Menstrual or menstrual-related problems are very common and we often treat women looking for a natural way of dealing with issues relating to their cycles, avoiding the use of the contraceptive pill.
A woman’s moods and many of her other bodily functions are related to her menstrual cycle, and addressing any issues that might arise there can have a significant impact on other areas of her life.
What is a healthy menstrual cycle?
The menstrual cycle relies on an amazing interplay of hormonal changes and feedback loops. Chinese medicine (the system that underpins both acupuncture and herbal medicine) has very clear ideas as to what constitutes a healthy cycle:
- Ideally, there should be 28 days between the first day of a period and the first day of the next one.
- Each period should last 4-5 days, with heavier flow on the first 2 days.
- The blood should be fresh and red, with no clots.
- The woman should not experience any pain, nor should there be any symptoms before or after the period (headaches, PMS, tiredness, etc).
Any symptoms that deviate from this (eg: very short, long, light or heavy periods; spotting or trickling; period cramps, etc), indicate an imbalance in the woman’s hormonal changes and should be addressed. Although these symptoms do not necessarily indicate a disease from a Western perspective, they do show that on some level the body is not balanced.
The Yin and Yang of the menstrual cycle
Chinese medicine is based on the concepts of Yin and Yang, alternating forces of growth and contraction, lightening and darkening, speeding up and slowing down, warming and cooling. This can be seen in the interplay of Yin and Yang over the course of a day (darkness/light, rest/activity), of a month (the moon phases), and of a year (the cycle of seasons).
The menstrual cycle is also seen as a Yin/Yang cycle – the first part (from the period to ovulation, called “follicular phase” in Western medicine) is seen as a period of nourishment (Yin phase), when both womb lining and egg follicles grow. The second part (from ovulation to period, called the “luteal phase” in Western medicine), is a phase of movement (Yang phase), with the egg travelling down the fallopian tubes, culminating in the start of the period (or fertilisation and implantation).
In traditional medicine, any presenting symptom will be linked to a precise pattern of imbalance in this alternation of Yin and Yang.
Acupuncture treatments and herbal formulas are tailored to the individual symptoms of each patient: points and herbs are chosen to regulate the exact pattern that has been identified. It is then possible to rebalance the body’s hormonal system and restore a smooth, natural cycle.