Herbs to support your menstrual cycle
Our menstrual cycle is a delicate balance. Diet, stress and external factors can all influence the timing and duration of our bleed time. They also have a role to play when it comes to experiencing other symptoms associated with our period, including PMS, skin troubles and cramping.
If you’re someone who struggles with issues around your bleed time, it can be tricky to know what to do. Herbs aren’t often discussed as a treatment option, but there are a number that can support our health.
Here to explain some of her favourite herbs for supporting menstruation is Chantal Perkins, a naturopath and medical herbalist at Healing Herbs Holistic Therapies.
Please note: This article is intended only as an entertainment piece for general interest. Please seek advice from a professionally trained herbalist before starting any herbal remedies. These remedies are not recommended to be taken during pregnancy.
Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris) is a perennial plant native to Europe and North Asia. Its cloak-like leaves catch dew drops and has long been a favourite of many herbalists.
“It’s been used for centuries for over-relaxed conditions,” says Chantal. “What I mean by that is things like excessive bleeding during menstruation, leucorrhoea (thick vaginal discharge) and any other excessive secretions. It helps to tighten up the pelvic area.”
Lady’s mantle is often used as an astringent and anti-inflammatory for heavy periods and may also help with irregular periods.
“It’s especially good for adolescents and menopause,” says Chantal. “It’s useful for bringing on menstruation. Some people find it effective for painful periods and can help with cramps if taken regularly for two months.
“On an emotional level, Lady’s mantle is a very supportive herb and can help those with deep-seated anger and trauma. It gives people strength and courage. I often use this herb if I know if someone has suffered from sexual abuse.”
Cramp bark (Viburnum opulus) is a striking tree with red berries. It gets its name due to its effectiveness in relieving cramps and has long been used for relieving period pains.
“It has an antispasmodic and relaxing action,” says Chantal. “It has very good relaxing qualities and is so good for relaxation in general.”
The bark of the tree is used in herbal medicine. It works as a sedative and tonic for the uterus, helping to soothe pain.
“It’s also an astringent making it good for heavy periods, especially during adolescence and menopause,” adds Chantal.
The chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) - specifically its berries - is used in herbal medicine to offer support to women’s health. It’s thought that this herb has a progesteronic effect, leading to an increase in progesterone production.
“It’s an all-round hormone balancer,” explains Chantal. “It works to regulate the pituitary gland and as a result can be good for conditions like PCOS and endometriosis. It’s also good for infertility and absent periods.”
Due to its balancing effects, chaste berry can a really useful herb to take if you’ve recently stopped taking the contraceptive pill. Taken over a period of months, it can help to regulate your cycle once more.
“I’ve also seen it have positive results for acne,” says Chantal. “It can be helpful for other pre-menstrual conditions too such as mouth ulcers, headache and mood swings.”
This herb is found in the forests of China and Japan. The root of dong quai (Angelica sinensis) is used in herbal medicine, with it proving useful for conditions associated with blood deficiency.
“It’s good for painful or irregular periods,” explains Chantal. “Dong quai is a hormone regulator and stimulates menstrual flow. You wouldn’t want to give it to someone with heavy periods as it increases blood flow.”
“With this in mind, you wouldn’t use dong quai if a person was taking something like Warfarin.”
Plus, as Chantal explains, dong quai can be nourishing and have a calming effect due to its hormone balancing actions.
“It’s also a general tonic for nervous exhaustion,” she says. “It can be helpful for building someone up. It’s nourishing for weak conditions – such as women with long menstrual cycles or anaemia.”
While blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) is a flowering plant, it’s actually the root that’s used in herbal medicine to support the menstrual cycle.
“Blue cohosh is relaxing and balancing - it acts as an anti spasmodic,” says Chantal. “It can be useful for inflamed or painful ovaries. It also helps to soothe cramps and migraines.
“It’s a tonic for the uterus, helping to balance menstrual flow.”
What’s more, blue cohosh can help to support your mental health, providing some much-needed calm.
“It’s an excellent herb for irritability,” explains Chantal. “Because of this, it’s useful for PMT as it has a calming and relaxing action on the nerves.”
Chantal has had a lifelong passion for nature. As she grew older, she became curious as to how a connection with nature could help to treat illness in the body and mind. Chantal read about herbs, essential oils and different healing energies, before training in reflexology.
This was closely followed by training as a Crystal Therapist, Reiki Master, LUXOR Light practitioner and eventually completing a degree in Herbal Medicine.