Women going through menopause often report they have trouble sleeping, which can be very stressful. This can be due to a number of symptoms such as hot flushes, depression and anxiety, and insomnia. The important thing to remember when going through all this is that you are not alone, as these symptoms are more common than you think.
They are thought to be due to the fluctuating levels of hormones, namely oestrogen and progesterone. Another issue here is that the changes in hormones which lead to the changes in mood then affect one’s ability to sleep, and can also go on the be caused by lack of sleep, and so creates a vicious circle.
Oestrogen is known to boost serotonin, which helps prevent depression and aids sleep. It also increases GABA, the calming neurotransmitter, helping you to feel good. Women experiencing menopause normally have low oestrogen levels, which can cause feelings of sadness and hopelessness.
Progesterone is a hormone that helps to balance oestrogen, aid sleep and has a natural calming effect. It is also a natural antidepressant. Abnormal levels of progesterone can lead to insomnia and mood imbalances.
Ginseng’s effect on mood and sleep
Ginseng is an ‘adaptogenic’ herb, a natural substance that helps the body adapt to stress, that includes saponins and a good variety of ginsenosides, which possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Adaptogens can increase the body's resistance to physical/mental stress, and can have a modulating effect on many different bodily systems. In turn this promotes better sleep, which results in a more peaceful state of mind, and a more stable mood.
More specifically, ginseng has the ability to increase the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine, which are known as the feel good chemicals for the brain, thus improving overall mood, and your ability to sleep.
Studies have shown that ginseng can enhance mood following its administration. A study conducted on the effect of ginseng versus placebo on mood illustrated a significant increase in subjective feelings of vitality, concentration, sleep, work output, and mood in older females experiencing the menopause.
How ginseng works on hormonal balance
It has been noted ginseng may possibly have some of the same properties as oestrogen. Ginseng has been reported to produce an oestrogen-like effect in the body as small quantities of estrone, estradiol, and estriol are present in ginseng root. This shift in oestrogen levels may help to reduce sleep and mood issues experienced by women going through menopause.
How ginseng relives insomnia
As ginseng is an adaptogen, with the correct dosage it can promote sleep, but also reduce fatigue. There have been a number of studies which show the effects of ginseng on sleep and fatigue. One study showed that ginseng produced a sedative effect, and increased sleep duration.
Another study showed a decrease in the amount of wakefulness and an increase in slow wave sleep, however this was at a dose of 15mg per day.
What is a good dose of ginseng?
The recommended dose for sleep issues during menopause would be anywhere between 800mg to 2g per day. It is also advised that you take ginseng with food, as it may cause nausea if taken on an empty stomach.
Although ginseng is thought to be relatively safe, there have been some adverse effects, such as hypertension, behaviour stimulation, sleeplessness, skin eruptions, asthma and diarrhoea.
There is also a condition called ginseng abuse syndrome (GAS), which can occur after long term use of ginseng. Anything longer than three months could be an issue. Signs of GAS are hypertension, nervousness, sleeplessness, skin eruptions, oedema, and morning diarrhoea. The average daily dose that caused these symptoms was 3 grams, however anywhere from 0 - 15 grams could cause side effects.
Do not take ginseng if you have high blood pressure, and check with your GP for any contra-indications to any medication you are taking.