I can say with assurance that one of the best and most important things that has happened in my life was discovering that herbs can support and heal my body.
You've probably heard my story before... that I never had regular periods, so after taking Provera at least a dozen time to bring on a period, my gynecologist finally put me on the birth control pill at age 17.
On the pill, I gained 20 pounds, developed acne and became seriously depressed. Whether from the sheer fact that I was now an 17 year old with acne or from the hormones themselves, probably a combination of the two, the reality was that I was not happy.
I didn't really think I 'needed' a regular period. I didn't particularly like to bleed.
But even at that young age, I think I had an inkling that there was more to this "period" situation than my magazines or maxi-pad commercials let on.
I spent 4 years trying different versions of "the pill" - one made my boobs gigantic, and not in a good way. One gave me vulvadynia and I was constantly itchy. One gave me recurrent yeast infections. And one made me so depressive I nearly dropped out of collect.
In my senior year, I discovered acupuncture.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
I discovered that herbal medicine, which is often an important part of an acupuncture treatment, can regulate, ease and manage a woman's reproductive health without all the crazy side effects I had been experiencing.
After 3 months of regular acupuncture sessions and herbal formulas, I stopped taking the birth control pill. Over the course of a few months, my period regulated. I actually, for the first time in my life, began to have a regular monthly period ON MY OWN!!
Not only that, but my mood stabilized, I didn't have the crazy PMS I use to have when my period was due. My skin cleared up. My digestion eased out. I lost weight. And... probably most importantly, I started to be able to pay attention to and feel my body's natural shifts throughout the month.
Yes, I had more energy mid-cycle than in the 2nd half. Yes, I needed more protein after ovulation. Oh wow... I needed more sleep before my period. I liked more invigorating exercise after my period.
Since then, I've built my career around helping women at every stage of their lives use herbal medicine to support their bodies and regulate their reproductive health.
While we've often discussed herbs for fertility, herbs for menopause, herbs for post-childbirth... we haven't yet discussed herbs for pregnancy.
In her book, Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year, Susan S Weed says
"Excellent nutrition during pregnancy... includes pure water, controlled breath, abundant light, loving and respectful relationships, beauty and harmony in daily life, joyous thoughts and vital food...."
"...most of the problems of pregnancy can be prevented by attention to nutrition. Morning sickness and mood swings... backaches, hypertension... varicose veins, hemorrhoids, constipatioin, skin discoloratioin and anemias... pre-eclampsia..."
While a good quality pre-natal can of course help contribute to adequate nutrition, in addition to quality whole foods, the addition of herbal teas and tinctures can be excellent remedies for some of the ailments that arise during pregnancy. It's often during pregnancy that we start to pay closer attention to what we put on and in our body, and may tend to avoid taking even over-the counter medicines.
My favorite pregnancy herbals are all of the ones I include in my Blissful Mama Tea for pregnancy support. I developed this tea when I was pregnant with my firstborn, Leo, over 13 years ago... and over thousands of women have consumed it during their pregnancies as well, supporting their body with the calcium and magnesium rich plant allies.
They include the following:
Raspberry leaf: can tone the uterus, rich in Vitamin C and C and easily assimilated calcium and iron, as well as many minerals, including potassium. Because it tones the uterus, many people think this is an emmenogogue, which would encourage contraction, but it's not. It doesn't promote contraction, but can make the contractions during labor more effective because of it's uterine toning properties
Nettle Leaf: Rich in Chlorophyll, vitamins and minerals. Can support the kidneys, ease muscles cramps and spasm, prevent after birth hemorrhage, rich in vitamin K and can increase hemoglobin, reduces hemorrhoids, can increase the richness of breast milk
Lemon Balm: Calmative, can reduce anxiety and support calm and sleep
Dandelion: Rich in Calcium and potassium, can promote healthy blood pressure, supports the liver
Orange Peel: warms the stomach and can prevent heartburn
Yellow Dock: An excellent source of non-constipating iron, can reduce headaches and tension, can promote good sleep
Wild Yam: Warms the stomach, can prevent morning sickness and heartburn, can promote natural progesterone, which is needed to maintain pregnancy.
Ginger: Warms the stomach, can prevent morning sickness and heartburn