"We can be happier, healthier and smarter if we weave more nature into our lives"
Women’s health is an umbrella term to refer to the physical and mental health problems that exclusively effect women, or which are more common in women, or which in some way, can display differently in women when compared to men. When we think of women’s health , we often think specifically of health issues that may by hormonally driven, such as menopause, menstrual cycle problems (including migraines and headaches) or other reproductive related issues, but mental health and cardiovascular diseases and other health areas mentioned on this site are also very relevant here too, but for this page we will be focusing mainly on women’s health from a hormonal perspective, which includes pregnancy too.
For some women, the word hormone is enough to bring them out in a state of panic, anxiety or gloom. These people are the ones where hormones, in some shape or form, are affecting them negatively in some way. This could be in a physical way or in a mental and emotional way as hormones can affect us in so many different ways (both positive and negative), but despite them been a nuisance to many people, hormones play an integral role in a person’s overall health, but if they become inbalanced or change during times of the menstrual cycle, menopause, pregnancy or other health condition they can be a real cause of misery and can severely affect the quality of life for many women.
The healing physical and mental affects that nature can provide can help support, and in some cases alleviate, some of the health issues that are commonly experienced by women.
Found abundantly covering fields, meadows and the grass verges of country lanes, red clover is actually part of the legume (bean) family. Its helpful effects in alleviation of menopause symptoms mainly stem from the fact Red clover contains a phytooestrogen called Isoflavone. A phytoestrogen is a naturally-occurring plant nutrient that exerts an oestrogen-like action on the body. During the menopause our natural oestrogen levels start depleting, so phytoestrogens can be very helfpul in alleviating sympotoms caused by that drop in natural oestrogen. Reserach has shown that red clover can be helfpul in reducing hot flushes and hot sweats during the menopause and may also have a positive effect on bone density too, which is lost during the menopause due to a decline in oestrogen levels.
One debilitating symptom of menopause can be insomnia and disturbed sleep, which not only severely effects energy levels but is detrimental to mood too. Cherries contain melatonin, which is the hormone that helps regulate and control the sleep cycle, so consuming cherries or cherry juice before bed can be helpful in improving sleep patterns. Cherries are a general powerhouse of nutrients and are an excellent source of antioxidants. Antioxidants are powerful substances that help protect the body from damage, as they help fight the oxidation process, which is a chemical reaction that leads to cell damage. The hormone oestrogen is actually a strong antioxidant, so during the menopause when oestrogen levels are diminishing, we suddenly have less of this natural antioxidant in our body. This means that we have less natural protection against the oxidation process and are more prone to oxidative stress, which amongst other things is responsible for premature aging.
This flowering plant, native to North America, is part of the buttercup family and has a long history of use in supporting womens reproductive health. No suprises then that science shows it elicits some excellent benefits for the menopause. Research has shown that Black Cohosh is helfpul for reducing the severity and number of hot flushes as well as improving some of the common psychological symptoms of the menopause such as depression and low mood, which can have a huge negative impact on quality of life during the menopause.
The herb sage has been used for centuries for its medicnal properties and many menopausal women have reported positive effects on their symptoms whilst taking sage, including reduced hot flushes and night sweats, improved energy and reduced anxiety. Research pubilshed in 2019, in the International Journal of Reproductive Biomedicine concluded that the severity of hot flushes, night sweats, panic, fatigue, and concentration levels significantly improved when consuming extract of sage. One easy way of ingesting sage is by making a fresh sage leaf tea by chopping 3-4 grams of fresh sage leaf, covering with 150lm of boiling water and leaving to stand for 10 minutes, before then stirring, removing the leaves and then drinking. Sage supplementation is likely most effective for more severe symptoms.
Although the scientific evidence for use of evening primrose to alleviate menopausal symptoms is mixed, many women have sworn by its effectiveness for centuries. Some evidence has shown that evening primrose oil may offer relief from hot flushes, night sweats, mood changes and breast pain as well as skin outbreaks that have a hormonal cause. Evening primroses provide a rich source of omega-6 fatty acids content, specifically fats called gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and linolenic acid. The body uses GLA to produce prostaglandins, which are hormone-like compounds. By increasing prostaglandin production, the evening primrose oil may well support the reduction of the hormonal changes associated with menopause and provide relief to the common symptoms mentioned above. You can even burst an evening primrose oil capsule and apply the oil directly to the skin as it can help alleviate skin dryness and hormonal acne, which can also be common conditions of menopause.
Why Chamomile is a Girls Best Friend When it comes to Menstruation
Chamomile is widely known for its sedative and calming properties, but it is less commonly known for its medicinal and therapeutic effects associated with the menstrual cycle. From menstrual cramps, to PMT and heavy bleeding, no wonder ancient Egyptians used this flower to honor the Gods.
Over 60% of women experience menstrual cramps and as Chamomile has anti-spasmodic effects, it has been shown in studies to alleviate the pain so often experience with menustration. If you suffer with heavy periods, then chamomile can be beneficial here too as studies have shown it can be effective at reducing the amount of menstrual bleeding.
Now PMT, in some women, can be totally debilitating and hugely affect quality of life. Symptoms can range from anger, irritability, low mood and anxiety and with chamomile shown to have anti-anxiety, anti-depressive and sedative/calming effects, it can help bring relief to these common PMT symptoms.
Chamomile is most commonly consumed as a tea, but interestingly, even just inhaling the essential oil of chamomile has shown to still elicit an anti-stress affect and relieve mild depression and anxiety.
So when hormones are raging and your period is due, remember this little flower because it could really help you!
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