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herbs: for women

herbs: for women

There are a lot of herbs that can improve a woman’s reproductive health. In fact, there are so many that it can be confusing trying to decide between all of the choices nature lays before us. Manufacturers have begun putting out “one size fits all” herbal blends to help women deal with discomforts and health issues surrounding PMS/PMDD, menopause, pregnancy, and postpartum adjustments. While some of these products work well for some women, those who are not helped can be left feeling isolated, frustrated, and even scared. Putting together a remedy tailored to the individual becomes very important when these over-the-counter remedies fail. Let’s look at a few herbs and how they can help bring the body into better balance.

One herb that helps many women with PMS/PMDD and menopause is Vitex agnus-castus, or Chaste Tree Berry. This has become a fairly famous herb in recent decades. Named Chaste for its effects on men, this peppery little Mediterranean berry can actually have quite the opposite effect on women! Those women who suffer from the kinds of hormonal imbalances that this herb addresses often suffer from decreased libido as well as mood swings, cramps, and even hot flashes. Chaste Tree Berry goes right to the pituitary and balances the hormones that signal estrogen and progesterone production, especially prolactin. Its effects on prolactin make this herb a no-no for pregnant and nursing women. Some studies suggest that it even affects dopamine levels, improving mood directly as well as improving mood by balancing the reproductive system. While there are a host of symptoms associated with Vitex agnus-castus, women who benefit most from this herb are often cold or have joint pain. It can cause mild itching so watch out for allergic reactions.

Viburnum trilobium, or Cramp Bark, is another well known herb for women. It does exactly what its name implies. It relieves all sorts of muscle cramps. These cramps are often accompanied by lower back pain. Unlike Vitex agnus-castus, this herb is best in those with a tendency to overheat. It is also great in pregnancy to prevent certain types of miscarriage.

Steamed Rehmannia glutinosa is a fantastic herb for one symptom of PMS/PMDD: weeping. It has done wonders for some who weep one week a month and even for a few who get angry instead. Almost always used in blends with other herbs, Rehmannia glutinosa is high in iron which accounts for some of its effects. This is a dose dependant herb, meaning that its actions change with the amount taken. Or example, small doses constrict blood vessels, while large doses dilate them. This is another herb that is off limits for pregnant and nursing women.

How are these herbs used? They can be taken in many forms, but infusion, or tea, is the simplest and in some ways the best way to use herbs since an infusion can be tasted. When an herb blend is right for the person taking it, the blend tastes acceptable and frequently tastes really good simply because it is what the body needs. Whereas, other people tasting the same blend may find it horrible because it’s just not the right blend for them! As the blend is taken over the course of days or months, the taste often begins to change as the individual begins to recover good health. One or two ingredients usually become bad tasting to the person who thought that they were just fine a week or two ago. If this blend is an infusion it is easy to adjust the blend oneself, removing the now offending ingredient. If a new herb needs to be added, this can also be done with a taste test. Of course, it never hurts to get an expert opinion, but in a pinch these home tests can bring great results.

To make an infusion, start with a teaspoon of the herb or herbs desired. If four herbs are going to be mixed together, a ¼ teaspoon of each is all that is needed, if equal parts are being used. Steep these in one cup of boiling hot water until the infusion is cool enough to drink and then enjoy it!

This is just a sampling of herbs that affect the health of women’s reproductive system. Others include Agrimony, the Vervains, Partridge Berry Vine, Passion Flower Vine, the Cohoshes, and so much more. Each herb has its own effects, side effects, drug interactions, and other important information to understand. Check several references before using any herb and keep exploring with classes, books, and perhaps an appointment with a good local herbalist.

Liz Johnson is a local herbalist and herbal instructor with nearly twenty years experience, Cupper, Aromatherapist, Moxibustionist, Usui Reiki Master, and experienced ear candler. She works with other health professionals and continues her education, currently working on a Masters degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Visit www.firewind.com for more information about her practice and classes. Or reach liz at 952-846-7464.

 

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