Happy Aging is a unique series focused on how to help you age well. These stories have been created in cooperation with AARP and Word In Black.

For thousands of years, practitioners of Eastern medicine have mastered acupuncture and herbal remedies to support aging. A report from the Pew Research Center found that, as of 2017, half of Americans had tried some of these healing modalities. Black women, in particular, encounter a range of societal issues which aggravate our health, particularly menopause. Johanne Picard-Scott is the founder of Harlem Chi. The 53-year-old practitioner works with women across generations to pinpoint nerves and regulate overall energy flow. She is certain that acupuncture can relieve menopause. 

WIB: Acupuncture, as a practice, is using needles?

Picard-Scott: Yes, we use needles to access the body’s circulatory system. It’s really powerful in its ability to help make those yin-yang shifts in the body. 

WIB: Some people say, “Hot flashes. Oh, that just runs in our family.” Or “The women in our family experience menopause in this way.” 

Picard-Scott: I always challenge people when they say this. I think we can all agree that we have grandparents or great grandparents that had an easier time with menopause than we do currently as modern women. We need to question that. It’s very much lifestyle. We have stress hormones and sex hormones. When we talk about hormonal balance, what we’re talking about is, essentially, the balance between the two. Our body will always veer towards using our stress hormones first because our body will automatically try to protect and keep us alive. 

WIB: Have you experienced menopause yet? 

Picard-Scott: Yes. My period stopped at age 50. My menstrual flow just ended. I didn’t have the ups and downs sometimes a lot of people before that stop of flow happens.

WIB: What do you observe is essential about blood flow? 

Picard-Scott: Blood is, particularly in women, a very strong ally in helping us understand where our health is. Our menstrual flow is full of immune cells. It’s a cleansing that we take part with every month. Whenever we have problems with the menstrual flow, that’s actually a signal of an underlying imbalance. Many times, we’re put on synthetic hormones just to synthetically regulate it, but we’re not really tapping into our bodies’ intelligence to restore that balance. 

WIB: So it’s about knowing at a young age how to treat your body?

Picard-Scott: Yes, I really think that we could help our health if we educated ourselves and our young women about their menstrual power. A young person, these days, has a menstrual disorder. Whether it’s pain, heavy bleeding, water retention, we tend to put them on birth control. We’re not addressing the underlying issue. If women really had more at their disposal to understanding why their body is dysregulated and addressing it more naturally, then they’d be strengthening their entire reproductive life.

WIB: Maybe understanding menopause could also help someone who’s just beginning their period.

Picard-Scott: That is key. Nature has a cycle that is reflected in us. Anything that goes on in nature is reproduced in our bodies. Our monthly cycle, we go through a spring, summer, fall, and winter, monthly. Our summer–our ultimate yang–is that ovulation stage. By the time we’re in menopause, that is the fall season. That is where we have to learn to really conserve. Our body does that naturally. We don’t have a deficiency in sex hormones in our menopause. We have a reshuffling. I’ve found that women who have found a different way of adjusting their physical activities get much better results when they learn to incorporate that conserving of energy principle. As we’re going through our period, a lot of women get PMS symptoms because they’re going at the same rate when your body is telling you to slow down so that you can renew. 

WIB: This might require a lifestyle shift.

Picard-Scott: That is exactly it. We’re not paying attention because we are in a yang society. We have to do. We have to do. We have to do. We measure ourselves by how much we do, do, do. But that’s not how nature works. Nature takes its time to replenish. 

WIB: Is the idea of tracking a period a good start?

Picard-Scott: It’s a good start. Getting comfortable with it. We are the only ones that have a monthly check in with our bodies.