Women often develop a myriad of health issues linked to hormone imbalance. Although a majority of these are believed to start in midlife with the onset of menopause, in fact, a dysfunctional pattern can begin during adolescent years or even at a younger age. The severity of hormonal problems tends to increase with age, but this is not simply due to the accumulation of years. In fact, the cumulative effects of a variety of stresses can cause a disruption of the natural rhythms and balancing mechanisms of women’s hormones, which could be responsible for compromising overall health and wellness. Many women experience dysfunctions such as PMS, depression, decreased libido, fibrocystic breasts, food and sugar cravings, uterine fibroids, irregular or excessive uterine bleeding and endometriosis, infertility and more.
Fluctuating oestrogen and progesterone levels are commonplace as women age, but during menopause the side effects of these fluctuations – hot flushes, mood swings, decreased libido and memory impairment, to name a few, can be particularly difficult to deal with. The common use in conventional medicine of HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) was once believed to be a panacea that would solve many of these problems. However, there have been disappointing scientific findings concerning the safety and efficacy of hormone replacement therapy. (JAMA, March 2001). The climbing cancer rates are alarming. Also, hormone therapy does not grant the heart the protective effect that was previously promised in earlier studies. In fact, it looks as if heart deaths have increased as well as cancer rates in women who have been using HRT. While women are loosing faith in HRT as the answer, menopausal women still have an interest in maintaining a normal sexual function. Women are becoming more and more interested in finding natural means to bolster or balance hormone levels other than drug based hormone replacement therapy.
Herbs can play a significant part of an overall wellness program that can be instituted towards this end. Herbs that are well known to be beneficial for women’s health include:
Black Cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) is specifically used for its beneficial effects on menopausal symptoms. The isoflavones in Black Cohosh have been shown to bind to oestrogen receptor sites and lower lutenizing hormones, which are linked to hot flushes. Black Cohosh can also help with PMS.
Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis) has been used in Chinese Medicine for thousands of years to help normalize menstrual irregularities. It is also used for anaemia and as a systemic strengthener, helping to ‘build the blood’. Dong Quai may increase bleeding, so don’t use it during pregnancy or if heavy periods are a problem.
Chastetree Berry (Agnus castus, Vitex) is one of the most helpful herbs for normalizing symptoms of hot flushes, fluid retention and mild depression.
Wild Yam (Dioscorea spp.) is a traditional root food used by women around the world to help promote women’s health, including fertility issues, late periods and menopausal symptoms.
Red Raspberry (Rubus idaeus) has been dubbed ” The Vine of Female Vitality”. The leaf of the vine is the part that is most often used as herbal medicine. The medical journal Lancet published a study as far back as 1941 describing the normalizing effect that Red Raspberry leaf extract had on the uterus. It can help tone the ligaments of the uterus to ease childbirth, reduce haemorrhage after birth and enrich colostrum, the immune-stimulating first milk of nursing mothers.
At Navan Natural Health & Spa Centre, we have all of these herbs available in a liquid extract, which makes it easy to blend together for combination formulas. When treating female health problems, I design an individual tonic for each woman based on her own unique needs and symptom picture. What works for one woman may not be suitable for another. In general, I formulate a blend of the most appropriate herbal remedies and nutritional supplements, to meet the individual needs of each of my female clients. Such formulations can effectively smooth away the pain and discomfort a woman experiences during the changing phases of her life…