For centuries women were the healers. They knew how to heal their children, their neighbors and their families. They knew how to heal themselves. They understood the natural rhythms of the earth and moon, and how a woman’s body is so intimately connected to these cycles. They knew the plants.
The herbs for all of a woman’s way — herbs to help a woman balance, birth, and age with grace were found and used in every culture and every corner of our earth. I believe the herbs that may nourish us and heal us may be found wherever we are. We just need to look… and listen.
The herbs that I have chosen for you to get to know are most often found, or are able to be grown here in North America and parts of Europe. There are also many powerful herbs from Asia and the other continents. I mention a few well known Chinese herbs that we have come to use. Somehow, though, I trust that we only need to look to find similar herbs right here and right now!
To begin to experience the healing power of the herbs for women’s health, we (women) need to choose to:
Experiencing all three will bring us to a more vibrant, connected, and balanced place.
Important safety reminder: The below herbal information does not constitute medical advice and should not be misconstrued as such. Women attempting to conceive and pregnant women should consult the advice of a midwife or physician before taking any herbs.
One last word before we begin. Testimony to the popularity of herbs that have helped women over time, there are a few “at risk” plants that must not be wild-harvested. These are: beth root (Trillium erectum and T. pendulum), lady’s slipper (Cypripedium spp.), false unicorn root (Chamaelirium luteum), black cohosh (Actaea racemosa), blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides) and wild yam (Dioscorea villosa).
What distinguishes women from men, if nothing else, is, simply, our reproductive systems. For women, our breasts, uterus, and ovaries make up our reproductive system. However, we need the rest of our body’s organs to orchestrate our ability to reproduce. The production and balance of our hormones involves important organs such as the liver, adrenal glands, pancreas, ovaries, and the pituitary gland. When we are experiencing metabolic and physiologic imbalances, such as extreme changes in weight, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, or extreme stress in our lives, our body experiences dis-ease. As a result, our reproductive hormones also become imbalanced. There is dis-harmony and we begin to experience symptoms. We have heavy periods, no periods, painful periods, infertility, mood swings, or migraines. As we age, imbalances may be the cause for hot flashes, insomnia, heart palpations, and other menopausal disorders.
Often it may take only a health-filled lifestyle to remedy these problems. Rosemary Gladstar (2008) recommends that: “Tonic herbs, proper nutrition, adequate rest, connecting with self, and joyful exercise are our primary prescriptions for well-being.”
Herbal care for women’s health begins with the tonic herbs and this is a good place to begin. These herbs are the ones that we’ll come back to normalize hormones, stabilize imbalances and manage unwanted symptoms of a malfunctioning reproductive system.
Here are 5 reproductive tonic herbs that can keep us holistically vibrant and give us a sense of well-being as the wonderfully unique women that we each are.
Nothing in nature – or with a woman’s body – works in isolation. As we seem to know intuitively – all of our body’s systems must be able to work together harmoniously and in a uniquely balanced way in order to reproduce our kind. It’s nature’s way. It’s a woman’s way to know this, and if not, we must reclaim this knowledge.
Each month our hormones are regulated through a feedback system that involves the ovaries which in turn communicate with our brain (the pituitary gland) and then back again to our ovaries. Menstruation occurs when estrogen and progesterone are cycling in complete harmony with the production of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) to release one egg each lunar month.
While it may be inconvenient to bleed, it is a cyclic reminder of how we are connected to the pulse of the heavens. It is typically a 28 day cycle with ovulation occurring on day 14. Some women cycle a few days longer and others may be a few days shorter. Interestingly, in contrast, men have a daily hormonal pulse.
The herbs that help to manage problems with menstruation include herbs that may bring on menstruation, lessen heavy menstruation, normalize irregular menstruation, and manage painful menstruation. There are also herbs to manage premenstrual symptoms as well as approaches like seed cycling that may help bring the body into balance through nutritional support.
