The reasons are multi-fold. With so many biological conditions necessary for the effective functioning of the female reproductive system – from menstruation and fertility, to conception and child-bearing – women can be particularly sensitive to both internal and external stimuli. And current culture certainly offers plenty of health challenges from which to choose. If a woman has a poor diet, inactive lifestyle, a stressful career and is not well rested, for example, she may not only feel tense and physically congested, but also find she is at greater risk for complication. This is because these behaviors affect the metabolic rate and hormonal imbalance of the body, resulting in breast tenderness, skin blemishes, food cravings, lowered immune function, decreased resistance to pathogens and infectious germs, and any number of gynecological disorders.
To combat these unwanted developments, it is important for women to understand their bodies first from a holistic perspective, to acknowledge, regardless of the symptom that arises, that such symptoms are merely superficial indicators of a much deeper imbalance – one that requires meaningful lifestyle shifts related to diet, activity, etc. From there, to compliment the beneficial behaviors already in place, a woman may desire to seek additional therapeutic support from various herbal remedies, applicable toward everything from regulating and balancing hormones to relieving tension and pain.
Most popular for its success in relieving menstrual complaints and menopausal symptoms, this pungently sweet Chinese herb is also commonly applied in cases of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and is useful in addressing irregular cycles and cramping. Naturally high in vitamin B-12, Dong quai contains ferulic acid, a muscle relaxer and pain reliever, as well as blood-thinning chemicals known as coumarins, which work to improve circulation and ensure blood flow to female reproductive organs. Dong quai should be avoided by pregnant women and those suffering from either diarrhea or endometriosis.
This Native American medicine works primarily to help tone and strengthen the uterus. It contains an alkaloid called methyl cytosine, which is believed to be antispasmodic. It also combats painful menstrual flow irregularities by dilating blood vessels in the uterus, allowing for increased circulation in the pelvic area. Women who are pregnant; however, should take care to avoid all products containing blue cohosh. Large doses of the herb were once used by Native American tribes to prevent conception, though modern herbalists now consider it unreliable for that purpose.
Look for medicinal quality cinnamon, known as Rou Gui, in either Chinese herbal pharmacies or health foods stores. Its pungent sweetness makes it the ideal warming (“yang”) tonic for relieving menstrual cramps. Women who find they are chronically cold (“yin”), dry or frail and who may routinely be afflicted with osteoarthritis, asthma or digestive problems will enjoy the greatest benefits from this herbal remedy. Though its side effects are few, be sure to use cinnamon with caution during pregnancy.
Chaste tree berries
Reportedly used by monks back in the Middle Ages to help curb their sexual appetite, this herbal remedy may occasionally reduce sex drive in women, but not to the extent suggested by its clever name. These days, it plays a significant role in hormone regulation, acting directly on the brain’s pituitary gland. Flavonoids present in chaste tree are known to slightly increase women’s progesterone production, a lack of which is often the cause of menstrual complaints, infertility, heavy bleeding, excessive periods, irregular periods, no periods and PMS. Chaste tree is a bitter-tasting, slow-acting herb, but over several months, can prove helpful with all these conditions as well as premenstrual fluid retention and even acne. Due to its direct involvement in these hormonal processes, chaste tree is not recommended for use by pregnant women.
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