Menopause - Gateway to another Consciousness.
By Susun Weed
Introduced by Ivor Hughes

For those of you that are not familiar with the work of Susun Weed I would like to offer a miscellany of her lesser writings on the subject of menopause. If it takes your interest, then one may probe further by visiting her website and perusing her deeper publications on all things feminine as they relate to woman in the natural world.

Susun is a foremost exponent of an antediluvian tradition. That of the Crone or Wisewoman. Hermetic philosophy posit's Father Sun, Mother Earth and Daughter Moon. Gold, Green and Silver emanations intertwined like a silken cord that spools into the forever of unknown millennia. It is those traditions that are our roots and ensure our survival in an uncertain world. A world in which there are no guarantees except those bequeathed to us by the ancestors. Let her take you by the hand and lead you through the gateway into the garden of your being.

Image � Herbdata NZ Ltd.

"Pay attention now," Grandmother Growth says, taking your hand and holding your gaze. "The Change known as menopause deserves your full attention."
"Pay attention now, and relax. Focus, allow, observe, surrender. Your egg basket empties; your memory basket grows heavier."

"Memories are sweeping through you, great granddaughter, like lightning flashes, leaving you shaken and trembling, sweating and panting. Memories too gossamer to catch with words are weaving themselves into your nights and shattering the patterns of your days. Fragments of melodies, half-seen gestures, sketches, muted drifts of color emerge from your memory. All the wild passions of the Maiden are restored to you. All those Maiden things you left behind or pushed aside when you became Mother-woman, return to you now, enriched.

"Do those memories crowd painfully into your head? Do they send your heart racing? So they make you weep? Sweep you off your feet? Leave you wondering what it would feel like to jump off a high bridge? Take my hand, dear one. Let us walk and talk."

There is no doubt in your mind. Your menstrual cycles are coming to an end. You are in the midst of your menopausal climax years.

During the year or so before the very last period (and the year or so afterward) many women experience some type of menopausal Change, such as hot flashes, heart palpitations, sleep disturbances, emotional uproar, anxiety, and/or headaches.

Menopause, like puberty, requires that we give in to Change and accept that it is beyond our control. If we arrive at mid-life feeling more in control of our lives than ever before, giving in to menopausal Change can be incredibly difficult. The desire to use anything, drugs or herbs or whatever, to avoid disruption of our normal life pattern is strong; it comes from within and is reinforced by society. Why resist?

The Wise Woman Way offers us a new/old story: where hot flashes and wild heartbeats are honored, where menopause is considered woman�s greatest transformation - her crowning as Crone - and where old women are vital, flexible, hale-hearted, strong-boned and clear-minded.

The Wise Woman Way offers us women�s mystery stories and a host of helpful herbal allies that aid the process of menopause instead of attempting to stop it or fix it.

Wise Woman stories say that menopause is an initiation and that initiation begins with a period of isolation. The grandmothers tell me that, as a menopausal woman, I need to draw inward, move away from outside responsibilities, and into myself. From this view, hot flashes, fatigue, headaches, irritability, sleeplessness, and emotional outbursts are understood as allies of wholeness, not problems; they urge me to be alone, to focus on myself and my Change.

Without knowledge of the women�s mystery stories, without the help of herbal allies and the reassurance of other women, a woman may feel alone and unsupported in her disturbing and "pointless" changes. She may think the Change is only for the worse, or that something is wrong with her. And when she seeks information, she is told (erroneously) that her Change will cause heart attacks and crumbling bones, wrinkles and grey hair, and loss of sex appeal and libido.

Where is Grandmother Growth to guide her through this immense, frightening metamorphosis, to show her the green gifts of nature that strengthen her heart and bones, soften her skin and sex? Science defines menopause as lack of estrogen and prescribes the remedy (take estrogen) and tells us that we don�t have to mature, or become wise women. We can remain bound to our (and society�s) ideas of who we ought to be, instead of exploring who we really are.

