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The Sweet Potato Story.

Many herbal concoctions, supplements, and hormone creams claim to work better than hormone replacement therapy (HRT), but no magic bullet can whip away a hot flush within minutes--why not? I am one of the "do it now" Baby Boomers and enjoy such a challenge, even though it was ten years prior to my own menopause. I was experimenting with natural ways to help alleviate menopausal symptoms. By chewing a chunk of raw red-skinned sweet potato, I stumbled upon a completely natural progesterone-boosting phenomenon. Unbelievable, unscientific you may be thinking, but curiosity and serendipity are strange bedfellows. Within a few months I produced solid evidence--the manifestation of a dramatic rise in progesterone levels. For over twenty years my sweet potato story and those who have tried it out themselves bear testimony to the efficacy of this low-tech breakthrough. Hot flashes went away, and babies were born--against all odds--to mothers, even in their forties, who chewed the red sweet potato. How did it all begin?

In 1998 I was asked by a top Cape Town gynaecologist to develop herbal alternatives to HRT to relieve symptoms like moodiness, bloating, fatigue, and hot flashes. Doctor Lee was already making great claims about wild yam cream, but the progesterone panacea was being shed in a dim light by Dr. Marilyn Glenville, who preferred to correct hormonal issues at a more causative level. She recommended better nutrition and using herbs like agnus castus or black cohosh to improve hormonal output. I enjoyed the lectures she presented during her visit to Cape Town and read her book, Natural Alternatives to Menopause. (1)

Dr. Glenville's opinion about taking any replacement form of estrogen or progesterone (synthetic or bioidentical HRT) was: "Use it or lose it." She maintained that if you take these hormones, you will no longer be able to make them in the long-term. She explained that the body gets used to an external supply of the hormone and then the signal to generate the hormone shuts down. I like to add: "Don't take it if you can still make it." The cause of a hormonal shortfall, she explained, may just be a micronutrient deficiency, such as boron or a few vitamins and essential fatty acids. These are easy enough to correct, she said.

Being the ever-curious health researcher, I went to look for some yams to experiment with. But instead of yams, I bought some red-skinned sweet potatoes that had been mistakenly labelled as yams from the supermarket. In structure, yams are very close to progesterone, but so is the red sweet potato, I found out. My "yam" was identified as a sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) at our university. (2) Could this reddish, plum-colored tuber hold the key to relieving hot flashes? The liver breaks down the chemical structure of yams and sweet potatoes, as does cooking them. So, eating them to relieve hot flashes was not an option. At least raw sweet potatoes are not toxic, like the Mexican yam.

There was no reason why the bloodstream could not absorb the raw, fresh active substances within the sweet potato. One of my doctor friends told me, "Go ahead, the body will somehow manipulate it--or not!" Sublingual absorption is the key delivery system used by homeopaths to introduce their remedies into the bloodstream. I started to chew a small fistful of the raw, peeled sweet potato every day to see if the active substances could be absorbed via the blood vessels under the tongue. I slowly chewed and "mouth absorbed" my daily ration of raw, peeled Ipomoea batatas, wondering if anything would ever happen.

Skipping the Menstrual Cycle

After a few weeks, I skipped my menstrual period that usually arrived like clockwork. The late Professor Serfontein, who was a nutritional expert at Pretoria University, was intrigued. He said he would really be impressed if I could intentionally "suppress the follicle stimulating hormone." He doubted that I could spike up my progesterone levels that easily. His research team was developing a progesterone-based yam cream at the time. I preferred the challenge of introducing a progesterone precursor into my bloodstream to see if it could affect hormone levels. I continued with the same dose of sweet potato every day for six months to really prove the point, and menstruation ceased throughout the trial run. I was told that a high dose of progesterone fools the body into thinking it is pregnant and that is how some birth control pills work. I was definitely not pregnant--no thanks!

Normal menstruation with no adverse effects resumed when I stopped my daily sweet potato chewing ritual, to the relief of Dr Zeelenberg, the gynecologist for whom I had already developed a range of personal hygiene products. He could not prescribe fresh sweet potatoes to his patients and asked me to develop a remedy instead. I produced a tincture from the grated flesh of the sweet potato and tested the potion at twice the estimated regular dose of 10 drops a day under the tongue for another six months. It worked as well as the original experiment. What a year--skipping another six menstrual cycles!

A number of older women, including many of the doctor's patients, took part in these trials using a normal dose of the tincture; or they chewed the original sweet potato so we could compare the effects. The ladies experienced a degree of improvement in some cases, especially with their hot flashes, fatigue, and depression. Red sweet potato was added to our range of hormone-balancing tinctures that included red clover, black cohosh and agnus castus. As a completely safe and natural way of skipping a menstrual cycle or two, the sweet potato tincture at twice the normal dose of 10 drops a day (or chewing a golf-ball size of the sweet potato) helped many ladies take part in religious or sporting events that they would otherwise have missed out on. I advise them to try it out for a month or two beforehand for a more reliable result. The sweet potato trick produced the same effect as the newly developed menstrual-skipping patent drugs that were beginning to emerge on the market at the time.

Balancing Menstruation and Bringing on the Babies!

