Women's Health and Herbal Medicine
by Corinna Wood
So much of women’s health revolves around our reproductive cycles and the corresponding hormonal cycles. I get countless questions about the estrogen/progesterone balance. Women want to understand more about their PMS, endometriosis, fibroids–or to how to support their fertility, a healthy pregnancy, or menopause.
In these times, many girls and women tend to have high levels of estrogen, or what’s being called “estrogen dominance,” in large part to the xenoestrogens found in pollutants such as plastics, pesticides, and bovine growth hormones, which find their way into our food and water supplies. This estrogen dominance is being found to contribute to many of women’s chronic reproductive system health issues.
Taking steps to balance the hormones is helpful for many reproductive illnesses as well as easing common issues such as PMS or the menopausal transition. Some ideas:
- Healthy fats not only help the liver process toxins but also support cholesterol, which is one of the most important compounds in the body and plays a huge role. Medically, it is considered the mother of all hormones as the body uses it as a building block to make all other hormones as needed. Healthy fats include raw organic butter, cheese, and raw coconut oil.
- Try to reduce toxins in your life in all forms. Eat as much organic food as possible, get good drinking water, don’t use a microwave, avoid plastics, x-rays, and all harmful chemicals (e.g., nail polish, synthetic perfumes, off-gassing from carpets).
- Support natural progesterone in your life to balance your hormones. Nettle infusion supports our bodies with phytosterols (plant hormones) and Vitex extract supports the pituitary gland which helps regulate estrogen and progesterone.
May our children someday live on a planet that is creating more balance than we seem to be. Until then we must protect ourselves from illness and nourish ourselves deeply so we have energy to continue creating the world we want to inhabit.
by Lee Warren
They are so early. They even arrive before the violets. And before little bud and tree leaf-outs. The only ones who hit spring harder are the dandelions–who by now, most of the way into March, have bloomed many times over.
Senecio aureus is now apparently Packera aurea. Named for John Packer at the University of Alberta, Canada who has been differentiating those Senecio species originating in the old world (Europe) and those native to the Americas.
Commonly known as Golden Ragwort or Lifewort ours is the native perennial. They contain two entirely different kinds of leaves. A basal rosette of blunt and dark green leaves sits low to the ground and the stem contains narrow pinnate leaves.
They can appear on the edges of woods or in meadows in full sun – where I’ve seen them in colonies. The bright, yellow, daisy-like flowers appear from early spring to early-summer. The name Senecio (which again is no longer applicable) is from the Latin senex, which means “old man”, and referred to the white-haired seeds.
Golden Ragwort has been known classically as a “female regulator”, and was used by Native Americans for childbirth and other female issues. Because this plant contains pyrrolizidine alkaloids, much like comfrey, it is said to be toxic to the liver. It is now used mostly externally.
Mostly I enjoy their beauty and the knowledge they they’ve been in the Southern Appalachians far longer than I have.
by Corinna Wood, Director, Southeast Wise Women
Samantha was dismayed at the options for birth control: the side effects of the pill, the chemicals used with the diaphragm, the unreliability of the rhythm method, the yeast infections from using latex condoms. Jean and Greg were longing for a baby, yet having difficulty conceiving. The Fertility Awareness Method was just what they all were looking for.
The Fertility Awareness Method for Natural Birth Control or Pregnancy Achievement is a way to track a woman’s fertility day to day. She checks and charts her cervical fluid and basal body temperature to determine each day whether she is potentially fertile. This information can be used to plan or prevent a pregnancy.
Myth: The Fertility Awareness Method for Natural Birth Control is the same as the rhythm method.
Fact: The Fertility Awareness Method is much more reliable for birth control than the rhythm method. The rhythm method uses a mathematical formula based on past cycles to predict future fertility. The Fertility Awareness Method determines days which are potentially fertile by the fertility signals in a current cycle. The success rate of the rhythm method is estimated around 50%. The Fertility Awareness Method, on the other hand, is 98% effective when followed precisely, according to Contraceptive Technology.* In practice, various studies place the effectiveness rate of Fertility Awareness around 85%. * The effectiveness of Fertility Awareness depends on how diligently the couple follows the birth control rules and whether they choose to abstain or to use a barrier method of birth control during the woman’s fertile phase.
Myth: A woman ovulates on day 14 of a 28 day cycle, so to prevent pregnancy, you simply need to avoid intercourse around that time.
