Women’s bodies experience great changes throughout life. These complex natural processes have been stigmatized in male-dominated cultures. Women were trivialized, their thoughts and desires dismissed as the irrational products of hysteria. The very word “hysteria” comes from the Greek word for uterus.
But in the 1970s, women began to seek empowerment, speak out and demand respect. They turned to herbalism and natural medicine rather than being dependent on male doctors. They began to emulate world cultures which celebrate a girl’s passage into womanhood instead of making it a private shame. Girls need strong, positive messages and role models along with a realistic understanding of changing physical needs and nutritional balances.
Herbal remedies are now commonly used and even recommended by some physicians. Let’s explore some of the ways you can maintain your body’s balance naturally.
Menstruation is not a sickness but cramps and mood swings can be a problem. They are not imaginary maladies but are usually caused by fluctuating estrogen, progesterone and prostaglandin levels. According to traditional Chinese medicine, a sluggish liver may also be a culprit.
As soon as you know what your menstrual cycle is, begin these menstrual health habits about ten days before you are due. Cut down on junk food and drink plenty of clean water. Some women find that water speeds up the menstrual process and gets it over with sooner. Try not to use plastic bottles as these contain estrogen disrupters.
Eat plenty of salads with dark green leafy vegetables and with fresh dandelion leaves and flowers if you have them. The fresh bitter taste stimulates bile production. Season your food with ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Garlic is also recommended. Your local health food store should carry herbal blend teas for female health, or you can make your own.
Cramps and Backache
Reduce stress as far as possible and keep your feet warm. Mild to moderate exercise is often recommended for menstrual cramps, backache and headache. But exercise can also make things worse. Do whatever works for you. Using pads instead of tampons may also help. All menstrual products you use should be natural and unbleached.
The best known herbs for menstrual cramps include chamomile, dong quai (female ginseng), false unicorn root, motherwort, chaste tree berry, red raspberry and evening primrose. Take these as extracts in capsules or make into tea and drink freely starting about ten days before your cycle begins. Other herbs recommended for menstrual discomfort include meadowsweet, feverfew and hops. These are also recommended to relieve general body aches and headache.
Dong quai and false unicorn root can also help bring on a period when one is late. Omega-3 fatty acids can relieve heavy bleeding. Yarrow and shepherd’s purse are also used for this.
Mood swings and Emotional Problems
Some doctors believe the “bitchy” moods of so-called pre-menstrual syndrome are caused by insufficient progesterone hormone. In the days before menses begins the body should produce more progesterone than estrogen. An overabundance of estrogen at the wrong time can cause feelings of depression or anxiety. Some women find that a couple of aspirin tablets can work wonders. If aspirin doesn’t help, try black cohosh. A member of the buttercup family, Indian women use it for arthritis and digestive problems as well as cramps and hot flashes.
Chaste tree berry is another often-recommended herb. Besides relieving pain, it tells the body to produce more progesterone. Try it if your breasts are sensitive or painful around your period.
St. John’s Wort is good for depression, but works best if you take some every day, not only when you feel badly. Hops and chamomile are very calming and induce sleep as do kava kava and valerian.
Bloating, Water Retention
Parsley and dandelion are natural diuretics. Parsley can also increase menstrual flow, so be careful with it. If there is fresh dandelion available, pick some and chew it. Some of the herbs listed for cramps also help with water retention, especially black cohosh.
You’re In Charge
Above all, remember that you are in control. The words “pre-menstrual syndrome” are used too often to mock or debase women as slaves to their chemistry. Women have been controlling unpleasant symptoms of menstruation for many centuries through natural means, and so can you. Join a group to discuss female health on line or in person. Ask an expert at your local health food store for some books on natural health for women.