Throughout a woman's life cycle, there are a number of natural transitions dictated by the hormones, which are our bodies' messengers. From the onset of menses, through child-bearing years and into the natural shift to menopause, a woman's body is designed to evolve and change.
Beyond healthy lifestyle choices - including a nutritious diet, regular exercise and healthy adaptations to life's daily stresses - there are plenty of ways that women can support their hormonal and reproductive wellness.
Here are five herbs for women's health.
Supports a healthy female reproductive system, especially during natural transitions.*
A plant native to North America, Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa) supports a healthy female reproductive system.* Black Cohosh, recognized by its small, feathery white flowers, has been used since the 1800s to support natural hormonal transitions throughout a woman's life.* The root contains active constituents called triterpine glycosides, which are often standardized in modern herbal preparations.
Supports the optimal production of breast milk.*
Fenugreek seeds support the optimal production of breast milk, and they are also used to help maintain healthy blood sugar metabolism.* The seeds smell faintly of maple syrup, and they are often used in maple-flavored foods. A plant that's indigenous to the Mediterranean, Fenugreek's seeds are nutritious sources of B vitamins, vitamin C and beta carotene. The Latin name (Trigonella foenum-graecum) for Fenugreek means Greek hay, as it is frequently used to add nutrition to cattle feed.
Supports a healthy libido and normal fertility.*
Maca is knobby root vegetable that resembles a turnip, which is a relative of this native Peruvian plant. Maca grows best in the harsh environment of the high Andes, where the Inca warriors used it as a caffeine-free performance enhancer.* Maca root (Lepidium meyenii) is still used to support healthy energy and stamina, and it is also used to support a healthy libido in women (and men).* Recent research has shown that it can support natural fertility by helping to maintain normal reproductive hormone levels.* It has a delicious, somewhat nutty taste, and the powdered form of this herb can be added to smoothies, juice or oatmeal.
A rich source of naturally occurring phytoestrogens.*
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense) has long been used to support women's health.* A rich source of naturally occurring phytoestrogens, it encourages healthy detoxification and promotes healthy skin through its support for the body's lymphatic functions.* Red Clover is a highly nutritive plant, and it supports the body during menopause.* This herb, which is often used as food for grazing livestock, grows from North America across Europe into the Far East; as such, it has a rich history of use in Russian and Chinese herbalism.
Supports female hormone production and balance, especially during the transitions of life.*
Healthy hormone levels are necessary for physical and emotional wellbeing.* Vitex has been used since the time of Hippocrates to support gynecological health, particularly for the changing seasons and cycles of life.* It has traditionally been used to support hormone production and balance.* This herb's berries promote a healthy mind and body throughout the menstrual cycle and during the transition into menopause.* Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus) is also called Chaste Tree. Its Latin name means "chaste lamb," and in ancient times its leaves were strewn at the feet of clergy in an effort to keep them as the plant's name implies!
(These herbs are not intended for use during pregnancy; please consult with your health-care professional before using any herbs during pregnancy or while breast-feeding.)