Solution ASHWAGANDHA (Withania somnifera)
Dose Take two 500 mg capsules two times every day.
Proof In Ayurvedic tradition, ashwagandha is the great vitalizer, says Ayurvedic practitioner Will Foster. “It’s called the Indian ginseng, but it has more than just a tonic effect. It balances scattered energy, which means that when stress or hormonal changes leave you feeling drained, ashwagandha can help fill up your tank.” The herb’s name means “smell of a horse”—a deliberate nod to the strength and vitality of horses, says Foster. “Take ashwagandha when you need to increase your horsepower.”
Solution KAVA KAVA (Piper methysticum)
Dose Take one dropperful of tincture in warm water as needed (but not to exceed three doses a day). You can take it every day, but not for more than a consecutive three-month period.
Proof Kava kava is native to Polynesia and Melanesia, where it was traditionally used as an intoxicating herb for ceremonies and celebrations. In small doses, though, it can calm anxiety. “It relaxes the musculature while it clears the mind,” explains Gladstar, who often prescribes the herb for everyday stressors like airplane flights, public speaking, work presentations, and interpersonal confrontation as well as for symptoms of PMS. “The herb was often used to calm combatants within tribes or families,” she notes. “It is said that when kava enters the heart, there can be no hate. It dispels frustration so you can work through conflict and find peaceful solutions.”
Contraindication Kava kava should not be taken with alcohol, or used by anyone with hepatitis or other serious liver disease. Avoid while pregnant.
Problem LACK OF CONCENTRATION; LOSS OF MEMORY
Solution WATER HYSSOP (Bacopa monnieri)
Dose Take one 500 mg capsule, twice daily. Foster suggests starting off slowly—perhaps with a 100 mg dose twice daily—and increasing the dosage in 100 mg increments up to the recommended 1000 mg a day. “If the herb makes you feel spacey (or increases existing feelings of spaciness), that’s a sign you’re taking too much too fast,” he advises.
Proof Used in Western European, Chinese, and Indian herbal traditions, this herb is called brahmi in Sanskrit, which means consciousness. It can help if you feel particularly distracted or scattered just before or during your period as well as for everyday focus. “Bacopa can sharpen concentration, memory, and overall intelligence, and it also promotes longevity,” says Foster. Its ability to improve mental performance (by enhancing nerve impulses between cells in the brain) has been documented in multiple studies in the United States and abroad.
Solution VALERIAN (Valeriana officinalis)
Dose Take two 500 mg capsules one hour before bedtime as needed.
Proof Many studies have affirmed the safety and efficacy of valerian for treating garden-variety insomnia—a common problem during menopause. “It works in the same way Valium or Xanax does, but the effect is much milder; There is no hangover afterward nor any risk of addiction,” says Kingsbury. There’s just one catch: “It’s a reliable sedative for most people, but a small percentage will get jazzed up instead,” she cautions. ˘ Contraindication Don’t take valerian if you’re taking prescription sleep aids.
WHERE TO FIND IT
FOR BULK HERBS, TEAS & TABLETS
Mountain Rose Herbs (mountainroseherbs.com)
Frontier Natural Products Co-op (frontiercoop.com)
Banyan Botanicals (Ayurvedic) (banyanbotanicals.com)
FOR HERBAL TINCTURES, OILS & GLYCERITES
Herb Pharm (herb-pharm.com)
Gaia Herbs (gaiaherbs.com)
OUR PANEL OF HERB EXPERTS
MARGI FLINT, author of The Practicing Herbalist (EarthSong Press, 2005)
WILL FOSTER, L.Ac., an Ayurvedic herbalist in Knoxville, Tenn.
ROSEMARY GLADSTAR, founder of Sage Mountain Herb Center in Barre, Vt., and author of Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health (Storey Publishing, 2008)
SHEILA KINGSBURY, N.D., chair of the Botanical Medicine Department at Bastyr University
BRIGITTE MARS, author of The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine (Basic Health Publications, 2007)