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The Link Between Progesterone and Traditional Chinese Medicine



In recent years, there has been a growing interest in understanding the relationship between hormones and alternative medicine, particularly in the context of women's health. Progesterone, a crucial hormone in the female reproductive system, plays a vital role in regulating the menstrual cycle, supporting pregnancy, and influencing various aspects of overall well-being. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), with its holistic approach to health, offers unique insights into balancing hormones, including progesterone, through natural means.  Let’s take a look at how TCM may contribute to women's hormonal harmony.


Understanding Progesterone:


Progesterone is a hormone produced by the ovaries in women and plays a crucial role in the menstrual cycle and maintaining pregnancy. Its levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, rising in the second half, or luteal phase, to prepare the uterus for a potential pregnancy. Insufficient levels of progesterone can lead to various reproductive health issues, such as irregular menstrual cycles, difficulty conceiving, and miscarriages.  Progesterone also stimulates the production of thick mucus that covers the cervix so no sperm can enter the uterus (FYI this is the basis of hormonal birth control).  


Traditional Chinese Medicine and Hormonal Balance:


TCM views the body as a complex system of interconnected pathways through which vital energy, known as Qi, flows. When there is an imbalance or blockage in the flow of Qi, it can lead to health issues, including hormonal imbalances. TCM aims to restore harmony by addressing the root causes of these imbalances rather than merely alleviating symptoms.  We focus on progesterone in the luteal phase.  Progesterone is best tested on Day 21, or 7 days after ovulation occurs, when we are doing blood or fertility testing.


Acupuncture:

Acupuncture, a key component of TCM, involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body to stimulate Qi flow. Some acupuncture points are believed to influence the endocrine system, potentially aiding in the regulation of hormone levels, including progesterone. Studies have suggested that acupuncture may help improve fertility by positively affecting ovarian function and hormone balance.


In Menopause:

TCM recognizes progesterone as a role of the Kidney and Liver systems and the natural aging process.  In TCM, Kidney energy is associated with reproductive health, and the decline in Kidney energy is believed to contribute to symptoms related to menopause.  Generally there are 2 causes for symptoms in menopause:

  • Kidney Yin and Yang Deficiency: In TCM, the Kidneys are considered the foundation of Yin and Yang energies. Kidney Yin is associated with cooling, nourishing, and moistening qualities, while Kidney Yang is linked to warmth, stimulation, and activity. As women age, there is a natural decline in these energies, leading to Kidney Yin and Yang deficiency.


  • Liver Blood Deficiency or Stagnation: The Liver system in TCM is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi and blood throughout the body. During menopause, imbalances in the Liver system may contribute to symptoms such as hot flashes and mood swings. The concept of Liver blood deficiency or stagnation is often considered in TCM diagnosis and treatment.



Herbal Medicine, Diet, and Lifestyle:

TCM emphasizes the importance of a balanced and nourishing diet to support overall health, and often incorporates herbal remedies to address imbalances. Herbs such as Dong Quai and Chinese Yam are traditionally used to support women's reproductive health and hormonal balance. These herbs may be recommended in various formulations to address specific concerns related to progesterone levels. Specific foods are believed to have properties that can influence hormonal balance too. For instance, TCM practitioners may recommend incorporating foods like ginger, goji berries, and black sesame seeds into the diet to promote reproductive health.


Mind-Body Practices:

Practices such as Qigong and Tai Chi, integral to TCM, involve gentle movements, breath control, and meditation. These practices are thought to promote overall well-being and balance, potentially impacting hormonal regulation.


While Western medicine and TCM operate on different paradigms, there is a growing recognition of the complementary benefits they can offer when integrated. Progesterone, a hormone critical to women's health, may find support through TCM's holistic approach. As with any medical approach, it is essential for individuals to consult with healthcare professionals, combining the strengths of both worlds for a comprehensive and personalized approach to hormonal balance.




Kelsey Bru is a licensed acupuncturist and TCM Herbalist in the Comox Valley, British Columbia. She loves working with women's health, hormones, menopause, fertility and beyond through her online articles and at her clinic, The Remedy Room, on Cliffe Avenue, Courtenay. Call for an appointment at 250-800-7738.


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