Should You Try Seed Cycling For Hormonal Balance? Probably Not…

Published on June 30, 2023

By Kristen Boye BS, Natural Health

Kristen Boye

Kristen Boye is a natural health expert, writer, copywriter, and editor. Kristen was raised on an organic farm in British Columbia which inspired her life’s work. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Natural Health, is a Certified Natural Foods Chef, co-owner of a medicinal herb farm, and is a natural foods and children’s health advocate. Kristen lives with her husband and two children on their medicinal herb farm in Western North Carolina.

If you’ve been researching natural solutions for hormonal health, periods, or menopause, you’ve likely come across seed cycling.

Seed cycling is a relatively new health trend involving eating certain seeds during the menstrual cycle.

Proponents of seed cycling claim this can help support optimal hormonal balance and ease unwanted symptoms.*

It seems simple enough, but does it work?

Despite its growing popularity on social media and endorsements from well-known integrative health experts, the efficacy of seed cycling has yet to be proven.

However, there is some truth to this widespread health trend.

In this article, you’ll learn more about what seed cycling entails, the myths and facts about the science, the benefits of eating certain seeds, and herbal complements or alternatives.

What is Seed Cycling?

Seed cycling is a modern diet that involves eating certain seeds during the two phases of the menstrual cycle, the follicular phase and the luteal phase.

Seed cycling is believed to have been created by a naturopath over ten years ago and has since become a hot health trend.

The theory is specific seeds contain nutrients and plant compounds that may exert hormonal balancing effects when eaten at specific times of the month.

The seeds recommended for seed cycling are generally:

  • Flaxseeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Sesame seeds

Some practioners may also recommend chia seeds or other types.

Here’s what a typical seed cycling protocol looks like:REF#2130

  • During the follicular phase of your cycle (days 1-14 approximately): Eat pumpkin seeds and flax seeds
  • During the luteal stage of your cycle (days 15-28 approximately): Eat sunflower seeds and sesame seeds

You repeat this for as long as your practitioner recommends to achieve and/or maintain hormonal health.

So, Has Seed Cycling Been Proven To Support Hormonal Health?

In short: the answer is no.

Despite its popularity and anecdotal claims to fame, the studies supporting seed cycling as a solution for menstrual difficulties, fertility, and hormonal imbalances are weak or lacking.REF#2130

However, like many health trends, there is some truth within the seed cycling theory (which we’ll explore in the next section).

What is true is certain seeds, including those recommended in the seed cycling diet, contain plant compounds that may support hormonal balance—no matter when they are eaten.

Here’s how this works.

How Seeds in the Seed Cycling Diet May Support Hormonal Health In Women

So, the cycling part of the seed cycling diet is a moot point.

However, the plant compounds and nutrients in the recommended seeds may benefit women. 

Let’s unpack some of the science behind the seeds in the seed cycling diet.

Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are one of the healthiest seeds available for women due to their wealth of nutrients and plant compounds, including:

    • Phytoestrogen polyphenol compounds: These exert an estrogenic-like effectREF#2130
  • Zinc: This supports various aspects of reproductive and menstrual health REF#2131
  • Lignans and flavones: These may benefit estrogen balance REF#2132

Pumpkin seeds are widely available and can be eaten raw, roasted, or blended into smoothies or pestos.


Flaxseeds have long been considered a “superfood” for their ratio of essential fatty acids, especially omega-3s.

Other plant compounds in flaxseeds, including phytoestrogen compounds and lignans, have also been shown beneficial for various aspects of women’s hormonal health, including:

  • Supporting hormonal balance in post-menopausal women REF#2133
  • Lengthening the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle REF#2134
  • Supporting estrogen metabolism in post-menopausal women REF#2135

Flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, and flax meal are now easy to find at any natural foods or grocery store. 

The seeds and meal are typically blended into smoothies, used as egg replacers, or taken as a tea with honey. It is recommended you refrigerate them to maintain freshness, especially flax meal.

Flaxseed oil can also be added to smoothies and dressings or taken straight and must be refrigerated.

Sunflower seeds 

Sunflower seeds are high in vitamin E and selenium, which may support progesterone production and liver detoxification of excess estrogen.REF#2130

Sunflower seeds are great for snacking and salads. Sun butter makes a great nut-butter alternative. Additionally, ground sunflower seeds add a boost of nutrients to granola, pancakes, yogurt, or applesauce.

Sesame seeds

Sesame seeds are high in zinc and lignans, which may support progesterone balance.

