|Beneficial herbs for women
SOME women with pre-menstrual syndrome
(PMS) experience primary physical symptoms such
as headaches, bloating, water retention, breast
tenderness, acne and food cravings. Others are
bothered more by emotional responses such as
irritability, anger, sadness and nervousness.
The exact cause of PMS is unclear but may involve
imbalances of female hormones, adrenal hormones,
brain chemicals and certain nutrient deficiencies. Low
levels of calcium, magnesium and vitamin B6 have also
been implicated in PMS.
In middle life, as fertility is reduced, hormonal
cycles become erratic. Menopause is the point at
which monthly periods cease. Peri-menopause is the
"warm-up period to that point. This period may be
uncomfortable as both oestrogen and progesterone
levels fall, women may begin to experience episodes
of hot flashes and sweating. Vaginal tissues may
also become thinner and drier (making sex less
Over the ages, women have learned how to use
herbs to ease cycles and changes. Recent scientific
research has validated many of these remedies.
A research article published in the May 2003 issue
of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology
reviewed an integrative approach to PMS. Emphasis
was given to an increased intake of legumes,
vegetables, whole grains and cold water fish and
limiting the intake of red meat, sugar, salt and
caffeine. Regular exercise has been shown to help
improve symptoms of PMS.
Beneficial herbs include dong quai, sage, red clover,
black cohosh and soy. The best researched of these
herbs are black cohosh and soy. In a German study
published in Maturitas in 2003, women aged 40-60 randomly received either 40mg of black cohosh,
0.6mg conjugated oestrogen or a placebo. The herb
was equivalent to oestrogen in controlling peri-
menopausal symptoms and protecting bones. While
oestrogen stimulated cell division in the uterus (raising
the risk of cancer), black cohosh did not.
Soy and other legumes contain isoflavones, which
act as a phyto-oestrogen (weak plant oestrogen) in
the body. Studies found that soy modestly improved
peri-menopausal symptoms. Good sources include
cooked soybean, tempeh, tofu and fortified soymilk.
Other sources of isoflavones are red clover, legumes,
sunflower seeds and whole-grains.
Undue stress raises levels of the adrenal hormone cortisol and the pituitary hormone prolactin. Prolactin
stimulates milk production in the breasts of nursing
women. Excess prolactin in the circulatory system may
inhibit ovulation and causes menstrual irregularities,
diminished libido, depression and hostility. When you
are stressed, interest in sex wanes and may worsen
both pre-menstrual and peri-menopausal syndromes in
To de-stress, you'll need to address the underlying
issues such as a bad diet, insufficient sleep, lack
of exercise, conflicted relationships, work-related
problems and a poor social life. Adopting relaxation
techniques such as yoga, exercise, meditation and
simply enjoying a hobby will be beneficial.