Hi there, Steph here~ Every year during the holidays I do two things: 1) Go to as many movies as possible. 2) Read as many books as possible. The kids are out of school for two weeks, so I’m not running around like a mad woman in a mini-van. And, most of my clients jet off to warmer destinations and don’t report back to work until after the New Year. It’s glorious for me. I rarely get to go a movie theatre and see something that has been newly released. I do try to read during the rest of the year, but these are the days I can sit down and finish books in one sitting if I like.
Speaking of reading, a certain book caught my eye last week – a menopause book, no less. I had to fit one in over the break! I downloaded Louise Foxcroft’s “Hot Flushes, Cold Science: A history of the modern menopause.” It’s a historical account of how “healthcare professionals” (and I use that term loosely) have tried to help menopausal woman ease their symptoms. Marijuana, opium, vaginal flushes, sweet grass – just a few of the treatment tools used over the years. I found learning about menopause through the ages was fascinating. It also made me feel especially lucky that I’m dealing with menopause in the 21stcentury.
References to menopause can be traced far beyond the 1800’s. In fact, Aristotle supposedly referred to menopause, saying it began at 40 years of age.
If you’re wondering where the term “menopause” came from, it was coined in 1821 by French physician Charles Pierre Louis De Gardanne (la ménépausie). Of course a man named it. . .
Foxcroft’s book gives accounts from the mid-1800s in England of doctors prescribing a pre-meal mixture of carbonated soda. Other remedies included a large belladonna plaster placed at the pit of the stomach and vaginal injections with a solution of acetate of lead. No wonder women were reduced to hysteria. Prescriptions ranged from opium and hydochlorate of morphine to chloric ether and distilled water.
Before 1880, treatments for menopausal symptoms primarily consisted of herbals, along with a selection of belladonna, cannabis or opium. In the 1890s Merck offered these chemicals along with the flavored powder Ovariin for the treatment of menopausal symptoms and other ovarian ills. Ovariin was made by dissecting and pulverizing cow ovaries, and may have been the first substance commercially available for treatment of menopausal symptoms derived from animal sources. Testicular juice also was used as a treatment. Hmmm. That’s all I have to say about that last remedy.
In the 1930s, menopause was described as a deficiency disease. Emminen became commercially available in 1933. Diethylstilbestrol (DES) was first marketed in 1939 as a far more potent estrogen than Emminen. In 1942, Ayerst Laboratories began marketing Premarin, which would eventually become the most popular form of estrogen in the U.S., and Prempro, a combination of Premarin and Provera, which eventually became the most widely dispensed drug in the U.S.
Thankfully, things have change a bit when it comes to treating menopausal symptoms. You can still find a few crazy remedies out there if you type words such as “old-fashion menopause relief” or “cure menopause” into your search engine. But, for the most part, modern healthcare providers are using things like hormone treatment, prescribing more sleep, encouraging less stress and linking dietary modifications to the relief of menopausal symptoms. You can read all about those things on our site – click here for our thoughts on hormones, sleep, less stress and diet.
If you are interested in learning more about the history of menopause, I would definitely pick up Foxcroft’s book. It was worth the read and it was a nice break from my ambitious pile of non-fiction. Again, Happy New Year! Steph