If I take hormones will I be able to make room for transformation? Take time for solitude? Give myself uninterrupted stretches of focused self-loving? Encounter, nourish, and sanctify myself as a wise and silly grandmother, a wrinkled wild woman, a lawless fierce crone? My menopausal metamorphosis deserves as much attention as I can give it. And I am not that rare woman who gives herself these gifts without the daily urgings of her body and feelings.

I don�t use hormone pills, or patches, or creams. I let the "problems" of my menopause give me the opportunity to claim all parts of myself, even those that are awkward, ugly, old, out of control, and afraid of death. By passing consciously through menopause, by embracing this Change in my life, by nourishing myself with green allies, I renew myself. The grandmothers say I make myself complete - reclaiming myself as maiden, redefining myself as mother, and knowing myself as crone. It is so.

"Take my hand, dear one. I will soothe your head, calm your heart, stabilize your grounding, and then teach you to fly. Take my hand, now. You are in the midst of Change."

Susun Weed

By 2015 half of the female population of the United States will be post-menopausal. But this group of post-menopausal women won't be old fuddy-duddies with broken hips, heart attacks, and failing memories. Women of today expect to emerge from menopause energetic, zesty, and passionate! Are hormones necessary? No! Wise women nourish their hearts, bones, and spirits with simple, safe, mineral-rich herbs.

The secret to keeping your bones flexible, your spirits high, your sleep deep, and your elder years free of chronic problems is not complicated. It doesn't require a vast knowledge of herbs. It can be summed up in a single word: minerals.

Minerals are critical building blocks needed for optimum functioning of the nervous system, the immune system, and all muscles - including the heart. The production of hormones also requires large amounts of minerals. During menopause 30 to 60 times more hormones are produced than at any other time of a woman's life. If the diet is not mineral-rich the deficit is drawn out of women's bones.

Minerals are plentiful in well-balanced diets composed of organic whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables, dairy products (especially yogurt), seafood�s (especially seaweeds), and small amounts of meat. But if your diet is only partially organic, or if you limit it (by choice or necessity), or if you are menopausal, you need extra minerals.

Herbs, especially the weedy ones, are minerals powerhouses. Getting those minerals isn't as easy as taking a tincture (alcohol extracts little to no minerals) or swallowing a pill (minerals are poorly utilized from encapsulated herbs) but it isn't difficult either. At the Wise Woman Center we include mineral-rich herbs in our daily diet; it's easy, tasty, and very rewarding. How do we do it?

1. Drink 1-2 cups nourishing herbal infusion each day.
2. Eat wild plants in salad.
3. Dress salads with olive oil, tamari, and 1-2 tablespoons of a tonifying herbal vinegar.

Herbal infusions differ from herbal teas: they are darker in color and richer tasting because their long brewing extracts many more nutrients - especially minerals. My favorite nourishing herbal infusions for menopausal women are oatstraw, red clover blossoms, stinging nettle leaves, and comfrey leaves.

To prepare your infusion:

1. Put a quart of cold water up to boil.
2. Weigh one ounce of dried (not fresh!) herb into a quart canning jar.
3. Go brush your teeth and count your grey hairs until the teapot whistles. Pour the boiling water into the jar with your herb (only one herb at a time, please!), screw on a tight lid, turn off the light, and go to bed.
4. Next morning strain out the herb and drink the liquid: cold, hot, or at room temperature. Add honey, tamari, or milk if desired.

Oatstraw (Avena sativa) has a mellow taste. It eases frazzled nerves, lowers cholesterol, improves circulation, strengthens bones, eases headaches, relieves depression and encourages us to be sexy old ladies!

Red clover (Trifolium pratense) infusion not only builds bones, and prevents cancer, it reduces serum cholesterol (protecting heart health) and helps maintain strong pelvic tissues - thus preventing incontinence, lowered libido, atrophic vaginitis, and uterine prolapse. Red clover contains ten times more phytoestrogens than soy, without soy's bone-damaging, thyroid-impairing side-effects.

Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) infusion contains more than 500 milligrams of calcium per cup. (Nettle tea has none, neither does the tincture.) Nettle strengthens adrenal functioning, promotes sound sleep, increases overall energy, prevents allergic reactions, strengthens the blood vessels, and prevents hair loss.

Comfrey (Symphytum uplandicum ) is controversial. Ingestion of its roots can cause severe liver congestion. The leaves are safe, though labeled otherwise. Comfrey leaf infusion helps maintain good vaginal lubrication, strengthens the bones, protects against cancer, soothes painful joints, and improves mental functioning.

Information on preparing infusions and vinegars is in my book NEW Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way. Or you can come take a class with me and learn how.

Eating a few wild leaves in my salads helps keep me connected to the earth even when I'm in the city. (I figure the pollution on the plants is the same stuff I'm breathing!) Wild foods nourish the wild woman within and help me remember that Mother Nature does, indeed, provide.

It's easy to find Chickweed (Stellaria media) in large planters on street corners and in gardens. Mince her stalks and leaves into your salads to nourish your thyroid and help prevent excess weight gain during menopause. (Ten to fifteen pounds can be normal and healthy however.)

Mallow (Malva neglecta) likes city parks as well as country farms and is often found in drainage ditches. Both the roots, thinly sliced, and the leaves (flowers, too!) can be added to salads to soothe and strengthen intestines and reproductive organs, to ease nerves, and to cool our hot flashes.

The two similar tasting but unrelated sour grasses -
Sheep sorrel (Rumex acetosella) and Wood sorrel (Oxalis) - are found under trees and shrubs, and are vitamin C rich additions to salads.

Spicy cresses - such as Wintercress (Barbarea vulgaris), Cowcress (Lepidium campestre), and Garlic mustard (Allaria officinalis) - are common weeds throughout much of the world and renowned as cancer preventatives.

And, of course, the seaweeds, added to salads either fresh or dried. Some of my favorites include hijiki/celery/shitake salad and seapalm fronds soaked, sliced and tossed with salad greens.

Vinegar is the ideal medium for extracting minerals from fresh herbs. Making them is easy and fun. Chop the herb finely, enough to fill any jar. Add enough room temperature pasteurized apple cider vinegar to fill the jar to the top. (Be careful not to put in too much herb; an 8-ounce jar will hold a cup of chopped herb and about 6 ounces of vinegar.) Cork your jar or cover it with plastic wrap, and don't forget the label. For best mineral extraction, wait at least six weeks before using the vinegar. (You can eat the pickled roots and leaves or discard them.)

Tonifying herbs add specific effects to their mineral-rich properties. Fresh leaves of any mint (including motherwort, rosemary, lavender, thyme, sage, lemon balm, and bergamot) are excellent tonics. So are dandelion, burdock, and yellow dock roots. And everyone lives near my favorite tonic: the herb I call cronewort - in honor of the visionary powers of old women.

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) may be the single most useful herb for menopausal women. Taken as a vinegar or as a tincture (dose is 5-25 drops as needed), motherwort leaves and flowers act to calm the nerves, relieve premenstrual tension, ease menstrual cramping, restore lubrication and elasticity to the vagina, strengthen the heart, and maintain hormonal balance. Motherwort vinegar is exceptionally rich in minerals, too.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinalis) is a powerful ally for the menopausal woman who suffers from endless hot flashes. All parts of the herb - leaves, roots, and flowers - can be used to strengthen the liver, aid digestion, and cool off those volcanic flashes. Dandelion also helps promote healthy breasts and clear skin. It's rich in bone-building minerals and contains enormous amounts of cancer-preventing carotenes (14,000 units of pro-vitamin A in 100 grams of leaves).

