Written by Dr. Jordan Robertson, ND
A woman’s hormone experience after 35 isn’t always smooth sailing, which can leave many women feeling like they are entering puberty 2.0. Cycles can become more irregular, PMS symptoms can worsen and women may even get glimmers of menopausal symptoms sprinkled in throughout the month. As the pool of eggs starts to decrease, ovulation becomes less consistent and it takes more work for the body to make ovulation happen. Certain hormones (such as FSH) become more consistently elevated to try and recruit more eggs, but this disrupts the normally beautifully timed hormone release of the typical 29-day (or so) cycle. Women also experience greater PMS symptoms through their 4th decade likely owing to higher stress, changing hormone levels and a change in how sensitive her brain becomes to hormone fluctuations with time.
Botanicals offers a unique solution for women during this phase of life. Conventionally we don’t have many solutions to offer women besides the oral contraceptive pill, which stops ovulation all together. This may prevent women from feeling their hormones fluctuate from day to day but doesn’t allow the benefits of natural estrogen and progesterone production on bone health, cognitive health and cardiovascular risk reduction. Botanicals, such as the herbs Vitex, Rhodiola and Ashwagandha, can smooth out the symptoms related to PMS and perimenopause, without affecting a woman’s natural hormone levels.
Vitex is one of the most popular female herbs globally, with countries such as Germany reaching for this herb before most drug options to reduce symptoms of PMS1. Vitex has been shown to improve both the mood based and physical symptoms of PMS such as irritability, sadness, breast tenderness2, bloating and headaches3,4. This herb primarily works by lowering prolactin, the hormone associated with lactation and breast tenderness2 but it also binds to opioid receptors and may decrease pain through these actions5.
Rhodiola is another common herb that supports fatigue6, focus7 and symptoms of burnout8. Rhodiola improves concentration and fatigue when performing difficult tasks and improves an overall sense of wellbeing in both men and women. People who use Rhodiola during times of stress report a sharper mind, less fatigue and have an easier time managing difficult tasks, all of which are common struggles during long term stress and burnout8. As women reach the peak of their careers, family life and responsibility they can easily experience symptoms of stress and burnout. Rhodiola is an ideal support for the symptoms of stress and has been used in combination with other herbs to support the symptoms of perimenopause9.
Ashwagandha is another beneficial herb to support women over 35. This herb is also called Withania somnifera, meaning “sleep inducing” in Latin, likely owing to the calming effect of this herb on the nervous system. Ashwagandha has been shown to improve stress 10,11 and reduce cortisol levels12 and may support thyroid hormones13. In women it has been shown to improve sexual function in women14 and memory15, two common symptoms associated with the perimenopause transition.
Botanical medicine offers women a solution to the common symptoms and experience they face over the age of 35, without disrupting her natural hormone rhythms. The hormone changes that occur over 35 are responsible for the changes women feel in their bodies, and botanicals offer a hormone-free solution to smooth the transition towards menopause while supporting women in their day to day lives.
Women deserve to feel at the peak of their health and lives as they age, not as if they are at the mercy of their hormonal health. Botanicals such as Vitex, Rhodiola and Ashwagandha can support women to achieve their health and wellness goals.
- Weisz, G. & Knaapen, L. Diagnosing and treating premenstrual syndrome in five western nations. Soc. Sci. Med. 1982 68, 1498–1505 (2009).
- Ooi, S. L., Watts, S., McClean, R. & Pak, S. C. Vitex Agnus-Castus for the Treatment of Cyclic Mastalgia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. J. Womens Health 2002 29, 262–278 (2020).
- Csupor, D. et al. Vitex agnus-castus in premenstrual syndrome: A meta-analysis of double-blind randomised controlled trials. Complement. Ther. Med. 47, 102190 (2019).
- Die, M. D. van, Burger, H. G., Teede, H. J. & Bone, K. M. Vitex agnus-castus Extracts for Female Reproductive Disorders: A Systematic Review of Clinical Trials. Planta Med. 79, 562–575 (2013).
- Webster, D. E. et al. Opioidergic mechanisms underlying the actions of Vitex agnus-castus L. Biochem. Pharmacol. 81, 170–177 (2011).
- Olsson, E. M., von Schéele, B. & Panossian, A. G. A randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the standardised extract shr-5 of the roots of Rhodiola rosea in the treatment of subjects with stress-related fatigue. Planta Med. 75, 105–112 (2009).
- Koop, T., Dienel, A., Heldmann, M. & Münte, T. F. Effects of a Rhodiola rosea extract on mental resource allocation and attention: An event-related potential dual task study. Phytother. Res. PTR 34, 3287–3297 (2020).
- Anghelescu, I.-G., Edwards, D., Seifritz, E. & Kasper, S. Stress management and the role of Rhodiola rosea: a review. Int. J. Psychiatry Clin. Pract. 22, 242–252 (2018).
- Pkhaladze, L., Davidova, N., Khomasuridze, A., Shengelia, R. & Panossian, A. G. Actaea racemosa L. Is More Effective in Combination with Rhodiola rosea L. for Relief of Menopausal Symptoms: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Pharm. Basel Switz. 13, (2020).
- Fuladi, S. et al. Assessment of Withania somnifera root extract efficacy in patients with generalized anxiety disorder: A randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Curr. Clin. Pharmacol. (2020) doi:10.2174/1574884715666200413120413.
- Pratte, M. A., Nanavati, K. B., Young, V. & Morley, C. P. An alternative treatment for anxiety: a systematic review of human trial results reported for the Ayurvedic herb ashwagandha (Withania somnifera). J. Altern. Complement. Med. N. Y. N 20, 901–908 (2014).
- Lopresti, A. L., Smith, S. J., Malvi, H. & Kodgule, R. An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Medicine (Baltimore) 98, e17186 (2019).
- Sharma, A. K., Basu, I. & Singh, S. Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Subclinical Hypothyroid Patients: A Double-Blind, Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial. J. Altern. Complement. Med. N. Y. N (2017) doi:10.1089/acm.2017.0183.
- Dongre, S., Langade, D. & Bhattacharyya, S. Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Improving Sexual Function in Women: A Pilot Study. BioMed Res. Int. 2015, 284154 (2015).
- Choudhary, D., Bhattacharyya, S. & Bose, S. Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera (L.) Dunal) Root Extract in Improving Memory and Cognitive Functions. J. Diet. Suppl. 14, 599–612 (2017).