When working with women with menstrual problems, however, it is always recommended by herbalists to start with tonic support. That is, start with herbs that tone and balance the reproductive system then treat the symptoms.
Amenorrhea is the absence of menstruation for at least three periods in a row. The most common cause is pregnancy, but often the glands and organs of the reproductive system will be out of balance and cause amenorrhea. The herbs that may help a women menstruate are called emmenagogues. There are many plants that serve as emmenagogues including some culinary herbs like parsley. These herbs should, of course, be avoided in medicinal amounts and some should be avoided altogether in pregnancy. We will revisit this herbal action with our discussion about pregnancy and childbirth. For now, here are three powerful herbal emmenagogues:
Menorrhagia is unusually heavy or prolonged menstruation that is sometimes associated with painful periods. There are a few causes of menorrhagia, including clotting disorders and hormonal disruptions. Herbs well known to control bleeding and hemorrhaging include the herbs above. Below I introduce three more herbs that are known to help control heavy bleeding.
1 teaspoon vitex berries
1 teaspoon wild yam root
2 teaspoons chamomile flowers
2 teaspoons nettle leaf
2 teaspoons raspberry
¼ teaspoon licorice
6 cups water
Dysmenorrhea is a term used to describe abnormally painful periods. My formal introduction into the power of herbal medicines came from a Swiss-born college roommate when she opened her bag of chamomile instead of her box of Midol for her menstrual cramps. Here was first hand evidence for me, as she chose to drink a strong brew of chamomile tea instead of taking one of our best known non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs at the time for premenstrual cramps. I haven’t used Midol since.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimates that at least 85% of menstruating women have at least one PMS symptom as part of their monthly cycle (online; WomensHealth.gov) That’s a lot of women! ACOG recommends diet modifications and exercise along with a nice strong non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication for treatment.
Wise women herbalists have known for centuries what herbs manage the painful difficult months of heavy bleeding and pain. These herbs are known in many cultures. Every woman from every corner of our earth has plants nearby to help her through her lunar month. Every woman across time has had her stressful month when she has felt a bit off and needs the relief and calming effect of the herbs where she resides. These plants grow near us. These plants are here for us. Why? Because we have evolved with the plants, and it is the reason why we are interconnected with them. They are here for us. We need to look and listen.
I have experienced that there is a moment when we arrive at this truth about our relationship with the plants in our life’s journey, and then life takes on a whole different form and meaning from there on. Many women will find joy, healing, and health when they find this truth. For some of us, discovering our interconnectedness with the plants happens when we are doubled over Monday morning, feeling bloated, achy and crampy with a headache and fatigue. We look at our watch and decide to call in to request a sick day from school or work. Then, we reach for the chamomile and give it a try. That’s how it happened for me.
PMS is a combination of physical and psychological symptoms occurring for up to 2 weeks before menses and relief experienced after menstruation has begun (Romm, 2010). Herbalist and physician Dr. Aviva Romm (2010) lists 35 symptoms associated with PMS! Among these include abdominal bloating, altered appetite, cyclic weight gain, headaches, joint pain or backache, premenstrual acne, anger, anxiety, depression, lack of concentration mood swings, and nervous tension (Romm, 2010).
Lifestyle and diet changes can go a long way towards easing PMS, and reframing the idea of PMS into a time when women need reflection and self-care allows us to honor and celebrate our natural ebbs and flows. Some tips for lessening the severity of symptoms:
What herbs can function to help us allay our premenstrual symptoms? Let’s start with the lesser known black haw (Viburnum prunifolium).
PMS and its many symptoms have herbal remedies for all of them. Herbs such as dandelion and violet leaf are great for fluid retention, passion flower and blue vervain may be used for nervous tension. Migraine headaches are best managed with feverfew and skullcap . Painful cramping is managed with the above uterine relaxant herbs such as black haw or chamomile, as well as another herb that I will mention later in more detail; crampbark. Chaste tree, the great hormone regulator has also been shown to allay the symptoms of PMS (Shellenberg, 2001).