Burdock (Arctium lappa) roots may be, with great difficulty, dug out of the ground at the end of their first year of growth. Or they may be, fairly easily, bought in health food stores and Oriental markets. Cook the fresh roots as a tasty vegetable (see Healing Wise for recipes), preserve them in vinegar, or tincture them (a dose is 10-50 drops, up to three times a day). All will help strengthen the liver, clear the skin, promote re-growth of thinning hair, cool hot flashes, ease mood swings, and reverse pre-cancerous changes.

Yellow dock (Rumex crispus and other species) roots are intensely bitter, suggesting moderation. The vinegar is delicious as a condiment with beans and cooked greens. Both tincture and vinegar encourage the blood to utilize more iron, important for the menopausal woman who's bothered by flooding or fibroids.

Cronewort/mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) is an ideal tonic for older women: it strengthens the cardiovascular, urinary, and nervous systems. Mineral-rich cronewort builds steady nerves as it relaxes. As with all Artemisias, cronewort has visionary properties and can be used to help us see menopause differently: More than the end of physical fertility, menopause is also the beginning of one of the most creative, productive times of a woman's life.

By Susun S Weed.

Plants feed us, clothe us, house us, heal us, and kill us. There�s no way around it, when you use herbs, you need to be alert and aware. Here are some ways to be sure you�re using herbs safely.

1. Identify all plants you intend to use by botanical name (e.g., Leonurus cardiaca). Only buy herbs that are labeled with the botanical name. The botanical name is specific to only one plant, while common names overlap and vary. "Sage" refers to at least five plants in at least two different families, but Salvia officinalis only means garden sage.

2. Use only one herb at a time. Learn all you can about that one herb. Read books; experiment on yourself, others, pets; listen to your elders� stories. If you discover that your herbal ally likes to work with partners, pair her up with other herbs one at a time.

3. Seek out the worth of the weeds on your doorstep. Learn about, eat, or use as a remedy, one wild food/medicine that grows in your yard or nearby lot this year. When you make your own medicines and healing foods you eliminate one of the possible dangers of crude herb use: mistaken identity (or right label, wrong herb). Not that you can�t make mistakes, but you�re more likely to catch your own mistake than someone else�s. When you make your own medicines and healing foods, they are fresh, full of energy, and in tune with you and your environment. You�ll also feel better as you become more aware of the vitality and abundance of nature expressing herself everywhere.

Begin with gentle nourishing and tonifying herbal infusions and vinegars. Watch carefully for side effects during the first 24 hours the first time you use any new plant. Don�t worry if it takes your system a couple of tries to figure out how to digest a new food/herb; that�s normal. Use herbal tinctures after you have some grounding in the use of herbs as foods and infusions. Start with the smallest recommended dose and build up slowly if needed.

Build up a foundation of trust in the healing effectiveness of plants by using remedies for minor problems before tackling serious concerns.

Gather or join a support group of people interested in self-care and home remedies and consult them when you feel uncertain.

Respect the power of plants; those strong enough to act as stimulants, sedatives, and near-drugs (such as opium) affect the body and spirit in powerful ways and may be useful only in minute doses.

Respect the unique individuality of every plant, every person, every situation.

Remember that you become whole and healed in your own unique way, as you will. Plants can help in this process. People can help in this process. (Animals, too.) But each individual body/spirit does the healing/wholing itself. Don�t expect plants to be cure-alls.

Respect the difference between herbs used in Step 3 � nourishing and tonifying herbs � and those used in Steps 4 and 5 � stimulating, sedating, and toxic herbs.

Nourishing herbs are the safest of all herbs; side effects are quite rare. Nourishing herbs may generally be taken in any quantity for any period of time. They are foods, just as leafy greens, garlic, and carrots are. They provide high-level nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, trace minerals, starches, simple and complex sugars, bioflavonoids, carotenes, and essential fatty acids (EFAs).

