Use herbs and supplements for natural weight loss and treating amenorrhea, including evening primrose oil, Dong quai and green tea.
Use Herbs and Supplements for Natural Weight Loss
When I started nursing school a year ago, I was tremendously
stressed out. I gained 30 pounds in one semester. Also, I developed
amenorrhea. I’ve had that for more than a year. I still haven’t
lost the weight—I am 5 foot 4 inches and 190 pounds. I am taking black
cohosh, evening primrose and bladderwrack for the amenorrhea. I
have always had a slow metabolism, so what can I do about my weight
in addition to exercise and diet?
Valley Stream, New York
Keville responds: You certainly are on the right track and may already be taking at least part of the correct formula for amenorrhea (lack of menstruation). The tricky part is that a number of things can cause it and it’s difficult to know the source. It is a good guess that it’s associated with your stress level, which definitely influences hormones. Although more often connected with weight loss, amenorrhea can develop in women who carry excess body weight. If you’ve been on a strict diet to drop the extra pounds, that too can contribute. For one thing, hormones rely upon an adequate amount of cholesterol in the diet. An underactive thyroid can disrupt hormones and that’s probably why you’re taking the seaweed bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus).
I hope you’ve been checked by a doctor to rule out some of the other causes of amenorrhea, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, tumors and infection. Most commonly, the problem is hormonal imbalances, especially very low levels of estrogen. That’s where your use of black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) fits. However, you may be taking too little of the herb or haven’t allowed enough time — three to five months—for it to work.
Or, perhaps you need a better formula. Black cohosh isn’t considered an estrogenic herb and doesn’t directly increase estrogen in the body. Try vitex (Vitex agnus-castus), one of my favorite herbs to adjust menstrual imbalances. It helps the pituitary gland regulate female hormones and is especially helpful when menstruation stops due to an excess of the hormonal substance prolactin. It also makes the action of the hormone progesterone stronger by adjusting the ratio between estrogen and progesterone. Take at least three droppersful of tincture or four capsules a day. Evening primrose oil (Oenothera biennis) can’t hurt and depending upon your situation, may indirectly help you achieve hormonal balance.
You may wish to go to an acupuncturist in addition to taking herbs. One who also practices Traditional Chinese Medicine will probably look for signs of “blood deficiency.” One important herb that builds blood and also promotes menstruation is dong quai (Angelica sinensis).
A low-calorie diet that includes protein from fish, legumes and spirulina helps regulate the menstrual cycle. Soy and many other beans contain plant hormones with estrogenic effects that help regulate periods. I am also wondering if all your studying has kept you indoors. Low levels of vitamin A reduce the menstrual flow, and this vitamin depends upon vitamin D, which is produced in the skin from sun exposure. If this is the case, take vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene. Or, better yet, eat plenty of vitamin A-rich foods, such as carrots and yellow squash, and spend some time relaxing outdoors. (Avoiding excessive sun exposure that promotes skin cancer.) Good luck with your healthful therapy and career!
Khalsa responds: Bladderwrack is mainly a source of iodine, and was commonly used in the past to treat iodine-deficient hypothyroid conditions. If you’re using it on the theory that you have low thyroid function, with associated weight gain and amenorrhea, you are probably not going to get great results. While hypothyroidism is pervasive, it is almost never the result of iodine deficiency today. (Hypothyroidism is a serious medical condition, and should be evaluated by a qualified practitioner.)
I am concerned about you not having a period for a year. Get it checked out medically. That said, I generally reach for blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) to stimulate reluctant menstruation. It can make you queasy, so start carefully. Start with 500 mg in capsules, or the equivalent in tincture. Each successive day, increase by 500 mg. A dose of about 6 grams usually does the job. Take it in divided doses with food.
American women often have what practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) term “blood deficiency,” which is more comprehensive than simple anemia. Blood deficiency, in TCM terms, results from weak digestion, stress, poor diet and generally poor health habits. Blood-deficient women are fatigued, pale, depressed, confused and have scanty periods.
Dong quai is a superb general tonic herb and the most popular Chinese herb. Around half a billion women in China alone, as well as millions in other Asian countries, take dong quai daily to regulate the menstrual cycle. Dong quai should not be taken during pregnancy, by overly hot or febrile people or by those with diarrhea or endometriosis.
Now let’s picture a common herb that really could help overweight people shed excess fat without side effects. Some plant components—including some in green tea (Camellia sinensis)—may modulate calorie and fat burning through the sympathetic nervous system, the adrenal glands and specific nerve chemicals.
Researchers at the University of Geneva, Switzerland, studied a green tea extract’s fat-burning properties. Ten healthy men were randomly assigned to receive three daily doses of either a placebo, 50 mg caffeine or a green tea extract containing 50 mg caffeine and 90 mg epigallocatechin gallate, one of tea’s most abundant and important components. The results, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 1999, indicate that green tea extract caused an appreciably greater increase than pure caffeine in 24-hour energy expenditure (thermogenesis) and the portion of fat calories burned.
Results indicated that 266 extra calories were burned per day while taking the green tea product. While these numbers might seem like small increases, it only takes the burning of a small amount of extra calories every day to promote serious weight loss over time.
Three cups of green tea daily provide protection against cancer, studies suggest. Extracts in pill form are now available. The usual dosage is 100 to 150 mg three times daily of a standardized green tea extract.
Kathi Keville is the director of the American Herb Association (www.ahaherb.com) and author of 11 herb and aromatherapy books, including Herbs for Health and Healing (Rodale, 1996). She teaches seminars throughout the United States.
Karta Purkh Singh Khalsa has more than 25 years of experience with medicinal herbs. He is a licensed dietitian/nutritionist, massage therapist and board member of the American Herbalists Guild. Khalsa’s book Body Balance is available on our Bookshelf, page 58.
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