1 tablespoon chamomile
1 tablespoon catnip
2 tablespoons ginger, fresh rhizome or dried root, sliced or grated
4 cups water
Cramp bark tincture, optional
2 parts dong quai
2 parts dandelion root
1 part wild yam
1 part astragalus
1/2 part licorice
Vodka or brandy
1 part oatstraw
3 parts chamomile
3 parts raspberry
1 part motherwort
3 parts lemon balm
3 parts peppermint
2 parts nettle
2 parts red clover
We have said it once, and we’ll say it again: pregnant woman should consult with their midwife or physician before taking herbs. It is also recommended that women avoid taking herbs in the first trimester.
Pregnancy and birth are miraculously complex. It’s an amazing integrated balance and harmony of our all of our body’s systems working together to, perfectly and succinctly, grow a baby in 9 months. How can we do this in the best way that we can?
I have always stood behind Thomas Brewer’s statement that “85% of all complications in pregnancy can be eliminated with good diet and nutrition alone.” For my entire career as a midwife, I have seen how poor diets, high in sugars, and refined carbohydrates have contributed to excessive weight gain, hypertension, and diabetes in pregnancy. Experience speaks louder than words. His words were wise and true and my experiences, over time, have proven his words to be true, loud and clear! A healthy pregnancy yields a healthy birth and yes, most often a healthy baby.
Herbal Safety in Pregnancy
When choosing herbs in pregnancy, it is even more important than ever before to ensure that your herbs are not adulterated or contaminated. Avoid herbs from China and India, many of which have been known to contain pharmaceutical medications and heavy metals. Because there aren’t many studies on pregnancy and herbs, it is advised to be conservative and avoid all herbs during the first trimester. If you do choose to take herbs in the first trimester, use low doses and only those known to be safe. Many naturally-incline women may opt for herbs when what they require is medical treatment, so any unusual symptoms should always be discussed with the health care provider. Digestion in pregnant women slows down considerably, which may affect dose.
There are many herbs that are contraindicated in pregnancy. They share nine characteristics that impose a potential risk.
* Current consensus (Dr. Weil, Dr. Low Dog and NIH) is that peppermint leaf is likely safe in pregnancy in regular amounts. The only risk is that it might increase heartburn or reflux which would be true for anybody.
A very comprehensive and conservative list of herbs to avoid in pregnancy should be researched thoroughly in reputable sources and discussed with a woman’s health care provider. Two of our favorite books on pregnancy and herbs are Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health, and The Natural Pregnancy Book, both by Aviva Romm.
How do the herbs help pregnancy and birth? Despite the healthiest pregnancies and births there are herbs that can tone, nourish and aid along the way. It would take a separate book to delve into the herbs that help us through pregnancy and childbirth. However, there are a few herbs that stand out among many as tried and true that I will list now.
Here are my long-standing favorites that many women have benefited and who have sampled and can testify to their virtues. First we begin with the most well-known tonic herbs for pregnancy.
Red Raspberry Leaf (Rubus idaeus) – is the most well-known pregnancy uterine tonic. Red raspberry leaf is valuable for toning and strengthening the uterus for birth. These words may seem vague but all that I can tell you is that it works just in this way. In fact, it works so well, that women may experience that their labors are hastened, moving along more quickly than expected. No, it does not create premature labor. In its mysterious way and not well understood, red raspberry leaf strengthens the laxity of the uterus muscle and helps a woman progress through labor once it begins. Red raspberry leaf may be taken at any time during one’s pregnancy though it’s most commonly taken during a woman’s third trimester.
Nettle (Urtica dioica) – Nettles make a wonderfully nourishing tonic tea filled with valuable vitamins and minerals. Nettle tea may be taken in moderate amounts after the first trimester.
In addition, women in the late stages of pregnancy may wish to consider eating dates (Phoenix dactylifera), which are high in magnesium and other nutrients. In 2011, researchers found that women who consumed six dates per day one month before their due date, “significantly reduced the need for induction and augmentation of labour, and produced a more favourable, but non-significant, delivery outcome” (Al-Kuran et al, 2011).
