In our recent Herbal Intensive Year 1 class we were covering Women's Health. It is a huge area of health that many women would be well served to know more about for themselves, their daughters, and their friends.
There are many herbs we can use to support women's health from head to toe. Unfortunately, many women really struggle with their reproductive health so the next 2 newsletters and blogs will be associated with how to improve our health with regards to premenstrual cramps and more. There are some herbs that I think every woman might want to include in their lives! Share this newsletter if you have friends that benefit from this information!
My top 5 favorite herbs for general Women's Health:
- Raspberry - for a healthy uterus for any stage of a woman's life, lessen cramps, improve labor experience
- Partridgeberry - to reduce excessive bleeding during menstrual cycles and post-partum
- Blackhaw - to relax uterine cramps
- Shatavari - for increased fertility and to support a smoother transition into menopause
- Blue Vervain - for PMS, anxiety, and irritability
From an herbal perspective there are three main ways that I look at menstrual dysfunction such as cramping. I consider lack of good pelvic circulation, an excess diet high in inflammatory foods, such as chips, alcohol, or processed foods in general, that cause higher inflammatory prostaglandins and a deficient diet that does not include enough minerals such as calcium.
Let’s start with calcium as this might be the least commonly known issue. Ten days prior to menstruation our calcium levels begin to drop and continue to do so until about 3 days prior to menstruation. This decreased blood calcium level contributes to cramping, water retention, headaches, achiness, depression, and insomnia. Another mineral that can help is magnesium. I often recommend a product such as Natural Calm (magnesium citrate). Red clover infusion is another option that would be supportive as well. Generally, I do not recommend that clients increase dairy intake for their calcium needs as with that often comes an increase of other issues associated with excessive dairy consumption.
Back to those pesky prostaglandins for a moment. Our body makes these chemicals that are required for normal menstruation from essential fatty acids. Most of us have heard how omega-6 fatty acids are “bad” and omega-3 are “good.” This holds true somewhat here as well. If we can reduce the intake and ratio of linoleic acid (an omega-6 fatty acid) foods such as fried and processed foods and increase consumption of alpha-linoleic acid (an omega-3 fatty acid) such as from greens and seeds among other things we can help the body reach a better balance. This will result in reduced inflammation not only during our menstrual cycle but throughout our whole body.
Stay tuned for more blog posts on other issues related to menstrual cramps such as pelvic stagnation and lack of circulation.