They also supply calcium for bone health; and essential fatty acids for hormonal health and inflammatory response.REF#2130

Sesame seeds, sesame oil, and various sesame snacks and seasonings can be found in nearly any grocery store and natural foods market.

The bottom line is these seeds contain various phytonutrients and plant compounds that may support your menstrual cycle, menopause, fertility, and overall hormonal balance.

However, it doesn’t appear necessary or beneficial to cycle them versus consuming them all month long.

That said, there isn’t any harm in seed cycling, either. 

So if you’d like to experiment and see if you benefit from cycling versus regular consumption, it should be safe.

Always check with your healthcare practitioner if you have a pre-existing condition, allergies, or any other concerns.

3 Herbal Alternatives To Seed Cycling

If you’re looking for other natural ways to support hormonal balance, these herbs may be able to help.

Check with your healthcare practitioner for individual recommendations.

#1: Maca Root

Maca root, also known as Peruvian Ginseng or Lepidium meyenii, is a cruciferous vegetable native to the Andes mountains. REF#2136

Maca is an adaptogen that helps the body adapt and thrive under times of physical, mental, and emotional stress.*

Here’s what research has revealed about Maca’s potential benefits for women’s health:

  • Maca may help support hormonal health in women via its effects on hormone production,REF#2137 REF#2138 HPA (hypothalamus pituitary adrenal) and HPG (hypothalamus gonadal adrenal) axis function,REF#2138 and stress response
  • Maca may provide relief for menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, sleep disturbance,REF#2139 mental/emotional well-being, and support normal blood pressure REF#2140 REF#2141

Learn more about Maca in: 9 Ways Maca Benefits Women’s Health, Hormones, And Happiness.

#2: Black Cohosh

Black Cohosh is a staple in traditional herbalism for supporting women during menopause.

Black Cohosh has been shown to promote menopausal health by:

  • Improving hot flashes, cognitive health, and bone health either taken alone or in combination with Red Clover or St. John’s Wort REF#2142 
  • Reducing menopausal symptoms without affecting estrogen levels REF#2143 
  • Supporting mental and emotional health REF#2143

#3: Vitex/Chastetree

Vitex Berry, also known as Chastetree or Chasteberry, is cherished by traditional herbalists for supporting women’s health.*

Its common use is for menstrual challenges, including various premenstrual syndrome symptoms. 

Here’s what studies have shown about the potential benefits of Vitex for hormonal health:

  • Vitex has been shown effective for relieving PMS symptoms, including cravings, depression, anxiety, and hyperhydration REF#2145
  • Vitex supports healthy prolactin levels, which can reduce breast tenderness REF#2146 REF#2147
  • Vitex may also support women during menopause by reducing hot flashes and supporting mood REF#2148

Vitex Berry is also approved for the treatment of premenstrual syndrome by the German Commission E. 

Learn more about Vitex in: What Is Vitex Berry?

To Recap What We Know About Seed Cycling

The cycling part of seed cycling does not appear to be beneficial based on current research.

However, the seeds may impart hormonal health, inflammatory response, and nutritional benefits when eaten at any time of the month. 

Consistency is likely important, so check with your healthcare practitioner for individual recommendations.

Herbs, such as the ones we’ve discussed here and others, may also help promote hormonal health.

Want more information on balancing hormones naturally? Check out the following articles:


