First Posted on American College of Healthcare Sciences Health and Wellness Blog.
By Valerie Lull
Are you familiar with this scenario? You go to the doctor’s office with a health issue unique to women. You get prescribed a synthetic hormone or some other pill only to find it has undesirable side effects. You are concerned, but you’re not sure what to do. Women are faced with these difficult decisions every day, and many are turning to natural and alternative methods for support.
Some of the problems women face include: discomfort and bloating before a period, period cramps, morning sickness with pregnancy, fibroids, and menopause. And those are just a few of the issues women deal with throughout their lives. Can natural remedies—such as herbs—help?
You may have noticed you feel bloated a few days before your period, your breasts are tender, you gain weight, and you might even feel depressed. One time-honored folk remedy is dong quai (also called angelica), Angelica sinensis (Oliv.) Diels. Dong quai is often called “female ginseng.”
Dong quai can also be made into an infusion, tea, or even a soup. Dong quai A. sinensis is known for supporting healthy blood flow, reducing normal pain associated with menstruation, and aiding in balancing the menstrual cycle.
However, there is some evidence that taking dong quai over a long period of time, or in large quantities, may cause increased cancer risk, so it’s wise to be cautious and work with an herbalist or a qualified health practitioner.
Another fantastic herb that has been used for hundreds of years is cinnamon, Cinnamomum cassia (L.). Research shows that cinnamon C. cassia may be helpful for supporting women with irregular menstrual cycles. One theory is that cinnamon regulates blood sugar, and this helps support regular menstrual cycles.
The traditional way of making cinnamon tea is with powdered cinnamon and a strainer, though I prefer to make a tea by putting a cinnamon stick in a cup and pouring hot water over it. Steep ten minutes, and add a sweetener if desired. This is delicious in your morning latte!
Another herb I love is dandelion root Taraxacum officinale (F.H.Wigg.). I like it purely from a comfort standpoint. Dandelion is a natural diuretic, and helps relieve the discomfort of bloating and fluid retention that plague women before a period. Dandelion root is often used as a tea, but it is also available as a supplement.
Pregnancy can be difficult. If you use herbs, it means staying away from almost all of them. There are two herbs that are used for pregnant women under guidance. Be sure to check with your physician before using them.
One of these herbs is ginger Zingiber officinale (Roscoe). Ginger has been used for thousands of years for nausea and vomiting with morning sickness. Today, however, the subject is controversial, but there are studies suggest that one gram of ginger per day may reduce nausea and vomiting when used for short periods of time.
Another ideal herb for pregnancy is raspberry leaf Rubus idaeus (L.). One study showed women were less likely to receive an artificial rupture of their membranes after drinking raspberry leaf tea, or need a caesarean section or forceps at the time of birth.
Do you struggle with hot flashes and night sweats? One herb is maca, Lepidium meyenii(Walp.). This Peruivan herb has been part of folk medicine for centuries, and is effective for supporting women struggling with menopause symptoms.
A 2005 study on maca L. meyenii for early postmenopausal women found that changes in hormone levels showed reduced discomfort associated with menopause. There was a placebo effect after one month of placebo capsules. The conclusion was that there should be further study of maca as an alternative to HRT.
Do you like pumpkin Curcubita pepo (L.) seeds? Crunchy and delicious, they are one of my favorite snacks! Pumpkin C. pepo seeds may also help with menopausal symptoms. In a study done in 2011, women were given wheat germ oil and pumpkin seed oil. The results showed that with pumpkin seed oil there was significant improvement in menopausal symptoms, with a decrease in the severity of hot flushes, headaches, and joint pains. The study concluded that pumpkin seed oil had some benefits and provided strong evidence for further study.
Here is a recipe from HerbaZest that you may find helpful for menopausal symptoms.
Sage Salvia officinalis: 2 teaspoons
Maca Lepidium meyenii root (powdered): 2 teaspoons
Blue vervain Verbena hastata: 1 teaspoon
Vitex/chaste tree Vitex agnus-castus berry: 1 teaspoon
Combine all ingredients. Boil a quart of water. Pour water over herb mixture and let it steep 30-60 minutes. The longer it steeps the stronger the infusion will be. The infusion can be refrigerated up to four days. It is taken in ¼ cup servings throughout the day, up to three cups daily.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure, or prevent disease. This article has not been reviewed by the FDA. Always consult with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before making any significant changes to your health and wellness routine.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I am a graduate of American College of Healthcare Sciences, the Institution that publishes this blog. However, all opinions are my own. This blog may contain affiliate links. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
 University of Maryland Medican Center, 2013 (2015) Dong quai. Retrieved fromhttp://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/dong-quai (Accessed: 19 August 2016).
 Mayo Clinic. (2013) ‘Dong quai (angelica sinensis)’, Mayoclinic. Retrieved fromhttp://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/dong-quai/safety/hrb-20059206
 Salmon, M. (2013, October 16). Cinnamon May Help Ease Common Cause of Infertility, Study Says. Health Day. [Online]. Retrieved from: https://consumer.healthday.com/diseases-and-conditions-information-37/misc-diseases-and-conditions-news-203/cinnamon-may-help-ease-common-cause-of-infertility-study-says-681150.html
 Tierra, M. (1998) The way of herbs: Fully updated with the latest developments in herbal science. Pocket Books.
 University of Maryland Medical Center, 2013 (1997b) Premenstrual syndrome. Available at: https://umm.edu/Health/Medical-Reference-Guide/Complementary-and-Alternative-Medicine-Guide/Condition/Premenstrual-syndrome (Accessed: 19 August 2016)
 Parsons M1, Simpson M, Ponton T, Raspberry leaf and its effect on labour: safety and efficacy. Australian Coll Midwives Inc J. 1999 Sep;12(3):20-5. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10754818
 H. O. Meissner,1 W. Kapczynski,2 A. Mscisz,3 and J. Lutomski3, Use of Gelatinized Maca (Lepidium Peruvianum) in Early Postmenopausal Women, Int J Biomed Sci. 2005 Jun; 1(1): 33–45. PMCID: PMC3614576 Retrieved from:http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23674952
 Gossell-Williams M1, Hyde C, Hunter T, Simms-Stewart D, Fletcher H, McGrowder D, Walters C Improvement in HDL cholesterol in postmenopausal women supplemented with pumpkin seed oil: pilot study. Climacteric. 2011 Oct;14(5):558-64. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2011.563882. Epub 2011 May 5. Retrieved from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21545273