer herb, also improves fertility and helps normalize the bowels. If that weren't enough, red clover infusion (not tincture, not capsules) contains ten times more phytoestrogens than soy.
Whole grains and lentils, beets and burdock are also allies of the root chakra.
Menopausal symptoms at the navel (or belly) center include bloat, gas, urinary infections, exhaustion, panic attacks, paranoia, and episodes of inexplicable sorrow.
Get help from:
Stinging nettle. It is the specific helper for this chakra.
Additionally, orange foods (especially baked winter squash and sweet potatoes) bring ease and health, improving energy and mood.
Menopausal symptoms at the solar plexus include indigestion, disturbed liver function, gall stones, a sense of dissatisfaction with one's self, blood sugar and mood swings, adult onset diabetes, anxiety, phobias, and pathological shyness.
Get help from:
Herbs such as dandelion, burdock, or yellow dock roots, or milk thistle seeds, used as tinctures. They strengthen the solar plexus, improve digestion, moderate blood sugar and mood swings, help the liver clear excess hormones, and put you on the sunny side of life.
Menopausal symptoms at the heart chakra include palpitations, breast changes, excess fat deposits on the back and upper arms, lessening of compassion, increase in blood pressure, unwarranted feelings of guilt, and lung problems.
Get help from:
Motherwort tincture (not capsules). A dropperful stops palpitations in minutes. Regular use helps stabilize the heart, decreases blood pressure, improves blood flow, and eases emotional distress.
Comfrey leaf (not root) infusion (not capsules) is a renowned lung strengthener. Popularly known as knitbone, comfrey leaf supplies lots of bone-healthy nutrients.
Menopausal symptoms at the throat chakra include thyroid problems, excessive weight gain, incoherent rages, nausea, cough, and sore throat. Menopausal women who have swallowed too much "no" during their lives may find themselves making dramatic and amazing statements.
Get help from:
Seaweeds, the specific ally of the throat chakra. Soak kombu or wakame with beans and cook, add hijiki or alaria to soups, snack on dulse and kelp. I don't use tablets or powdered products, finding them inferior.
Menopausal symptoms at the third eye center include headaches, eye problems, near-sightedness, sinus infections, depression, thoughts of suicide, obsessions, insomnia, and mental instability (visions and hallucinations).
Get help from:
The mint family. Skullcap tincture strengthens the nerves, eases headaches, and brings deep sleep. Sage infusion makes the mind coherent and clear. Rosemary oil aids the memory and improves concentration. Lavender blossom tea lifts the mood and unkinks wound-up nerves.
Menopausal symptoms at the crown chakra include hair loss, dizziness, hearing problems, memory problems, dementia, nervous tics, shingles, and unexplained pain anywhere in the body.
Nettle infusion (not capsules) restores hair and counters compulsions.
Hypericum perforatum (St. Joan's/John's Wort) tincture (not capsules), used freely (a dropperful every 2-4 hours) can relieve the pain of shingles within a day and often cure it within three. Eases sore muscles anywhere; helps prevent muscle aches too.
As we leave our fertile years behind, so we leave behind our identity as "mother" (irrespective of whether we have physically had children or not). Ready or not, we are introduced to ourselves as old women. Yes, we are yet baby crones, not yet prepared to wield the Kundalini that now flows through us toe to tip. Yet we are crones, women of wisdom, women of power.
When menopausal symptoms are understood as energy movement (or lack of it), we can feel more at ease, not so afraid of being out of control. Instead of feeling victimized by our bodies, we can nourish our wholeness. We can view our symptoms as suggestions for improvement, instead of damning evidence of our mortality. We can focus in on areas that need special attention, extra nourishment.
Quiet time alone in nature, or sitting in a comfortable chair listening to soothing music allows thoughts and feelings to arise and opens the way for the flow of Kundalini. Specific exercises, such as those in Tai Chi, Qi Gong, and yoga can also be used to help ease into the increased energy flow. Green allies such as oatstraw, nettles, red clover, comfrey leaf, and motherwort strengthen us for the increased power. Because we know the outcome is worth it, the day-to-day annoyances are easier to take.
After years of practice, Kundalini moves freely up the spine and out the crown. Our symptoms subside, our overall energy is stronger, better. We hold our wise blood inside. We are the wise women. We are the crones.
1. Perls T MD, Fretts R MD. “Why Women Live Longer Than Men”. Scientific American, 1998 August: 102.
2. Angier N. “Is Menopause a Key to Survival? The Grandmother Hypothesis”. New York Times, 1997: August 18. 3. Ibid. 4. Ibid.
Legal Disclaimer: This content is not intended to replace conventional medical treatment. Any suggestions made and all herbs listed are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, condition or symptom. Personal directions and use should be provided by a clinical herbalist or other qualified healthcare practitioner with a specific formula for you. All material herein is provided for general information purposes only and should not be considered medical advice or consultation. Contact a reputable healthcare practitioner if you are in need of medical care. Exercise self-empowerment by seeking a second opinion.