The nourishing herbs in Wise Woman Ways for the Menopausal Years are: alfalfa, borage, calendula, chamomile, chickweed, cornsilk, comfrey, elder blossoms or berries, fennel, fenugreek, lemon balm, mallows, nettles, oatstraw, plantain, raspberry, red clover, seaweeds, sweet briar (rose hips), St. Joan�s wort (Hypericum), slippery elm, and violet.

Tonifying herbs act slowly in the body and have a cumulative, rather than immediate, effect. They are most beneficial when they are used in small quantities for extended periods of time. Side effects are slightly more common with tonics. (Note that many herbalists equate stimulating herbs with the tonics, leading to misuse and unwanted side effects.) The more bitter the tonic tastes, the less you need to take of it. Bland tonics may be used like nourishing herbs, in quantity. Nearly half of the herbs in Wise Woman Ways for the Menopausal Years are tonics, including: birch, black cohosh, blackstrap molasses, chaste tree, dandelion, dong quai, echinacea, false unicorn, ginseng, hawthorn, horsetail, lady�s mantle, motherwort, peony, sarsaparilla, spikenard, wild yam, and yellow dock.

Sedating/Stimulating herbs cause a wide variety of usually rapid reactions, some of which may be unwanted. Long-term use can lead to dependency, so sedating/stimulating herbs are best used in moderate doses for fairly short periods of time. Side effects are frequent; there may be loss of tone or a rebound/manic effect when the herb is no longer taken. Some parts of the person may be stressed in order to help other parts. the sedating/stimulating herbs in Wise Woman Ways for the Menopausal Years are: catnip, cinnamon, ginger, hops, licorice, myrrh, passion flower, poplar, primrose, sage, skullcap, uva ursi, valerian, vervain, willow, and wintergreen.

Toxic herbs are potential poisons and potent medicines. They activate intense effort on the part of the body and spirit. Toxic herbs are taken in tiny amounts for very short periods of time. Unexpected side effects are common when toxic herbs are used without regard for their power. Increase your herbal knowledge and sense of security when contemplating use of a toxic herb by consulting other herbal references and several experienced herbalists. It is especially important to check on the possible side effects of toxic herbs if you are allergic to any foods or medicines. The toxic herbs in Wise Woman Ways for the Menopausal Years are: cayenne, cotton root, goldenseal, liferoot, poke root, rue, sweet clover (Melilot), and wormseed.

Susun S. Weed

Menopause, like puberty, is a period of transition and metamorphosis. It consists of three stages: isolation, melt down, and emergence. Each stage calls forth new energies and new perceptions of ourselves. Each stage has different demands, different tasks, and different needs.

Wise Woman ways, such as simple ceremony, compassionate self-care, and daily use of dooryard plants, can benefit women going through menopause tremendously. Please allow me to share with you some of my favorite herbs for easing hot flashes, sleeplessness, and other distresses of The Change. They're easy to find; you may already know them as weeds! These plants, and their cautions and contraindications, are described in detail in my book NEW Menopausal Years, The Wise Woman Way. Please refer to it before you decide whether or not to use any of these green allies to aid you during your menopausal years.

Calcium intake during and after menopause must be high to maintain health. But calcium in pills can't compare to calcium in plants when it comes to maintaining healthy, flexible bones. Bones are made of a dozen minerals besides calcium (potassium, manganese, magnesium, silica, iron, zinc, selenium, boron, phosphorus, sulphur, and chromium), all of which are found in rich supply in the roots and leaves of edible weeds and herbs. Eating weeds is my preferred way of preventing osteoporosis and ensuring freedom from heart disease, depression, headaches, leg cramps, and joint pain.

There are scores of calcium/mineral-rich plants to choose from, such as the aromatic leaves of sage, peppermint, lemon balm, bergamot, rosemary, and thyme; the cooked or fresh greens of lamb's quarters, amaranth, dandelion, chicory, comfrey, stinging nettle, chickweed, parsley, watercress, kale, collards, and cabbage; the flowers of red clover; and the roots of yellow dock, dandelion, chicory, and burdock.

