I've come to find that my relationship with herbs is ever-changing. I have those that I love on a consistent basis, but I gravitate towards a different handful at a time. I believe it's important to pay attention to the directions we're endogenously pulled in. Perhaps, for example, I've fallen in love with Motherwort, in one moment, to fulfill a nutrient or energy lacking within me at that time. That may be a bit farfetched for some, but nevertheless here are a few of my current herbal faves for supporting a woman through perimenopause:
As I brainstormed what I wanted to highlight about Black Cohosh, I ended up going down a rabbit hole of information, as anyone could easily do given the number of studies done on this root. Most fascinating to me are the mechanisms of action. Black Cohosh is touted for relieving menopause symptoms, most notably hot flashes. This is because black cohosh is rich in phytoestrogens, which contain isoflavonoids, substances that are chemically similar to the estrogens our bodies' produce. These phytoestrogens modulate our own estrogen levels, an excess of which is thought to be the culprit behind complaints like hot flashes. Through estrogen modulation, black cohosh offers support for vaginal dryness, excessive sweating, and moodiness as well.
Licorice also has estrogen-like affects, similar to black cohosh, but the reason I love to recommend it is because it is an adaptogen. Through regulating the stress hormone cortisol, women can lighten the load for the adrenal glands, freeing them up to produce estrogen and progesterone when the ovaries no longer can. I have to put in a word of caution to not supplement with licorice too long and to be cognizant of possible herb-to-drug interactions. One of the many active constituents in licorice, glycyrrhiza, can cause hypersensitivity to a hormone in the adrenal cortex, which can result in elevated blood pressure, headaches, or even heart attacks. To be safe, consider cycling on and off with licorice for about a month. If you're taking any type of blood pressure medication, please consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner.
I have such a special spot for Motherwort, affectionately referred to as the mothering herb. Its latin name, Leonurus cardiaca, means lionhearted. It's a calming herb and is wonderful for menopausal symptoms and cardiovascular health alike. Herbalist Susan Weed described motherwort in detail, saying, "Menopausally mad women take motherwort." It's said to relieve a rapid heartbeat and soothe frayed nerves. Catherine Hunziker, owner and formulator for WishGarden Herbs, has likened it to a mother's comforting embrace. For those more emotional symptoms, motherwort pairs well with nervines like passionflower and skullcap.
I have to thank Catherine Hunziker for introducing me to Borage aerials as a deeply nourishing tonic for the adrenal glands. I knew of borage as an excellent source of the important omega-6 fatty acid, gamma linoleic acid (GLA); but for herbal adrenal support, I was more familiar with the more popular adaptogenic herbs like Holy Basil, Ashwagandha, and ginseng. Borage offers support for women in a few different ways. As a source of GLA, borage supports hormone balance and skin health. Dry skin is often a common complaint for many women in perimenopause. The aerials of the plant make a wonderful tonic to restore fatigued adrenal glands. It acts as a sedative on the nervous system, uplifting mood while calming nervous conditions.
Dong Quai translates to "state of return." Also known as angelica, it's typically prescribed by Chinese healers in combination with other herbs and seems to be more effective in formulation. For bone health, Dong Quai's been shown to stimulate proliferation of bone cells, while increasing collagen synthesis. Bone health is yet another common concern amongst perimenopausal women due to the role of estrogen in bone health. Dong Quai is also another source of those important phtyoestrogens and lignans that help modulate estrogen balance.
Worth an honorable mention is the Peruvian root, Maca. Offering support for adrenals, hormones, and energy production, Maca root is a favorite amongst many women and men. Perhaps in another post I'll shine more light in Maca's direction.
"Chapter 10: Menopause." Women's Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine: Alternative Therapies and Integrative Medicine, by Tori Hudson, Keats Publishing, 1999, pp. 155-157.
Writer Danielle Cicak is the Northern Colorado and Wyoming Sales Representative and Regional Educator for WishGarden Herbs located in Louisville, Colorado. In 2003, Danielle began her career working in the supplement aisles at Natural Grocers. Inspired to help others with their health and wellbeing, she pursued an education in holistic nutrition from the Nutrition Therapy Institute in Denver, Colorado. As a Master Nutrition Therapist (MNT), Danielle served as a Nutritional Health Coach (NHC) before advancing to become the NHC Development Specialist where she led and developed the NHC training program for Natural Grocers. As a Colorado native, Danielle is thrilled to work with another local, family-owned business that promotes health and activism through education: WishGarden Herbs! In her free time, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, creating healthy dishes in her kitchen, and enjoying the beauty Colorado has to offer!
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or to sell any product.