Fact: There is a wide range of days that a woman may ovulate, even in a cycle that lasts 28 days. For example, ovulation could occur on the day 8 or day 20. And she does not know whether she will have a 28 day cycle until menstruation signals the end of the cycle. It is quite common for a woman to have unexpectedly short or long cycles, even if she is usually ‘like clockwork.’ During those short or long cycles, ovulation day can vary widely. In addition, when a woman is fertile, she produces cervical fluid which is designed to keep sperm alive until ovulation. Sperm can live in this fertile fluid for up to five days. That means that intercourse on Monday can lead to conception on Friday. For this reason, the Fertility Awareness Method includes careful observations of cervical fluid before ovulation.
Myth: A woman cannot get pregnant during her period.
Fact: While it is true that a woman does not ovulate during menstruation, she can begin producing fertile cervical fluid (masked by blood) during her period. This can keep sperm alive for up to five days, when ovulation may occur. Certain days of menstruation may be considered infertile with Fertility Awareness, which involves charting your cycles to acquire additional information.
Myth: Couples who are infertile should use ovulation predictor kits to optimize the chances of conception.
Fact: Ovulation predictor kits let you know ovulation is occurring only if used on the very day of ovulation, and even then, the results are often misleading. Most kits (which cost around $30) contain only 5 to 9 days of tests, which is often not enough to cover the range of days ovulation could occur, especially for women with irregular cycles. Many couples who are having difficulty conceiving find Fertility Awareness an invaluable tool, with less hassle and less expense. By observing the cervical fluid, a couple can pinpoint the best days to make love to optimize their chances of conceiving. Charting body temperature can also help an infertile couple determine whether the woman is still fertile in a given cycle, whether her luteal phase is long enough for implantation, or whether she is ovulating at all. Fertility Awareness is not for everyone. It requires a high level of commitment, discipline, and communication. Those women and couples who practice it find that the high level of personal responsibility enhances their lives, deepening relationships and increasing self-awareness.
*Weschler, Toni. Taking Charge of Your Fertility, pg 313. Harper Collins, 1995.
by Corinna Wood
Most women can feel it coming on – the dark time. Our partners may comment that we don’t seem to want their company or anyone else’s for that matter. We get caught up in our emotions – we’re not usual selves. We’re hypersensitive. We weep, and we bleed.
Modern society tries to minimize this experience. Women attempt to suppress the wave of feelings that surge to the surface, to put on a happy face and push through. But stoic as we may be, we’re often forced to acknowledge the power of our bodies and our emotions. Cramps, headaches and fatigue drive us to our beds or into the bath, soaking away our woes.
You would think we could take a hint; our bodies and spirits are crying out for sanctuary and succor. Somehow, we’ve come to view menstruation as an aberration rather than a grace.
Yet the ancient wisdom, that many women today are rediscovering, is that the Moontime is when the veils between the worlds are at their thinnest, when we as women have a unique window into our own souls, our inner guidance, our divine wisdom. The physical and emotional intensity of this time is an opportunity for healing and release–when we nourish ourselves, body and soul, and allow all of who we are.
During menstruation when our emotions and perceptions are heightened, there is a primal urge to remove ourselves from the daily routine and allow these feelings to move through our bodies and our spirits. We crave the Moon Lodge.
In societies where the natural order of things is revered, the Moon Lodge offered a retreat – a cradle to receive us when we felt most vulnerable, when the veil between our inner and outer worlds was thin. Women would gather there during their menses, but not as an exile imposed upon the “unclean”. The Moon Lodge offered a sacred space to be immersed in reflection, to be still and truly be in our bodies.
These days, our busy lives don’t always afford us the option of leaving our responsibilities behind for a week, but we can honor this need by taking a Moon Day (or even an hour!), either just before our bleeding begins or at its height (usually the second day). Many women find taking a Moon Day does wonders to prevent menstrual woes & pains -when we’re already in the Moon Lodge, our bodies don’t need to yell so loudly to call us back there!
With the high incidences of stress-related illness and the women challenged by reproductive issues ranging from infertility to menstrual disorders, it is simply good common sense to take some time to care for ourselves, whether as a preventative or a restorative.
The key to creating a healthy, embracing approach to our life-long, lunar dance is to treat it, and ourselves, with the respect and nurturing that we extend to all those we care for. Nourish your body, nourish your soul, and you will be well prepared to nourish others.
Portions reprinted from:
Nourishing Body & Soul: Wise Women Ways for Moontime & Menopause by Corinna Wood
First printed in New Life Journal, August 2007