For maximum extraction of mineral richness, I cook with these herbs, drink them as infusions, and steep them in vinegar. (See Old Sour Puss Mineral Mix in my book, page 192, for recipe.)

Seaweeds have incredibly generous amounts of calcium and minerals too. I make it a practice to eat seaweeds such as kelp, dulse, and nori daily, as condiments, and seaweed such as wakame, hijiki, arame, and kombu once a week, cooked with carrots or in a soup. I feed seaweed to my goats in the form of powdered kelp and to my plants in the form of a liquid emulsion. That's why we all have shiny hair, sleek skin, bright eyes, and lots of energy.

Hormones are a hot topic for menopausal women. To help myself with hormonal surges and drops, I prefer to use tinctures of plants rich in plant hormones (phytosterols) rather than prescribed hormones (estrogen replacement or hormone replacement), which actually elevate the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis, contrary to advertising, and are linked to increases in breast and uterine cancers. Women whose blood is rich in plant hormones have the lowest rates of cancer in the world. Plants rich in phytosterols include roots of dong quai, ginseng, wild yam, black cohosh, black haw, dandelion; flowers of hops, yarrow, red clover; leaves of stinging nettle, sage; berries/seeds/hips of chaste tree/vitex, fenugreek, roses.

Favorite herbs for menopausal women include the following:

Oatstraw infusion (Avena sativa) strengthens the nerves, helps reduce emotional distress, promotes sound sleep, keeps the bones and heart strong, and strengthens libido. The tincture is a stronger sedative but not nourishing to the bones and heart. Oats for breakfast is an excellent way to "take" this herb, but avoid pills and capsules. Oatstraw baths are exceptionally calming. Instructions for making one are in my green book: Healing Wise.

Nettle infusion (Urtica dioica) strengthens the adrenals, eases anxiety, increases energy, helps prevent night sweats, builds blood, and protects bones and heart. Eating cooked nettle is another excellent way to gather its benefits, as is nettle vinegar. I avoid freeze-dried, encapsulated, or tinctured nettle, believing all these forms ineffective and over-priced.

Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) - tincture of the fresh flowering tops - is a favorite with menopausal women, their daughters and their mothers. A few drops (up to 25 at a time) will calm emotions, relieve heart palpitations (and strengthen the heart), reduce the severity of hot flashes, increase vaginal lubrication, moderate and eliminate PMS and menstrual cramping. Motherwort vinegar is a fantastic tonic, and tasty - thank goodness. The tea is violently bitter and disliked by 99 out of 100 women, including me - yuck!

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) - any part, in any form - is a superb strengthener for the liver, the control center for hot flashes. Dandelion improves digestion, especially of calcium, helps relieve headaches, and sees to it that the liver provides steady blood sugar supplies. Dandelion wine (from the blossoms) is the most elegant way to take this remedy, but the cooked leaves and vinegars (as well as the pickled parts) of the roots and/or leaves are also excellent nourishing digestives. The tincture, especially of the root, is considered the strongest medicine, but doesn't contain bone-building nutrients, so is less ideal than the other forms.

Here are some startling facts about menopause:

The Grandmother Hypothesis maintains that "menopause, like a big brain and an upright posture, is one of the essential traits of the human which allowed us to colonize the world."

Menopause is not a recent phenomenon, but an ancient women's mystery, with special gifts for the woman who uses its energies wisely.

Estrogen is not one hormone, but many, and our bodies continue to make estrogens all of our lives. The adrenals, the fat tissues, and perhaps the uterus make estrogens.

The levels of hormones in a woman's blood are never higher than when she is in menopause.

Herbal hormone (phytosterols or phytoestrogens) are usable by the body and, in contrast to prescribed hormones, protect against breast cancer.


Susun Weed.
PO Box 64
Woodstock, NY 12498
Fax: 1-845-246-8081

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