If you have missed three periods in a row and you are not pregnant or menopausal, this is a matter of serious concern. You should be especially concerned if you are dealing with infertility issues, or are at risk for osteoporosis. Under these circumstances, it would be wise to visit a doctor or consult a women’s health specialist. The absence of menstruation in pre-menopausal women is called amenorrhea. If menstruation has not begun by the age 16, it is called “primary amenorrhea.” If previously normal menstruation stops for more than three months in a woman who is not pregnant or breast feeding and is not nearing menopause, it is called “secondary amenorrhea.”
In traditional Chinese medicine, the most important organs that regulate Blood and menstruation are the Liver, Spleen, and Kidneys; and the key Fundamental Substances are Chi and Blood. The Liver “stores the Blood,” and is responsible for maintaining a smooth and even flow of Blood, Chi, and emotions through the body. Emotions such as anger, irritation, resentment, and anxiety can lead to stagnation of Liver Chi, which in turn can lead to Blood Stasis (especially in the lower body). A main function of the Spleen is to produce Chi and Blood. If the Spleen is weak, there will eventually be a deficiency of Chi and/or Blood, so there will not be enough blood for normal menstruation, or enough Chi to regulate normal cycles. Also, if the Spleen is too weak, it can lead to a condition of Dampness in the body, and Phlegm-Damp can obstruct the uterus. The Kidneys are the organ responsible for conception, reproduction, and aging over time. Kidney-essence is the ultimate origin of menstrual blood.
Amenorrhea can be differentiated into Deficiency patterns or Excess patterns. With Deficiency patterns, the Blood is exhausted or deficient. With Excess patterns, Chi or Blood may be stagnant, retention of Phlegm-Dampness can lead to obstruction of menses, or there is Blood Stasis.
Besides the mechanisms discussed above, some lifestyle factors can cause amenorrhea. Long-term use of contraceptive pills can bring about Blood Deficiency or Kidney Chi Deficiency. Excessive physical exercise or participation in sports, with over-use of the muscles and sinews, can lead to a deficiency condition of the Spleen and Liver. The Spleen fails to produce adequate amounts of Blood, and the Liver fails to store Blood properly, which leads to amenorrhea.
Besides herbal medicine, acupuncture and moxibustion are two other widely-used healing tools in traditional Chinese medicine. Although both traditional Chinese medicine and conventional Western medicine aim to achieve the same goal — restart the periods and restore the normal cycle, a significant difference exists between these two modalities. Traditional Chinese medicine stimulates the body to regulate its naturally-occurring hormones and restore the normal hormone function, while conventional Western medicine restores the function of the thalamus-pituitary-ovary axis through the use of artificial hormones. Many studies in China reveal that acupuncture, moxibustion, and Chinese herbal medicine are superior to conventional medicine in the treatment of menstrual disorders, including amenorrhea.