Amidst the ebbs and flows of modern living, women’s health remains a paramount fixture in the back of our minds. Our wellbeing demands constant attention and yet we often push self care to the furthest reaches of our to-do list. Self care, in this instance, goes beyond bubble baths and self-guided meditation: at the core of female wellness lies the delicate balance of hormones and natural fluctuations.
Hormonal balance is an intricate dance that when disrupted may potentially result in a plethora of health issues. On the surface we may experience anything from irregular menstrual cycles, acne, weight changes, bloating, hair thinning, and body temperature spikes. Less visibly we may encounter changes to our libido, our disposition, anxiety, fatigue, and even fertility concerns.
Fortunately, nature provides. A timeless tradition of herbal remedies are available in support of women’s hormonal health. From the soothing powers of raspberry leaf to the phytoestrogenic properties of dong quai, let’s delve into the centuries-old practice of herbalism and explore specific botanicals for the balance and vitality of female bodies.
What are phytoestrogens?
Phytoestrogens, often called dietary estrogens, are naturally occurring estrogen compounds that come from plants. The subject is complicated, but put simply, estrogen is a hormone that (among many other things) regulates the body’s menstrual cycle. Many foods and plant-based supplements containing phytoestrogens, such as the herbs listed here, can be a useful source of estrogen.
As always, consult a licensed medical practitioner to ensure any new regime is appropriate for your unique needs. Always speak with a professional if experiencing significant changes to your health, and check for interactions when pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking any new medications or supplements.
Chasteberry, Vitex agnus-castus, sometimes simply referred to as Vitex, has been used for centuries to support women's hormonal health. Lush with beautiful violet flowers and delightful palm-like leaves, its use as a supplement most commonly derives from its fruit.
Chasteberry contains compounds that may help regulate the pituitary gland, responsible for hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle. Chasteberry may alleviate symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), such as bloating, and mood swings (1).
Those of us who experience breast tenderness may find use in this lovely plant. It may also be helpful for women experiencing irregular periods or fertility issues. Although further research is needed, many women report positive results from using it as a natural alternative to hormone therapy (2).
Dong Quai, often called “female ginseng,” is commonly found in traditional Chinese medicine in support of women's hormonal health. It is a curious, fragrant root from the celery family and contains compounds believed to have estrogen-like effects in the body. Dong Quai is often used to alleviate symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, and migraines. It may also be helpful in regulating the menstrual cycle, reducing cramps, and improving overall reproductive health (3).
Dong Quai is safe when used in recommended amounts, however, it can interact with certain medications, including blood thinners (4) so be certain to consider the wonderful Dong Quai with mindfulness and intention when incorporating it into your supplement routine.
Find Dong Quai in our expertly formulated Optimized Female Balance.
Black Cohosh, a name that so elegantly rolls off the tongue, is a perennial herb that looks to belong in a fairy garden (poetically, it is often called Fairy’s Candle). Dating back to the earliest forms of traditional indigenous medicine, black cohosh supplements are often derived from its potent roots. Its compounds are believed to have estrogen-like effects in the body.
Black Cohosh is taken in cases of hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings (5). Those with temperature regulation problems may find the Fairy Candle most illuminating.
Find Black Cohosh in OHV's Optimized Female Balance
Red Clover, also known as Trifolium pratense, is a beautiful sprawling meadow herb and friend to pollinators. It contains compounds called isoflavones, which are similar to estrogen and may help alleviate symptoms of menopause, including hot flashes and night sweats (6). Red Clover is believed to support bone health (doubly important for maturing bodies) and may have a protective effect against heart disease (7).
As a charming bonus, red clover’s delicate purple-pink flowers have a sweet, honeyed flavour and make a delightful fresh garnish for summer home cooking. The dried herb makes a lovely addition to teas, tinctures, or capsuled blends.
Maca is a root vegetable commonly seen in herbal blends aiding male virility, but has wide applications across all genders. It is native to the Andes mountains of Peru and contains compounds that may help regulate the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, which are responsible for producing hormones that affect the menstrual cycle (8).
Maca is often used to boost libido and fertility, and it is not uncommon for men to reach for this potent root, but women experiencing lulls in their libido or wishing to increase their performance in the gym may absolutely benefit from this ancient herb as well.
Maca is typically found in powdered or capsule form, including in OHV's Optimized Female Balance. Raw powder is easily mixed into sauces and smoothies with its subtle, bitter-sweet earthy flavour.
Ashwagandha, also known as Withania somnifera, is a jolly and plump little shrub commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine for both stress and women's hormonal health. Supplements are derived from the root of the plant and contain compounds that may help regulate the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, which subsequently regulate the menstrual cycle.
Ashwagandha is often used to alleviate symptoms of stress, anxiety, and mood swings (9). May easily be added to coffees, teas, or found ready-made in hot chocolate elixirs: ashwagandha’s brilliant calming capabilities are quickly gaining traction even in mainstream culture.
