Chinese Medicine and Hormones

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Both men and women struggle with hormonal imbalances in today’s world. Hormones are chemical messengers produced and secreted by our endocrine glands (testes, ovaries, adrenals, thyroid) that influence how our organs and cells behave. When the body produces too much or little of a certain hormone it is known as hormonal imbalance. There are several reasons why many men and women struggle with imbalances and there is never one thing that can help to rebalance optimal hormone levels. Since hormones perform a synergistic dance with our nervous system and talk to our brain, we must approach treatment in the same way. Eliminating toxic exposure, decreasing physical and psychological toxins, and re-wiring the emotional chatter that does not serve us are all integral pieces that need to be addressed to return hormones to the beautiful dance within our bodies. I encourage patients to integrate all types of treatments that address the underlying cause of hormonal imbalance or deficiency from a western and eastern medicine stand point. Both paradigms of medicine can shed light to why a person might be suffering from a myriad of symptoms due to endocrine imbalance. 

The kidney system comprises what we know in the Western medicine as the sex glands (testes and ovaries), hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal, and thyroid.

I want to shed light on how Traditional Chinese medicine considers imbalances in the endocrine system and provide my top go to herbs that can be very helpful. Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) considers the kidney system to be closely related to the western endocrine system, however, it has a wider function. The kidney system controls the growth and development and reproductive system in the body. The kidney system comprises what we know in the Western medicine as the sex glands (testes and ovaries), hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal, and thyroid. These are all actively involved in the growth and development of the body. In TCM, a lot of the focus is to balance the communication between the hypothalamus and pituitary, located in the brain, and the organs that secrete potent hormones like the adrenal glands, thyroid, breasts, ovaries, uterus, testicles, and prostate. The hormones that are secreted bind to specific receptors in target structures triggering physiological actions. These powerful hormones are called Jing Qi and housed in the Kidney. Jing Qi is the battery that provides us the basic energy to power all our life functions. When Jing Qi is abundant, our ability to adapt to disease, illness and stress is optimal. As we age, our supply of Jing Qi energy is slowly drained, and begins to decline between the ages of 35 to 60. When Jing Qi declines, the organ systems within our body become unbalanced. 

Hormonal balance occurs when Yin and Yang interchange smoothly making room for change and transformation.

TCM also tries to balance the Yin and Yang of nature and even though they are opposite in function, they depend on each other for the body to function properly. Yin is the cooling, anchoring, and calming energy while the Yang is a warming, outward, and high intensity energy within our bodies. The yin hormones in our body can be thought of as the metabolizing functions of the body. Hormonal balance occurs when Yin and Yang interchange smoothly making room for change and transformation. It is important for estrogen and progesterone to be balanced so too should the Yin – Yang ratio be balanced. When either one is declined or over abundant, imbalance occurs and symptoms like moodiness, weight gain, digestive problems, acne, menstrual irregularities, infertility, low sperm count, erectile dysfunction, headaches, insomnia, breast pain, anxiety, food cravings and loss of libido can occur. For example, a woman who exercises too much without sufficient rest (too much Yang) will end up putting so much stress on her body she will drain her reserves. When a person’s reserves, which are stored in kidneys and adrenals, are running low, symptoms such as tiredness, low libido and poor appetite are common. If the body produces a lower than normal level of hormones (Yin deficiency), it can lead to hormonal imbalance. This in turn may lead amenorrhea (no periods) or infertility due to ovulation problems.

Herbal medicine prolongs the treatment by continuing to create balance within the body even after a person leaves the treatment room.

Acupuncture and herbal medicine are safe and effective forms of treatments, which promote a healthy equilibrium. Acupuncture accesses the nervous system and helps to regulate an over or under active response from organs. Herbal medicine prolongs the treatment by continuing to create balance within the body even after a person leaves the treatment room.  Everything is broken down into patterns, thereby being better able to customize treatments to the individual (not all hormonal herbs are good for everyone). By doing so, Chinese medical practitioners can better find a natural cure for hormonal imbalance that best suits your needs.  Below are my favorites that I like to work with!

 

Top 5 Chinese herbs for balancing woman’s endocrine system:

 

  • Gou Qi Zi (Goji Berry): 

    • Builds and nourishes blood and yin (blood in Chinese medicine is considered vital for a healthy endocrine system)
    • High in antioxidants
       
  • Dang Gui

    • Regulates and nourishes blood and yin 
    • Phyto-estrogen rich to help regulate hormone receptors
       
  • Shan Yao (Chinese Wild Yam)

    • Increases qi and yang energy 
    • Helps to increase progesterone levels
    • Strengthens the digestive system
       
  • Bai Shao (White Peony root)

    • Nourishes the Blood and regulates menstruation
    • Calming to the nervous system
       
  • He Shou Wu 

    • Nourishes the blood 
    • Adaptogen
    • Helps the immune system fight infection 

 

Top 5 Chinese herbs for balancing the male endocrine system:
 

  • Polyrachis Ant

    • Tonifies Jing Qi and nourishes the yin and yang aspects of energy
    • High in Zinc, which helps the production of essential sex hormones
       
  • Rou Cong Rong (Cistanche) 

    • Helps the body increase white blood cells to fight infection 
    • Stimulates the endocrine system to increase hormone secretions of hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and reproductive organs
       
  • Ren Shen (Chinese Ginseng)

    • Increases yang qi
    • Helps to calm the nervous system 
    • Tonifies the digestive system
       
  • Yin Yang Hou (Horney Goat herb): 

    • Increases sperm production and increases sexual desire and activity
    • Stimulates the sensory nerves
    • Aids in recreation of endogenous hormones
       
  • Tu Si Zi (Chinese Dodder Seeds)

    • Strengthens yang energy and nourishes the yin to help with impotence, nocturnal emissions, premature ejaculation, tinnitus, urinary frequency, sore painful back
    • Tonifies the Kidneys and Liver
    • Strengthens the digestive system

 

Remember that these are potent herbs and should be taken under the supervision of a licensed Chinese herbal practitioner.

Written by Dr. Radha Sinha, ND, EAMP/LAc