Herbs for Women

In this time of Covid-19, we are all becoming more aware of our vulnerability as human beings.  But learning about how we can naturally stay healthy using alternative methods is going to become more commonplace as we all make the journey into this new Covid-19, and virus vulnerable world.  If we actively pursue learning, we can empower ourselves with the self-knowledge that the old "granny midwives", and our Post-WWI and WWII ancestors knew.  From the book "Herbal Healing for Women," I make the following post.  Please be aware that this is not to diagnose or prescribe, and it is not being stated in any way as a cure for anything.  It is more a nutritional suggestion — please consult with your provider before using anything herbal or alternative.

Herbs for Women

(Rosemary Gladstar pages 111-113)

There are many remarkable healing herbs used specifically for the female system.  They serve as tonics, feeding and nourishing the reproductive system, and many are also used for healing specific ailments by herbalists.  The following herbs are Rosemary Gladstar’s favorites, and they are the ones most often used in her herbal work with women.  (For a detailed description of each of these herbs, please see the Materia Medica in Part II of this book).

  • Angelica (Angelica archangelica)
  • Black Cohash (Cimicifuga racemosa)
  • Black haw (Viburnum prunifolium)
  • Blue Cohash (Caulophyllum thalictroides)
  • Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)
  • Cramp Bark (Viburnum opulus)
  • Don quai (Angelica sinensis)
  • False Unicorn Root (Chamaelirium luteum)
  • Ginger (Zingiber offiicianle)
  • Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza globra)
  • Motherword (Artemisia vulgaris)
  • Nettle (Urtica dioica)
  • Pennyroyal leaf (Hedeoma pulegioides and related species)
  • Raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus, R. strigosus)
  • Squaw vine (Mitchella repens)
  • Vitex (Vitex agnus casus)
  • Wild yam root (Dioscorea villosa)
  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

Though all of the above herbs are used frequently for the female system, they each have different properties and physiological actions and are indicated for different needs and specific actions.  It is important to have a basic understanding of the primary actions of these herbs on the reproductive system.  This will help you choose the most appropriate herb(s) for each situation and also give you a rudimentary understanding of how and why each herb is working.  The following categories characterize the major physiological action of herbs used for the female system.  Since herbs are multifaceted and have many actions, most will fit into one or more categories.

Uterine Tonics

These herbs are specific for toning and strengthening the whole female reproductive system.  They are generally extremely potent in vitamins and minerals.  They feed and nourish the reproductive organs, are used for restoring vitality and balance, and give general tone to the system.  They are generally recommended for use over long periods of time and have little or no known side-effects.  Some examples of uterine tonics are black cohosh root, comfrey root and leaf, dong quai root, ginger root, licorice root, motherwort leaf, nettle leaf, squaw vine, strawberry leaf, and vitex (chaste berry).

Emmenagogic Herbs

These herbs help stimulate and promote normal menstrual flows.  They are very beneficial for relieving menstrual cramps and for bringing on suppressed, or delayed menstruation.  While many emmenagogues are also uterine tonics, some promote menstruation by irritating, or stimulating the uterine muscles.  Be sure that you know whether the emmenagogue herbs you are using primarily promote menstruation through a tonic, nourishing action, or through a stimulating or irritating action.  Some examples of emmenagogic herbs are:  Angelica root, black haw, blue cohash, cramp bark, dong quai root, false unicorn root, ginger root, motherwort leaf, mugword leaf, pennyroyal leaf, squaw vine, and yarrow flower and leaf.

Hormonal Balancers and/or Regulators

These are herbs that balance and normalize the functions of the nedocrine glands.  They balance estrogen production and regulate the activity of these and other hormones.  Hormonal balancers are useful in all aspects of menstrual dysfunction.  Contrary to popular opinion, they do not actually contain hormones, but are considered hormone precursors.  They provide the necessary elements, or building blocks to produce hormones.  Most are also considered prime "liver" herbs, since much of the activity of hormonal production is dependent on the health of the liver.  Some examples of hormonal balaners are:  Black cohosh, black haw, dong quai root, false unicorn root, licorice root, vitex (Chaste Berry), and wild yam root.

Uterine Contractors

These herbs promote uterine contractions and are used for stimulating delayed menstruation, stimulating contractions during prolonged labor, and as abortifacient agents.  Some of these herbs contain oxytocin, which encourages the production of prostaglandins in the body.  High levels of prostaglandins in the system stimulate uterine contractions.  Some uterine contractors work by stimulating blood flow to the uterus.  Other uterine contractors cause contractions by irritating contractors are actually toxic and should be avoided.  Though these herbs are a potentially helpful group, you should be sure to understand them, and their particular function well before using them in your herbal work.  Some examples of uterine contractors are:  angelica, blue cohosh root, cotton root bark, parsley root and leaf, pennyroyal leaf and flower, rue leaf, and tansy leaf.

Stay tuned for the next posting which we will talk about herbs during pregnancy!


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