Among the most common problems for women are those involving the reproductive system. As women with personal experience in this area, we will focus first on several female problems. This topic has been the subject of many good books; we recommend Herbal Healing for Women by Rosemary Gladstar, Herbal for the Child-Bearing Years by Susun Wees and Hygeia: a Woman's Herbal by Jeannine Parvati Baker (see bibliography).
PMS and Menstrual Cramps
The more researchers learn about hormonal substances called prostaglandins, the more obvious it becomes that they can cause PMS (premenstrual syndrome) and menstrual cramps. Certain prostaglandins called PG2 can be responsible for headaches, bowel changes, nausea, breast tenderness, joint pain and water retention, and contribute to moodiness, irritability and alcohol cravings-all common PMS symptoms. Ginger, cinnamon, cloves, thyme and garlic lower PG2 and can be eaten in foods. Relieve menstrual cramps with essential oils of chamomile, lavender, marjoram and melissa. For depression associated with PMS, nothing is better than clary sage, but you may also try neroli, jasmine and ylang-ylang. If you experience water retention, use grapefruit, carrot seed and juniper.
Any of these essential oils (except garlic) can be used as a massage or bath oil. If headache is among your PMS symptoms, try inhaling lavender, marjoram or melissa. (For best results with any PMS or menstruation remedy, begin using it a couple of days before symptoms are expected.)
For problems related to hormonal imbalance, treat the liver with carrot seed, rosemary, helichrysum and rose. To encourage menstruation, use clary sage. Most women's conditions benefit from the use of the balancing lavender, geranium and rose.
Menstrual Cramp Oil
4 drops lavender
2 drops marjoram
2 drops chamomile or clary sage*
3 drops geranium
1 drop ginger
1 ounce carrier oil (infused oil of yarrow)
Combine ingredients. Apply to abdomen, hips and lower back.
*See Materia Medica "Considerations."
Many women have experienced at least one bout of yeast infection, which is usually easy to control. Chamomile, lavender, bergamot and tea tree inhibited about 70 percent of candida growth in laboratory experiments. Although opinion varies among gynecologists as to whether common yeast infections can be transmitted between sex partners, it's safest to treat both individuals.
Douching has met with criticism in recent years because some gynecologists fear it can upset the normal vaginal balance of a healthy woman or spread infection into the uterus. If done gently, however, douching is a good way to treat vaginal infection. Be sure to suspend the bag no higher than shoulder level so that the flow of water isn't too strong.
An appropriate essential-oil blend can also be applied to the abdomen or used in a bath. Another recommendation is to soak a tampon-or better, a small, soft natural sea sponge-in water containing essential oils. Use two sponges and alternate, sterilizing sponges between use by gently boiling or soaking in vinegar with a few drops of lavender oil. (Rinse well before using.)
Tea tree or lavender are very effective for vaginal yeast. We recommend caulophyllum or yarrow oil as a carrier oil.
1 drop thyme (chemotype linalol only)
1 drop chamomile
1 drop lavender
2 drops tea tree
2 drops bergamot
1 drop geranium
2 cups of warm yarrow tea