If you wish to contact Susun with questions or comments, please email her or write her as follows:
Susun Weed PO Box 64 Woodstock, NY 12498
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Becoming butterflies: herbal empress Susun Weed shares menopause wisdom with local herbalist Corinna Wood New Life Journal; 9/1/2005
Susun Weed, green witch and wise woman, is an extraordinary teacher with a joyous spirit, a powerful presence, and an encyclopedic knowledge of herbs and health. Ms. Weed's four herbal medicine books focus on women's health topics including: menopause, childbearing, and breast health.
Corinna: I want to ask you a couple of questions about menopause. Can you explain how the role of menopausal women is important at this time for our planet?
Susun: Yes. Let's go back to the three traditions we were talking about in the earlier interview (New Life Journal June 05).The Scientific Tradition that seeks to fix broken machines views menopause as a loss of estrogen.And so in order to fix the broken machine, they prescribe estrogen because that is what is missing, according to what they see. Now we know that women who are given estrogen have a higher rate of uterine cancer. So we add progesterone to that to counter the effects of the estrogen. Women who take estrogen for three years increase their risk of breast cancer by twenty percent. Women who take estrogen with progesterone for three years increase their risk of breast cancer by forty percent. All that progesterone does is slow down cellular replication in the uterus, but it increases the rate of cell replication in the breast and probably in the ovaries as well.
The Heroic Tradition comes in and says, no no no, it is not a lack of estrogen, it is too much estrogen. It is estrogen dominance. We are going to give them progesterone. I am so over the top about women's health in the face of the Heroic Tradition. I really fear that we are, by using progesterone cream, creating an epidemic of ovarian cancer. This is a powerful hormonal tonic. It is sold as a cosmetic; the people regulating it have no power over cosmetics. So, basically what is happening is that a very powerful drug is being sold with no regulation at all. The Food and Drug Administration will not approve any progesterone cream for long-term use, even the ones that are given to us by our doctor. The amount of progesterone in the products being sold to women in the health food stores as cream is one hundred times the safe dose as provided by the FDA. The amount that we put on our bodies at one time is one hundred times more than the FDA considers a safe dose.
The Wise Women looks at her body and asks, when I was born was I producing estrogen? And the answer is yes. A women is producing estrogen even in utero, the uterine environment is very high in estrogen. The ovaries of little girls who aren't even born yet are already starting to make estrogen in response to that. We make twenty-nine different kinds of estrogen by the time we are born. We continue to make those twenty-nine different types of estrogen every single day. At puberty, a very powerful estrogen begins to be made, called estradiol. Estradiol is only made between puberty and menopause. It is at high levels for only about twenty-four hours out of the month, because it triggers ovulation. Estradiol is called estrogen by the scientific community, as if it were the only estrogen, even though they themselves will tell you there are lots of other types of estrogen. But they consider the twenty-nine we make on a day-to-day basis weak estrogen and estradiol a powerful estrogen. That is why they are concerned about its lack. I will tell you as a woman, almost fifteen years past my last period, that I am not missing anything. I am still making plenty of estrogen.
One of things that is important to me, as a postmenopausal woman, is to be a butterfly. What do I mean by butterfly? A butterfly is a woman who is a least twenty years older than you are, who you would like to grow up to be. So on my bathroom wall is picture of Karina. When this picture was taken, she was ninety years old, she had celebrated her ninetieth birthday by for the first time in her life jumping out of an airplane with a parachute. That is who I would like to grow up to be! Right next to her is Helen. At eighty, she has just won eight national power-lifting competitions and has set- records in every single one of those. So again, that is somebody I would like to grow up to be.
Many people especially in our culture have a fear of the word old. And many people have told me, I don't want to get old. I look at them and ask them, do you understand what you are saying? Because either you get old, or you are going to die young. I want to live to a very old age before I die! I love being alive; I find life so interesting! Every day, I am day older. When we have butterflies in our lives, then we know that getting older doesn't mean losing it. Although there certainly are things you lose. Good riddance to the fear of what other people think: I will do all of the things I was afraid to do before because people would think badly of me.
But answering your question about the role of menopausal and postmenopausal women. Every age has its purpose, and for many of us in westernized culture, the difficulty is that over the past hundred years the path of the post-menopausal women has been removed, and we are less accepted than if we are the menstruating woman, the fertile women. As more and more of us pass through the menopausal passage, we are going to see more amazing older women about whom we can say, that's who I want to grow up to be.
Corinna: Could you tell us a little bit about your favorite herb for hot flashes?
Susun: This is a very loaded question. In the Scientific Tradition, hot flashes are a broken machine that needs to be fixed. You give a woman estrogen and that problem is fixed. In the Heroic Tradition, hot flashes are seen as the result of toxins; you need to get in there and cleanse to make her well.