The sweet and candy-like Licorice root contains compounds that may have estrogen-like effects in the body. It potentially alleviates symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, mood swings, and vaginal dryness (10). Licorice root is also believed to have anti-inflammatory properties, which may help reduce inflammation related to hormonal imbalances such as cramping and bloating.
Not only is licorice root useful in a holistic sense, it is deliciously sweet tasting and often found in root beers and distilled spirits. It is also very common in teas and botanical treats. You may also try it to ease digestive complaints, such as after a heavy meal, as licorice root is known to decrease dietary related bloating.
Believed to have toning and strengthening effects on the uterus and pelvic muscles, Raspberry Leaf may help prepare the body for childbirth and alleviate menstrual cramps. Raspberry leaf is also believed to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which may help reduce inflammation related to hormonal imbalances. Those with particularly severe pain during menstruation or endometriosis, or preparing for pregnancy and delivery, may benefit from raspberry leaf’s pain relieving capabilities (11).
If pregnant and considering a herbal regime, always consult your doctor to rule out any interactions or potential risks to your unique needs.
Turmeric, also known as Curcuma longa, is a vibrant coloured spice commonly used in cooking and traditional medicine. It contains a compound called curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Inflammation and oxidative stress can disrupt hormonal balance in the body, so turmeric may be helpful in reducing symptoms related to hormonal imbalances, such as menstrual cramps, acne, and mood swings. Turmeric may also be helpful in managing conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and endometriosis, which can cause hormonal imbalances and inflammation (12).
Individuals who experience joint pain, inflammation, or arthritis may be well familiar with turmeric already, as it is well documented as an effective anti-inflammatory.
Cook with raw organic turmeric abundantly, prepare a delicious Golden Mylk Latte, our very own Earth’s Aromatique Turmeric Tonic Tea, or consider turmeric encapsulated in our Opti A.I Extra.
Stinging nettle contains a variety of nutrients and bioactive compounds, including vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, which can support overall health and reduce inflammation in the body. Inflammation can disrupt hormonal balance, so stinging nettle may be helpful in reducing menstrual cramps, acne, and mood swings. It may also be considered when addressing PCOS and endometriosis. Stinging nettle may also help to support the kidneys and urinary system, which are involved in regulating hormones and eliminating excesses from the body (13).
Aside from its medicinal applications, stinging nettle is deeply nutritious. It is often wild harvested in the spring months and blanched to remove its notorious sting. Find it in Earth’s Aromatique, already cut and dried for easy incorporation into soups, sauces, and stews. Discover Earth's Aromatique's Nettle Leaf.
Honour the body
As we close this article and go about our day, we mustn’t forget that our bodies are precious gifts. Particularly for women, the balance of hormones is particularly crucial to wellness, although we must always hold space for natural fluctuations.
Our botanical allies are shown to support hormonal health and may offer relief from various ailments common to female bodies. With the simple incorporation of precious plants into our lives, we can connect to the ritual and ceremony of self-care, honoring our bodies and nourishing our spirits.
Optimum Health & Kolya invites you to explore the herbal world, try new things, and incorporate these health-forward botanicals into your daily routine. May we all find peace, balance, and radiant health through the healing power of nature.
- Carroll DG. Nonhormonal therapies for hot flashes in menopause. Am Fam Physician. 2006..
- Vitex agnus-castus. Natural Medicines website. Accessed at naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com in May, 2023.
- Carroll DG. Nonhormonal therapies for hot flashes in menopause. Am Fam Physician. 2006.
- Kupfersztain C, Rotem C, Fagot R, Kaplan B. The immediate effect of natural plant extract, Angelica sinensis for the treatment of hot flushes during menopause. A preliminary report. Clin Exp Obstet Gynecol. 2003.
- Leach MJ, Moore V. Black cohosh (Cimicifuga spp.) for menopausal symptoms. Cochrane Database. 2012.
- Gardner Z, McGuffin M, eds. American Herbal Products Association’s botanical safety handbook. Second ed. 2013.
- Kanadys W, Baranska A, Jedrych M, et al. Effects of red clover (Trifolium pratense) isoflavones on the lipid profile of perimenopausal and postmenopausal women—A systematic review and meta-analysis. Maturitas. 2020.
- Gonzales GF. Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands. 2012.
- Singh N, Bhalla M, Jager P, and Gilca M. An overview on ashwagandha: a Rasayana (rejuvenator) of Ayurveda. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2011.
- Armanini D, Fiore C, Bielenberg J, et al. Licorice. Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. 2010.
- Costea, Teodora & Vlase, Laurian & Gostin, Irina & Olah, Neli-Kinga & Predan, Gențiana. Botanical characterization, phytochemical analysis and antioxidant activity of indigenous red raspberry (Rubus Idaeus L.) leaves. 2016.
- Nelson KM, Dahlin JL, Bisson J, et al. The essential medicinal chemistry of curcumin. Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. 2017.
- Stinging Nettle. Natural Medicines website. Accessed at naturalmedicines.therapeuticresearch.com in May 2023.