Seven Essential Herbs for Women
Imagine growing your own remedy for seasonal allergies or handling wild premenstrual mood swings with a tincture. Or how about kicking an afternoon coffee habit with a tasty home brewed infusion?
With the guidance of four health practitioners, we selected the following herbs to help stock your herbal medicine chest. Ranging from the common dandelion to the exotic shatavari, these herbs provide a wide range of benefits for everyday ailments. In addition, herbs are by nature nutritious, so taking herbs boosts overall health, often without negative side effects. Read on for how, when, and why to take each of these natural healers.
Uses & Benefits: Balances hormones and relieves cramps, depression, and stress associated with PMS. Rich in phytoestrogens, it supports women in menopause by reducing hot flashes, vaginal dryness, headaches, and mood swings. It also helps induce a late period, regulate menstrual flow, and tone the uterus prior to childbirth. A mild sedative and muscle relaxant, black cohosh calms the nervous system and relieves tension and insomnia.
Dosage & Contraindications: Liz Lipski, Ph.D., CCN, and author of Digestive Wellness (McGraw Hill, 2004), recommends taking the herb as a tea, capsule, or tincture, per package directions. Avoid if pregnant or nursing. Use before labor only under physician supervision. Do not use for prolonged periods of time (more than 6 months) or in excessively high doses. Consult your health practitioner before combining it with any prescription medication, including birth control pills.
Uses & Benefits: Diuretic, stimulates digestion and elimination, clears skin, and alleviates allergies. Dandelion is also useful in weight loss because it reduces sugar cravings and water retention. Under practitioner supervision, dandelion may be used to treat fibroids and gall and kidney stones.
Dosage & Contraindications: Hadady recommends 6–12 capsules (300–400 mg) each day, or the equivalent dose in tincture form. For weight loss purposes, the dosage can be increased to as many as 16 capsules per day, but she cautions, “reduce the dose if you become cold and weak, and avoid dandelion altogether if nausea or diarrhea is present.”
Uses & Benefits: Excellent for boosting energy, endurance, mental clarity, and mood. Promotes circulation, increases brain activity, and is said to balance the hemispheres of the brain. Improves memory and nourishes adrenal glands, strengthens the immune system, and restores balance to a frazzled nervous system. Hadady recommends the herb for city-dwellers or “women who sit and think all day.”
Dosage & Contraindications: Hadady recommends taking 2 capsules (no more than 1,000 mg) daily. If you are pregnant or nursing, or are taking prescription medications, consult your doctor or an herbalist before taking gotu kola.
Uses & Benefits: Said to strengthen the heart and lift the spirits, motherwort is best for stress, symptoms of PMS and menopause, pain, cramps, irregular or heavy periods, and emotional imbalance or vulnerability. It tones the uterus and improves circulation.
Dosage & Contraindications: Not to be used during pregnancy (until labor) or prior to surgery. Romm recommends taking the herb as a tincture, in 1/2 teaspoon doses, 3–4 times a day.
Uses & Benefits: A natural anti-histamine, it is useful for seasonal allergies and allergic reactions; high in silica, it improves the health and appearance of hair, skin, and nails and is helpful in preventing and treating varicose veins.
Dosage & Contraindications: For allergies take 3–9 freeze-dried capsules per day as needed. As a healthy pick-me-up, Romm recommends an infusion (steep a handful of dried herb in a quart of water for 3–4 hours or overnight). Nettles are safe throughout pregnancy, but Romm cautions, “Because of its high mineral content, it is important to know your source.” In very (very) rare instances, nettles have been known to contain heavy metals, because they draw so much nourishment from the soil. So verify where the herbs were grown, or better yet, grow them yourself!
Red Raspberry Leaf
Uses & Benefits: Relieves cramping and excess bleeding during menstruation; improves the health of skin, hair, and nails; and helps relieve nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Dosage & Contraindications: Lipski recommends taking red raspberry leaf as a tea. Like nettles, red raspberry is also easily brewed as an infusion (see above). Pregnant women should consult their health practitioner prior to use.
Shatavari (Asparagus Root)
Uses & Benefits: Reduces blood pressure, inflammation, and water retention. Particularly useful for PMS and menopause, it regulates menstruation and ovulation, balances mood swings, alleviates morning sickness, promotes fertility, reduces acne and rosacea, and aids digestive ailments.
Dosage & Contraindications: If you struggle with PMS or are in the throes of menopause, Hora recommends making a tea from the powdered root and drinking it daily. For those whose hormones aren’t so volatile, she suggests drinking the tea for three to four days before menstruation. To make the tea, steep the powder (or contents of a capsule) in hot water for several minutes and strain, or drink as is. It can also be sprinkled on food. Consult your health care practitioner before combining shatavari with prescription medications.
Superb Herb Sources
Gaia Herbs www.gaiaherbs.com
Living Earth Herbs www.livingearthherbs.com
Om Organics www.omorganics.com
Scarlet Sage Herb Co. www.scarletsageherb.com
© Elizabeth Lipski, PhD, CCN
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