Menopause didn't really come into vogue as a topic of concern for the medical profession until the 1960s. In 1966 a New York gynecologist, Dr. Robert Wilson, wrote a best seller called Feminine Forever, extolling the virtues of estrogen replacement to save women from the "tragedy of menopause which often destroys her character as well as her health." His book sold over 100,000 copies in the first year. Wilson energetically promoted menopause as a condition of "living decay".
According to Dr. Wilson, estrogen replacement was a kind of long sought-after youth pill that would save poor, fading women from the horrors of age. He popularized the erroneous belief that menopause is a deficiency disease. Women's magazines eagerly seized upon his ideas and extensively promoted his concepts. This pleased Wilson no end, since he had earlier set up The Wilson Foundation for the sole purpose of promoting the use of estrogen drugs.
The pharmaceutical industry generously contributed over US$1.3 million to his Foundation. Each year he received funds from such companies as Searle, Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories and Upjohn which made hormone products that Wilson claimed were effective in treating and preventing menopause. Pharmaceutical companies jumped on the bandwagon with aggressive promotions and advertising campaigns. His message hit a receptive chord: mid-life women need hormone drugs to be rescued from the inevitable horrors and decrepitude of this terrible deficiency disease called menopause. Wilson pioneered the use of unopposed estrogen. [Nexus Magazine, Volume 3, #4 (June - July 1996)]
Having pointed this out, it is true that many women find great benefit from the use of bioidentical hormones at this time in life. A clear distinction must be kept in mind, namely that non-human or artificial estrogens and progestins are more dangerous and less beneficial than using the natural forms. The use of natural estrogens and progesterone is important in some women at menopause, when troubling symptoms continue. The continued use of the appropriate natural hormone(s) for years can be without side effects and provide ongoing significant health benefits.
You can develop a clearer understanding of the nature of menopause and the interplay of female hormones by reading an informative book such as Natural Hormone Balance by Uzzi Reiss, MD, or What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause by John Lee, MD.
Surgical menopause involves the removal of the uterus and/or ovaries. A hysterectomy usually indicates that part or all of the uterus was removed. An oophorectomy means that one or both of the ovaries have been removed. If the uterus is removed but one or more ovaries remain, then technically a person is in menopause since menopause means the end of having periods. The symptoms usually associated with menopause are due to declining hormone production from the ovaries and may occur many years after surgical menopause, usually around age 50.
One study has suggested that dong quai, sometimes recommended in menopause, is no better than a placebo at relieving the symptoms of menopause.