As with progesterone, the sweet potato is dose-dependent. The ladies who needed to conceive by gently raising progesterone have done so successfully by chewing a piece of it the size of a finger. The first of these babies was accidentally conceived by Zelma, a 38-year-old friend of mine who was suffering from very heavy menstrual bleeding at the time. After seeing me nibble at my chunk of sweet potato in the laboratory, she asked for an explanation. I was unaware that she had also started chewing a secret chunk of sweet potato until her next menstrual cycle was unusually late. She really did fall pregnant! A beautiful new daughter was added to her brood of two teenage boys.

In a neighboring country, a lady naturopath heard about this new fertility stunt and decided to give it a try. I received the joyous news that she had become pregnant at last, after batting for over 10 years. She had all but given up after trying the best of treatments and was already forty-something years old. She had faithfully chewed her finger-sized piece of sweet potato, much to the amusement of the family. When her son was born, he was nicknamed "Patat." Two years later, his sister arrived--another "Patat" phenomenon. I still hear about babies who are born as a result of using our herbal tinctures and am happy that people are keen to try natural remedies, even if some of the results are unexpected. Black cohosh, for instance, is the nickname of the fourth son of Miriam who was in her early forties. Not exactly a cure for menopausal symptoms! According to some of the letters I have received over the years, red clover and agnus castus are herbal remedies that have also helped women to fall pregnant.

In smaller doses, five to ten drops of the "Sweet Potato Tincture" have helped women to conceive or to resume menstruation that had ceased due to anorexia or excessive marathon running. A lot of the feedback was provided by Dr. Zeelenberg, who used all four of the tinctures in his practice. His initial request for a hormone balancer resulted in a range of remedies because I explained that women are not alike. I told him that although we do morph into premenstrual or menopausal monsters, we still differ and need individual remedies! The sweet potato tincture became his favourite alternative for patients who refused to take HRT to treat fibroids or progesterone-related complications.

My Own Menopause

For ten years after the sweet potato experiment, I had maintained strict control over my diet, supplementation, and lifestyle factors and used to encourage ladies to do likewise on countless radio shows. "Train for the menopause, be prepared and sort out your niggly health issues--before you make the transition" was the general message I broadcasted. Then the time came for me to personally experience the menopause, after many years of writing and talking about it. I stopped ovulating, eventually at the age of 54. For me it was a great challenge, to finally take my own medicine!

I thought I was too good for hot flashes, but they arrived. Ovulation was coming to an end, and I presumed that the follicle stimulating hormone was calling up eggs that were no longer waiting in line. The heat waves were trying to tell me something. I listened to my body and not to the regular solution--the call for hormone replacement. I did not want any more estrogen--no thanks because my childbearing years had officially ended.

No progesterone cream--nada! (3) Three of my close friends, all staunch supporters of alternative medicine had used wild yam (progesterone) cream before and during their menopause. They had sold these products and believed in them--yet they developed breast cancer. They continued to use the cream till the day they died. Progesterone is a precursor to estrogen, so I do not understand why people take it to lower estrogen. After a few days of chewing my good old sweet potato, the hot flashes went away. Whenever the creeping heat threatened to broil me, I chewed the sweet potato and after 5-15 minutes I generally cooled down. Who was to know that I too, could now personally lay claim to this kitchen cure for hot flashes!

During the nights, I got hotter and hotter; and contrary to popular belief, I began to embrace and appreciate them, suspecting they had a purpose. Hyperthermia is not something going wrong! Now cancer treatments make use of high temperatures. The affected areas of the cancer patient are exposed to very high temperatures, combined with spells of intense sauna treatments to increase the overall body temperature. Artificially induced hot flashes and night sweats? Aha! Would this be an explanation at last, as to why the body heats up during the menopause? Hyperthermia or raising the body temperature is also a natural way of dealing with certain infections. As we know, some forms of cancer are caused by bacteria and mycotoxins. My hot spells were intense, and I kept on telling myself they must get hotter and hotter until they have done their job. Kill the bugs, knock out the gremlins!

After a month or two of observing and voluntarily experiencing the hot spells of night sweats, they finally abated. No hormone replacement was required--what you could call elegant medicine. I stepped out of my cocoon, free from the burden of menopausal mythology. My hormones have rearranged themselves without the need for any replacing. Sound supplementation and the odd dose of black cohosh or sweet potato have sufficed. Menopause = metamorphosis. So why resist or try to interfere with the change of life? Now whenever I prepare sweet potato for dinner, I nibble some--just for good measure. They grow just about anywhere in the world and the hormonal magic that lies within them is truly a gift from nature. They cost so little and can do so much.

Trusting in nature means just that--to allow things to work out the way they were originally designed to.



(2.) Ipomoea batatas.

(3.) Diascorea villosa. Updated June 14, 2018.

by Sue Visser

Sue Visser is a natural health researcher, product developer, writer, and Agony Aunt. She specialises in nutrition and herbal medicine with a working knowledge of most of the popular modalities of natural/alternative medicine. She has contributed to the world of radio, television and journalism for over 20 years. Sue wrote, illustrated and published her popular book: Healthy Happy Eating for all blood types followed by The Holistic Guide to a Healthy Happy Heart. The second book was co-authored by Dr James Liddell. Sue is also a product developer and has formulated a wide range of alternative health products based on her unique insight and research,
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Title Annotation:menopause symptom treatment
Author:Visser, Sue
Publication:Townsend Letter
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2019
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