By Ash Stevens
Health insurance is getting more expensive by the minute, and women are losing insurance benefits by the day. Combine that with the growing list of pharmaceutical drugs being recalled or given yet another ghastly known side effect, and a lady is even more inclined to lust for a good 4-8 year nap.
Lucky for us ladies, there are scientists, doctors, and herbalists who are giving us a peek at alternatives to high-priced drugs and the mandatory check-ups that come with them. After doing intense research and taking up herb study through Herbal Academy’s online herb courses, I’ve come across some outstanding herbs that seem to exist especially for women. If you’re a lady in need of some physical, mental, and/or emotional restoration, then these are some of the top herbs that may help get you on your way…
“Wort” is an Old English word for plant. Thus, the name motherwort translates to “mother’s plant.” And ohhhh, is it ever. Motherwort has a long history with women as an anxiety reliever, hormone balancer, and stress reducer. It also has a rep as a uterine tonic which strengthens the uterus and helps it to function easily and effectively. This action makes it a wonderful herb for monthly cycles. In addition to its uterine toning, motherwort also relieves tension and pain — thus making it an excellent herb for the pain and healing immediately following childbirth. “Wise Woman” herbalist Susun Weed swears by it for chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia.
Motherwort is an outstanding herb for the heart. The herb strengthens the heart physically by enhancing circulation, reducing blood pressure and blood clotting, and promoting capillary growth. It also strengthens and soothes the heart emotionally because of it’s subtle sedative and nervine actions through calm anxiety and irritability and promote emotional well being. I haven’t tried motherwort yet, but I have a tincture heading my way. However, I can personally attest to the magic of skullcap — motherwort’s cousin. It’s another mother friendly nervine with powerful benefits for mental and emotional health. I’m such a fan, I won’t buy anything smaller than a 4 0z bottle (and I’m presently harassing Earthwise Organics for 64 oz options).
As an astringent herb, Lady’s Mantle has a tightening and toning effect on the tissues. Thus, its reputation as a wound healer and an organ and tissue strengthener. It’s effect on the organs and tissues have it being prescribed by herbalists to help issues like diarrhea, digestive problems, muscle aches, headaches, and more.
This herb packs many benefits, but Lady’s Mantle is especially popular among women for it’s benefits on the female reproductive system. Herbalists will use it to treat female ailments like hot flashes, abnormal menstruation, cramps, infertility, uterine conditions, and even uterine prolapse. Ladies interested in further herbal reproductive healing can ask their practitioner about red raspberry leaf, mugwort, cramp bark, wild yam, yarrow, and shepherd’s purse.
Red Raspberry Leaf
This lovely leaf possesses many of the uterine toning benefits of Lady’s Mantle, but it’s nutritional value and it’s use during pregnancy earn it a paragraph of its very own. The Herbal Academy states that one ounce of red raspberry leaf offers over 400 mg of calcium and potassium, 106 mg of magnesium, and 3.3 mg of iron. All of these minerals are important to women, with iron and calcium being especially high on the list. Pregnancy creates an even greater demand of these minerals, so a red raspberry leaf herbal infusion is a simple and wonderful way for an expectant mother to care for baby and her body.
While mama is busy drinking infusions for two, red raspberry leaf may help tone and prepare her uterus for birth. Now, there have only been a few very small studies done which don’t offer any real conclusions, but red raspberry leaf has a strong reputation as an herb for pregnancy and childbirth. If it does indeed promote a strong and healthy uterus, then it stands to reason that this uterus is at a lower risk of prolonged labor, birth interventions, postpartum hemorrhaging, and delayed postpartum healing and recovery. I, for one, am all for drinking up to potential midwife tales as I’m getting a glass full of natural and super-cheap vitamins. Cheers to that!
You may not be able to say this herb’s name (psssst, it’s ash-wuh-gahn-duh), but you’ll be a fan regardless. Ashwagandha is one of Ayurveda’s prized adaptogens. The great thing about adaptogens is that they’re safe for regular or long-term use, they’re non-toxic, and they help our bodies to cope with stress by reducing its symptoms and negative side effects. Adaptogens act on the whole body, so they can help strengthen and restore various systems — be they neurological, hormonal, or reproductive.
There are a number of studies documenting ashwagandha’s benefits against inflammation, fatigue, hormonal issues, and more. Other studies show that it can bolster mental clarity and brain function. One study even showed that ashwagandha may improve memory with alzheimer’s. And if it can help with a condition as serious as alzheimer’s, then maybe — just maybe — it can keep moms from mixing up their children’s names with the family pets (this is why I simply refer to my children as “son” or “daughter” — I only have a 50 percent chance of being wrong, so those odds are actually in my favor).
In Ayurveda, tulsi is known as “The Queen of Herbs” and “The Incomparable One.” Here in America, we know it as “Holy Basil.” Obviously, tulsi has quite a reputation, and science has found there to be good cause for this. Tulsi is an adaptogen and it aids our bodies by balancing hormones and regulating the production of cortisol (aka the stress hormone). If there’s one thing women could use less of, it’s the “joys” of wonky hormones and the mental and emotional stress of being a woman with a bajillion to-do’s.
India’s “Queen of Herbs” is even more worthy of our windowsill because tulsi is a powerful ally against cancer. Studies show that tulsi can help people recover from the lingering toxic effects of chemotherapy and radiation. The sacred herb also contains phytochemicals that can help in preventing and possibly even in treating cancer. It’s estimated that one in every eight women is at risk of breast cancer so this is reason alone to start brewing holy basil tea.
Maca is an adaptogen like the fellow Ayurveda allies above, but it hails from South America rather than India. Here, it was prized by the ancient Incans for strength, fertility, and — most important to my fellow ladies — energy! Maca is reputed to banish fatigue by providing energy, balancing hormones, and restoring adrenal health. Studies have put maca against chronic fatigue syndrome (a condition I know as “womaning” and “motherhood”) saw great results. Personally, if I needed a wake-me-up and I had the choice between a quad shot mocha and a maca smoothie, I would go for maca every time. It’s worked beautifully for me. I appreciate it so much, the kitchen cupboard that houses my adaptogens and smoothie makings basically doubles as a shrine.
That sums up the womanly herbal wonders for today. For those of you eager to learn more, I’d suggest starting with books from leading experts in herbs and female health like Dr. Aviva Romm, Rosemary Gladstar, and Susun Weed. And for online info and herbal education, be sure to check out the amazing blog and courses from The Herbal Academy and their team of expert herbalists. I just started taking Herbal Academy’s introductory herb course, and the information and course structure goes way beyond what I had hoped for. If you REALLY want to learn herbs, then Herbal Academy is an amazing place to start.
But before you leave to buy Amazon books or eCourses…. Have you tried any of these herbs? What are your favorites and who are your favorite suppliers? We all want to know!
Ash Stevens is a gardener, a writer, and a fan of all things green. Her love for health and sustainability began with her journey into motherhood, and it’s grown exponentially ever since. She’s passionate about living a healthy lifestyle through gardening, cooking, and spending time outdoors. If she isn’t writing or reading up on exciting green trends, she’s probably playing Connect Four or swimming in the river with the kids. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter.