Herbal Wisdom for Women’s Health
For many thousands of years, plants have existed alongside humans, bringing joy by way of heady fragrances and visual botanical delights, as well as more practical needs such as food, medicine and shelter. Along the way, through much trial and error, humans have discovered myriad medicinal uses for different plants, helping overcome all manner of maladies. Of these, some are conducive specifically to supporting women’s health, providing gentle support for reproductive health, emotional symptoms and hormonal balance.
Renowned herbalist Susun Weed describes these plants as allies; the description playing an important role in illustrating the healing relationship we have with medicinal plants. We are, in a sense, working together with the plant to achieve optimum health.
Plants work on a deep level to treat the causes as well as the symptoms of disease. There are plenty of herbs which can be incorporated into everyday practice as preventatives and also gentle curatives to heal, nourish and balance.
It is recommended that you see a naturopath or herbalist with your specific health complaints to ensure you are getting the best possible combination of herbs for your individual needs.
Having an understanding of the medicinal actions of plants is crucial to your own healing process, leaving you informed and empowered in your own health journey; a Wise Woman, in control of her health.
Below we explore three different plants traditionally used to support women’s health.
Raspberry Leaf, Rubus idaeus.
Women are, quite literally, the carriers of life. This is no easy feat and therefore it’s important for the trying-to-get-pregnant ladies out there to support themselves and stay nourished. Thankfully, raspberry leaf is high in Vitamins A, B, C and E, and has significant amounts of major minerals including iron, calcium and magnesium which play important roles in regulating hormones. Herbalist Susun Weed recommends drinking at least one cup of an infusion of raspberry leaf daily to promote fertility and tone the uterus in preparation for pregnancy.
Raspberry leaf has been credited as reducing the severity of pain and duration of labour. A study at Westmead Hospital found that women who drank raspberry leaf tea throughout their second and third trimesters of pregnancy were “less likely to receive an artificial rupture of their membranes, or require a caesarean section, forceps or vacuum birth.” Pretty impressive for a fruity little plant.
Oat Straw, Avena satvia.
In addition to health concerns focusing on fertility and female reproductive hormones, women have other unique health concerns. One of these is the susceptibility to osteoporosis in later years.
Oat straw supports bone health, due to its high levels of calcium and combination of vitamins which ensure proper calcium absorption. It also stimulates the release of luteinizing hormone which encourages cell growth. This may aid in bone cell production and provide overall support for bone health.
Oat straw is also rich vitamins and minerals, supports the nervous system and has a calming, sedative effect. Herbalist Rosemary Gladstar recommends oat straw as part of a PMS tea blend to help soothe nerves and promote restful sleep.
The name oat straw typically refers to green oat grass, which is harvested in the ‘milky’ phase before the oat grain is fully developed. It can be dried and drunk as an infusion or taken as a tincture for a nutrient boost and in the treatment of PMS. It’s incredible that this one little plant, harvested at the right stage of growth, can provide so much support and nourishment specifically for women.
Vitex, Vitex agnus-castus.
Ah, hormones… They play such an interesting and crucial role in our bodies, but they can also occasionally attempt to ruin your life. Right? Luckily, there are plant allies that can help. Vitex, also commonly known as chaste tree berries, is high on the lists of many herbalists who treat women with wayward hormones. It aids in normalising menstrual cycles, promoting ovulation, and relieves tender breasts, as well as emotional symptoms related to PMS. In some cases, it may also assist in treating acne related to the menstrual cycle. It is generally prescribed where there is an imbalance of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone.
Clinical herbalist Kari Radoff recommends a continuous use of vitex for at least three months to start seeing the effects. A tincture should be taken three times daily, and can be taken in combination with other herbs such as oat straw, dong quai and lemon balm to soothe menstrual symptoms.