Herbal and nutritional supplements have been traditionally used in treating and enhancing women's health for a long time. Premenstrual syndrome, menopause, and other difficulties can respond favorably to natural medicine. There is, however, confusion as to which remedy to take, when to take it, and how long it should be continued. The question also arises as to how to combine an herbal remedy with other nutritional supplements for maximum effectiveness.
Although all natural medicine prescriptions should be individualized for optimal results, there are many effective general programs to try. A good herbal program rotates botanical remedies and combines them with synergistic nutritional supplements in an organized and rational manner. I have found that this type of system greatly enhances effectiveness and works in conjunction with natural body rhythms. By using natural remedies in specific cycles, the body remains more responsive and clinical results improve dramatically. This is especially true for women who tend to have sensitive metabolisms due to the complexity of the menstrual cycle and fluctuating hormone cycles.
Herbal programs for women are based upon the 4 weeks of the menstrual cycle. The first phase (weeks 1 & 2) involves the transition from menstruation to ovulation. The second phase (weeks 3 & 4) deals with the ovulation to menstruation process. Using herbal and nutritional supplements that support metabolic functions during these two distinct phases is the key to obtaining optimal results.
In the first phase, we find that toning the body by "nourishing" the blood and balancing the hormones is most beneficial. During this time, the hormones are building as the estrogen prepares the body for ovulation and potential fertilization of the egg. The two most important herbs during this first phase are Dong Quai and Red Raspberry leaf. Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis root) is the noted Chinese herb that is used as a blood tonic. It contains micronutrients known for their blood building properties (iron, vitamin B12, and vitamin E). Dong Quai balances estrogen in the body, and is traditionally used in China to regulate the menstrual cycle. Red Raspberry (Rubus idaeus leaf) is a rough equivalent to Dong Quai in Western herbology. It is a blood tonic and blood builder with hormone-regulating and uterine-toning properties.
Because Dong Quai is "warming" in nature, and Red Raspberry leaf is "cooling", I prefer to use a blend of these two herbs. As a combination they are neutral, and may be used on a long term basis to treat a variety of menstrual complaints.
During the second phase, there is a metabolic shift in the body. The hormone Progesterone predominates, as it prepares the uterus for possible implantation of the fertilized egg. It is also during this time that the liver comes under the most stress. It is responsible for the balance of "favorable" estrogen with "unfavorable" estrogen, as well as the balance of estrogen with progesterone. The liver often becomes congested during these last two weeks of the cycle, causing the hormonal balance to fluctuate. Premenstrual symptoms are the result. It is interesting to note that recent advances in Western physiology point to this dysfunction in liver metabolism. However, for over 2,000 years Chinese medicine has diagnosed the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome as a problem with liver function.
So, we find that "clearing" the liver is the preferred treatment plan for the second two weeks of the menstrual cycle. The Western herb Dandelion and the Chinese herb Bupleurum are effective in taking congestion out of the liver. Liver cleansing formulas with these herbs as the principal ingredients are beneficial. The nutrients Choline, Inositol, and Methionine (known collectively as "lipotrophic factors") are also excellent for stabilizing liver function.