Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a disorder that has undergone many changes in diagnostic criteria over the last 30 years. Previously, the diagnosis was based on the presence of polycystic ovaries (PCO): an increased number of follicles in each ovary and/or an abnormally large ovarian volume. But the multi-system involvement in PCOS has led to multiple versions or subtypes of the disorder. PCOS and PCO are associated with metabolic and hormonal dysfunction including insulin resistance and the resulting high levels of androgens, such as testosterone. The result of this dysfunction is the characteristically high number of immature follicles within the
The beauty of being a woman living with the cycles of the Moon and the Earth is sacred. Within every person lives a divine feminine womb space worthy of consideration and care. Similar to the principles of yin and yang, there is a balance of feminine and masculine energy within us all; fire and ice, movement and rest, the Sun and Moon. When we honour both the physical and energetic womb space as identifying women, we welcome smooth flow and balanced hormones.
In today’s modern world, hormone imbalances are becoming increasingly prevalent. An imbalance can look like anything from mood swings, health issues, skin eruptions, food cravings, fatigue, painful periods, irregular periods, and infertility just to name a few. There are several root causes for this including environmental pollutants, exposure to harmful chemicals, chronic stress, pharmaceutical intervention and the standard North American diet for example. From a traditional Botanical Medicine perspective, there are ways to heal from and prevent hormone imbalances. Tending to reproductive health is as important as protecting any other system in the body.
It is impressive the positive impact that botanicals have on the identifying woman and womb specific problems. It is important to have access to herbs when we are healing but also realize that there are many preventative therapies that can support a woman throughout all stages of their life. So much focus in the health industry is put on repairing what is unhealthy, but if we can shift our approach to maintaining holistic health early on, the stress placed on the body can be reduced, thereby minimizing difficulties. When we approach health from an empowered position, we can spend more time appreciating the cycles we go through instead of resenting them.
Despite being taught for centuries that women’s cycles are “dirty” or something to be ashamed of, as a collective we have begun to oppose this propaganda and embrace this natural part of life. When we go back to our roots, we find simplicity and natural rhythms free from fear. It is there that we find the people’s medicine: Botanical Medicine.
Botanical Medicine is one of the most ancient of the healing arts. Every culture has a rich history with Plant Medicine and one can continue to witness its remarkable and persistent influence even in our modern era. What the mystics and healers intuitively knew five thousand years ago is now being backed by science. Therein lies the beauty of the art and the science of healing, joining together.
Throughout the ages, herbs have been worked with to assist the rhythmic functions of the body. There are herbs that have been used in both energetic and physical womb space healing. These herbs may be hormone modulating, hormone balancing, they may work on the nervous system or musculoskeletal system, they may be specific to the detoxification organs or reproductive organs or both. A single herb can have many different actions on the body.
This must be prefaced by saying that it is impossible to summarize the impact a single herb may have on the body in one article. Plant medicine is profoundly layered and sacred. The relationship one has with botanicals takes place over lifetimes of knowledge and experience. It is impacted by cultural aspects, teachings, and access to specific plants. Many practices have been passed down from one generation to the next through stories, song, and ancient rituals; others through written word preserved throughout history or revealed via scientific study. Therefore, please take the initiative to strengthen your own relationship with our plant kin, both those discussed in this article and beyond. Discover which ones resonate with you. Perhaps some call to you because of your ancestry or because of where you are in your cycle or healing journey. Regardless, become familiar with these plants as though they are your friends; know them by name as well as by appearance. Familiarize yourself with their history, purpose, function, growth habits, and native origins. You will begin to recognize these plants as familiar friends and their medicine will become all the more powerful.
Different Herbs are worked with during various stages of life or personal health goals. Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), native to North America, has been useful for hypoglycaemic or near menopausal women.
Red raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus), native to North America, is one of the most famous and widely used tonic herbs as it has been known to tonify the uterus and reduce menstrual flow. The alkaloid responsible for the tonification and nourishment of the uterus and pelvic region is fragarine.
Cramp Bark (Viburnum opulus), native to Europe, has been found to be beneficial for those experiencing painful uterine cramps as it is a wonderful uterine nervine and is quite specifically targeted to relax the uterine muscles.
Energetically, Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), native to South Eastern Europe and central Asia, is as comforting as a mothers hug, hence its name, which is a lovely go-to for those experiencing emotional irregularities. It is also considered a menstrual balancer, pelvic decongestant and cycle regulator. Furthermore, Motherwort is known for its ability to relieve cramps and reduce nervous stress. It is also a wonderful herb for menopausal women.
Catnip (Nepeta cataria), native to Europe, Asia and Africa, is useful for procuring menses. Borage (Borago officinalis) native to the Mediterranean, is known to relieve melancholy, comfort the heart and lift the spirits. Rose (Rosa damascena), from the Eastern Mediterranean region, has both an energetic and physical affinity to the womb space as it has also been known to lift the spirits, regulate menses and strengthen the heart, stomach and liver.
Studies on the berries of Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus), native to the Mediterranean, have shown to stimulate the pituitary gland, which is the gland that regulates the menstrual cycle. Chaste tree can be turned to when normalizing the menstrual cycle and increasing fertility is the objective.
Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) from Asia is a wonderful Herb for treating adrenal exhaustion and balancing hormones for the woman experiencing chronic fatigue during their cycle.
Nettle (Urtica dioica), native to Europe and North Africa, is one of the best all-around women’s tonic herbs. It is a wonderfully rich source of assimilable iron, calcium, and vitamin A. It is very useful during pregnancy to help relieve water retention, improve vitality, and enrich the flow of mother’s milk post pregnancy.
Schisandra Berry (Schisandra chinensis) native to China, is an adaptogenic herb rich in antioxidants and has traditionally been known to help balance hormones and protect the adrenal glands. It has been widely used to assist our body’s ability to cope and adapt to stress. Furthermore, it is anti-inflammatory and nourishes the liver.
This is not an extensive botanical list. There are numerous ways to approach womb space health from an energetic and physical perspective with herbs. The intention with this article is to reveal that many people live with hormone imbalances and womb space health issues; so much so that cyclic pain and discomfort have become normalized. The good news is that these problems are not normal but instead are symptoms of an imbalance within the body. With the right botanical protocol, nutrition, lifestyle and patience, a healthy cycle can be achieved. As a general rule, give the body three lunar cycles (three months) to regulate itself when starting a new protocol. The body is incredibly vital and when put in the right environment, it will do everything it can to heal, sometimes even at miraculous speeds. However, regardless of the health goals you are hoping to achieve, please consider how long it took your body to arrive at this state and give it the time and space it needs to dismantle and repair the disease (or dis-harmony). Be gentle with yourself.
Culpeper’s Complete Herbal: Consisting of a Comprehensive Description of Nearly All Herbs with Their Medicinal Properties and Directions for Compounding the Medicines Extracted from Them, by Nicholas Culpeper, Illustrated & Annotated ed., Sterling, n.d., p.47.
Natural Healing Wisdom & Know How: Useful Practices, Recipes, and Formulas for a Lifetime of Health, by Amy Rost, Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2008, p. 101.
Panossian, Alexander, and Georg Wikman. “Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress—Protective Activity.” Pharmaceuticals, vol. 3, no. 1, 2010, pp. 188–224., doi:10.3390/ph3010188.
Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health, by Rosemary Gladstar, Storey, 2009, p. 204-205.