In the Wise Women Tradition, hot flashes are undisputedly the movement of vital life force energy up through the body through the energy centers. In fact, what I can say is that the healthier the woman, the more hot flashes she will have. To get rid of the hot is to decrease the woman's vitality. I am of the opinion and Dr. Christiane Northrop is of the opinion that how we treat ourselves during menopause is going to affect us for the rest of our lives. This is one of the reasons I say it is so important that menopausal women need time off and do not need to be medicated by anything. I chose to go through menopause with out doing much of anything; I drank my nourishing herbal infusions. I have found motherwort tincture would reduce the intensity and the duration of the hot flash, although I basically didn't even use herbs. I wanted to see how bad it would be. Certainly during the summer it is a lot worse than during the winter. I would have dream after dream of being in a glacier, of walking through it.
In general, when I ask women if they have a problem with hot flashes, they say it's not that bad when I am alone; it is just embarrassing when in public. Which is one of the reasons I say, have time and space to yourself, where you can be up all night if you need to. When you can have hot flashes during the day, and lay down on the floor and go: "Oh no one has ever suffered like I suffer." Believe me, I have been there. I had hot flashes where I was so hot I felt like I have been dipped in boiling water. Sometimes I would cry because I felt so bad for myself. Just as my labor pains were also painful, and I knew that a baby was going to come at the end of those pains, with hot flashes, I knew that the crone was going to come at the end of those flashes.
I have always been willing to endure a certain amount of pain and suffering if I know that I was going to get something valuable at the end of it. I can tell you, giving birth to my daughter was very valuable and she is a very valuable thing in my life. Giving birth to myself as a crone was very valuable to me.
Corinna Wood is the owner of Red Moon Herbs, making herbal medicines business in Black Mountain from fresh, local plants for over 10 years. She did an extensive apprenticeship with Susun Weed in 1993, and continues to carry on the wise woman tradition through local classes as well as making herbal medicines.
COPYRIGHT 2005 Natural Arts COPYRIGHT 2005 Gale Group
This course will look at menopause as puberty prime, as a metamorphosis, and as the springboard for the last fifty years of our lives. You will mine gems of wisdom from how you dealt with your first puberty, recast your problems as allies during menopausal withdrawal, meltdown, and emergence, and learn how to use herbal allies to create yourself as wise old crone – juicy, vital, vibrant, strong-boned, hale-hearted, and gleeful. You will look at the facts behind some of the prevalent myths of and learn which herbal allies are better choices. You will learn about herbal allies for menopause: herbs for dealing with fertility, mood and emotion, sex, hot flashes, sleepless nights, lack of libido, and your own personal problems. I invite you to join our circle, a menopausal moon lodge, as it were, of women honoring themselves and reweaving the healing cloak of the Ancients.
NEW Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way: Alternative Approaches for Women 30 - 90 by Susun S. Weed Foreword by Juliette de Bairacli Levy. 304 pages, index, magical illustrations. Completely revised with 100 new pages. All the remedies women know and trust plus hundreds of new ones. New sections on thyroid health, fibromyalgia, hairy problems, male menopause, and herbs for women taking hormones. Recommended by Susan Love MD and Christiane Northrup MD. Retails for $16.95
Menopausal Years ... Surviving without HRT - with No Ovaries
Did you know that you can survive well without hormone replacement therapy (HRT)?Even if you don’t have any ovaries
By Lise Cloutier-Steele
After weaning myself off hrt, very gradually since December 2003, it’s been almost two years now since I’ve been completely free of hormone supplementation. Although I had my doubts about succeeding at this, because I have no ovaries, I finally did it.
Following a hysterectomy and ovary removal procedure in 1991, I tried various types of hormone therapies. None was helpful at controlling the nastier symptoms of surgical menopause until I tried bio-identical hormones in June of 1999.
During ancient meditative rituals the secret of immortality was only given by grace to those who penetrated the innermost chamber of the Womb of Rebirth. A woman approaching menopause has the opportunity, as at no other time during her life, to descend deeply into this chamber of hidden secrets, to cleanse her body and psyche of her past emotions in preparation for her new life as the Queen of her inner and outer domain. Ancient civilisations honoured this divine subterranean place filled with blackest darkness, this mysterious realm of the female essence. If a woman has the courage to to make her menopausal descent into the vast abyss of her womb consciousness, she will emerge from her inner transformation emanating peace, contentment, joy, serenity and power. She will now be ready to take her rightful place as impersonal lover and Mother of All, living the original meaning of the word virgin, "woman at one with her being".
If a woman is spiritually conscious during her menopausal transition, she will experience a powerful psychological death as symptoms such as hot flushes, fevers or shivering call her from deeply within the source of her female mystery. The fiery presence of the Goddess Kundalini is now awakening within her womb and preparing to arise as deeper power and new life. If she is willing to embrace these changes rather than fear them, she will begin to live and love from a more profound place of compassion, openness, stillness and love.