  • 1. Deeptimayee Mahapatra, Jwngsar Baro and Mamoni Das, "Advantages of seed cycling diet in menstrual dysfunctions: A review based explanation", The Pharma Innovation Journal 2023; 12(4): 931-939.
  • 2. Nasiadek M, Stragierowicz J, Klimczak M, Kilanowicz A, "The Role of Zinc in Selected Female Reproductive System Disorders.", Nutrients. 2020 Aug 16;12(8):2464. doi: 10.3390/nu12082464. PMID: 32824334; PMCID: PMC7468694..
  • 3. Richter D, Abarzua S, Chrobak M, Vrekoussis T, Weissenbacher T, Kuhn C, Schulze S, Kupka MS, Friese K, Briese V, Piechulla B, Makrigiannakis A, Jeschke U, Dian D, "Effects of phytoestrogen extracts isolated from pumpkin seeds on estradiol production and ER/PR expression in breast cancer and trophoblast tumor cells", Nutr Cancer. 2013;65(5):739-45. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2013.797000. PMID: 23859042..
  • 4. Hutchins AM, Martini MC, Olson BA, Thomas W, Slavin JL., "Flaxseed consumption influences endogenous hormone concentrations in postmenopausal women", Nutr Cancer. 2001;39(1):58-65. doi: 10.1207/S15327914nc391_8. PMID: 11588903..
  • 5. Phipps WR, Martini MC, Lampe JW, Slavin JL, Kurzer MS., "Effect of flax seed ingestion on the menstrual cycle", .
  • 6. Brooks JD, Ward WE, Lewis JE, Hilditch J, Nickell L, Wong E, Thompson LU., "Supplementation with flaxseed alters estrogen metabolism in postmenopausal women to a greater extent than does supplementation with an equal amount of soy.", Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Feb;79(2):318-25. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/79.2.318. PMID: 14749240..
  • 7. da Silva Leitão Peres N , Cabrera Parra Bortoluzzi L , Medeiros Marques LL , Formigoni M , Fuchs RHB , Droval AA , Reitz Cardoso FA, "Medicinal effects of Peruvian maca (Lepidium meyenii): a review.", Food Funct. 2020 Jan 29;11(1):83-92. doi: 10.1039/c9fo02732g. PMID: 31951246..
  • 8. Uchiyama F, Jikyo T, Takeda R, Ogata M., "Lepidium meyenii (Maca) enhances the serum levels of luteinising hormone in female rats.", J Ethnopharmacol. 2014 Feb 3;151(2):897-902. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2013.11.058. Epub 2013 Dec 11. PMID: 24333960..
  • 9. Julio Aviles et al.,, "Peruvian Maca and Possible Impact on Fertility", DOI:10.15406/jnhfe.2017.06.00217.
  • 10. Ross K., "Nutritional management of surgically induced menopause: A case report.", Womens Health (Lond). 2021 Jan-Dec;17:17455065211031492. doi: 10.1177/17455065211031492. PMID: 34253105; PMCID: PMC8280844..
  • 11. Stojanovska L, Law C, Lai B, Chung T, Nelson K, Day S, Apostolopoulos V, Haines C., "Maca reduces blood pressure and depression, in a pilot study in postmenopausal women.", Climacteric. 2015 Feb;18(1):69-78. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2014.929649. Epub 2014 Aug 7. PMID: 24931003..
  • 12. Brooks NA, Wilcox G, Walker KZ, Ashton JF, Cox MB, Stojanovska L., "Beneficial effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on psychological symptoms and measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women are not related to estrogen or androgen content.", Menopause. 2008 Nov-Dec;15(6):1157-62. doi: 10.1097/gme.0b013e3181732953. PMID: 18784609..
  • 13. Kenda M, Glavač NK, Nagy M, Sollner Dolenc M, On Behalf Of The Oemonom., "Herbal Products Used in Menopause and for Gynecological Disorders", Molecules. 2021 Dec 8;26(24):7421. doi: 10.3390/molecules26247421. PMID: 34946512; PMCID: PMC8708702..
  • 14. Liske E, Hänggi W, Henneicke-von Zepelin HH, Boblitz N, Wüstenberg P, Rahlfs VW., "Physiological investigation of a unique extract of black cohosh (Cimicifugae racemosae rhizoma): a 6-month clinical study demonstrates no systemic estrogenic effect.", J Womens Health Gend Based Med. 2002 Mar;11(2):163-74. doi: 10.1089/152460902753645308. PMID: 11975864..
  • 15. Loch EG, Selle H, Boblitz N., "Treatment of premenstrual syndrome with a phytopharmaceutical formulation containing Vitex agnus castus.", J Womens Health Gend Based Med. 2000 Apr;9(3):315-20. doi: 10.1089/152460900318515. PMID: 10787228..
  • 16. Samara Levine and Ozgul Muneyyirci-Delale, "Stress-Induced Hyperprolactinemia: Pathophysiology and Clinical Approach", Volume 2018 | Article ID 9253083 |
  • 17. Carmichael AR., "Can Vitex Agnus Castus be Used for the Treatment of Mastalgia? What is the Current Evidence?", Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2008 Sep;5(3):247-50. doi: 10.1093/ecam/nem074. PMID: 18830450; PMCID: PMC2529385..
  • 18. Naseri R, Farnia V, Yazdchi K, Alikhani M, Basanj B, Salemi S, "Comparison of Vitex agnus-castus Extracts with Placebo in Reducing Menopausal Symptoms: A Randomized Double-Blind Study", Korean J Fam Med. 2019 Nov;40(6):362-367. doi: 10.4082/kjfm.18.0067. Epub 2019 May 9. PMID: 31067851; PMCID: PMC6887765..