The Super Simple Guide to Healing Herbs--Part Two
MANAGING THE MONTHLY CYCLE of hormonal ups and downs—mood swings, headaches, menstrual cramps, assorted energy drains—drives many of us to reach routinely for ibuprofen, antidepressants, sleeping pills, and other drugs just to stay on an even keel. But for generations, herb-savvy women have been turning to the plant world for nontoxic, natural remedies for these common complaints. It’s time we revisited those simple cures, urges Rosemary Gladstar, founder of Sage Mountain Herb Center in Barre, Vt., and author of the classic Herbal Healing for Women (Fireside, 1993). Given the high price of health care and the stresses of daily life, herbs are more relevant than ever, she says. “Treating yourself with home remedies is the easiest, least invasive, and oftentimes most effective treatment.” All it takes is a little know-how.
Problem MENSTRUAL CRAMPS
Solution CRAMP BARK (Viburnum opulus)
Dose Take one to two droppers of tincture in water every two hours as needed.
Proof This Native American herb is a safe and effective alternative to ibuprofen. “Cramp bark is a uterine sedative,” says author Brigitte Mars. “It reduces inflammation, relaxes spasms, and calms an overactive uterus so effectively it’s often used by midwives to halt premature labor.” Studies have shown that cramp bark has an antispasmodic effect on smooth muscle fibers like those found in the uterus and large intestine.
Problem HOT FLASHES
Solution SAGE (Salvia officinalis)
Dose Make a tea of one tablespoon dried sage steeped in one-cup hot water 15 minutes or more; strain and cool. Drink up to three cups a day. If you don’t like the taste, put the tea in a spray bottle (after it has cooled completely) and spritz it on your neck.
Proof “Sage has been passed down from generation to generation in Western herbal tradition as the sure-fire cure for hot flashes,” explains Bastyr University’s Sheila Kingsbury, N.D. It’s such an effective astringent that it’s been approved in Germany as a treatment for excessive sweating for both men and women. “Sage was also used in Native American cultures to clear negative energy so it may help ease some of the irrational fears that can cycle through your head during menopause,” says herbalist Margi Flint.
Problem HEAVY PERIODS
Solution YARROW (Achillea millefolium)
Dose Take two droppers of tincture every half hour until bleeding slows.
Proof Yarrow is the go-to herb for heavy menstrual bleeding, says Gladstar. “It slows excessive bleeding, relieves pelvic congestion, reduces cramping, and flushes out the liver so estrogen and progesterone are processed more efficiently,” she says.
Solution NETTLE (Urtica dioica)
Dose Make a tea of one tablespoon dried nettle herb steeped in a cup of hot water for at least 30 minutes (or overnight); drink warm, three cups a day.
Proof “Nettle tea is a rich plant-based source of iron, chlorophyll, and folic acid. It also contains vitamin K, which helps blood clot, so it’s great if you tend to get a little anemic because of heavy periods,” says Mars.