1 part red raspberry leaf
1-2 parts nettle leaf
1 part oatstraw
1/2 part alfalfa
1/2 part rose hips
1/2 part lemon balm
Many women experience nausea in early pregnancy, which is understood to be the result of rising human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone levels. Midwives traditionally have been reassured when a woman experiences nausea, for this assures her that the woman is carrying her pregnancy!
Crampbark (Viburnum opulus-trilobum) and Black haw (Viburnum prunifolium). Crampbark is a very effective uterine relaxant as well as the lesser known black haw. Black haw is the ideal herb to use for either threatened miscarriage. Its use in this way is not well known. Both herbs may be used for threatened miscarriage or possibly preterm labor by calming the uterus.
The traditional midwife has always had a selection of herbs in her birth bag to aid a mother through labor and birth from the beginning of time. A “natural birth” was not always one without interventions. Surely, there may have been interventions; but they didn’t require a needle and a tube to administer.
Herbs are given as either teas or tinctures most often. Contemporary herbal therapy may include herbs prepared in capsule form or as commercial homeopathic preparations along with tinctures, teas, and topical applications.
What are the essential herbs for birth? Here are the basics. Again, please consult your midwife or physician!
The uterus is the strongest muscle that women have in their bodies and it is designed and grown during pregnancy just for childbirth. When childbirth is complete, its job is done and it begins to involute, or contract down to its original size before birth. Many women don’t experience uterine cramping pain after their first baby but often after the second or third, the pain from post-birth uterine involution is, by some standards, worse than childbirth.
Crampbark is the remedy for uterine cramping after birth. Crampbark is also helpful to relieve menstrual cramps but has earned its hallmark among post birth mamas. Crampbark is more commonly used for postpartum cramping due to uterine involution.
Immediately postpartum shepherd’s purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris) is most commonly used for heavy than normal postpartum bleeding. In tincture form dosages are given in a pulsatory manner like with heavy menstrual bleeding and continued until bleeding slows.
During the first few days postpartum, herbs to relax uterine cramping pain include crampbark (Vibernum opulus var. triloba) or black haw (Viburnum prunifolium) as mentioned above. Again, dosages need to be repeated every 10-15 minutes until relieved and then repeated in an hour or two.
Every culture has its remedies for improving milk flow for women who are breastfeeding. From a midwife’s perspective; if a woman can conceive on her own, she can produce enough milk on her own. She won’t need pills or pumps. She won’t need herbs to stimulate milk production. In fact, often the baby is the better pump and getting adequate rest is a better stimulant for milk flow than fenugreek, a common ingredient used for the milk-making teas out there on the shelves.
Though, herbs can surely help. Interestingly not one herb works best for all women. I believe this is true because the cause for the perceived decrease in milk supply is different between women. Sometimes the problem doesn’t rest with the mother but rather with the baby! Like, with other health realms in herbalism, it is very important to identify the cause.
Common western herbs known to help with milk supply if the cause has been identified to rest with the mother, include fenugreek, milk thistle, blessed thistle herb, and goat’s rue herb. Other seeds that also help with milk flow include fennel, anise, and dill. Relaxing and anti-stress herbs are sometimes combined with these seeds and may include hops, chamomile, passionflower, or motherwort.
Menopause is defined as the first full year that a woman is without one menstrual period. (Spotting counts, which means the clock then gets reset.) The average time is 51 years of age. Western women experience menopausal symptoms that we associate with the change such as hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, anxiety, depression, vaginal dryness, memory problems, and heart palpations. It has been hypothesized that Asian cultures have a higher intake of soy-based foods which function preventatively for particularly the hot flash/night sweat symptoms.
There are many herbs that can help women through their menopausal years. Each of the above symptoms listed have many paragraphs of suggested remedies. There is also a lot to be said about the herbs that can help maintain bone health, cardiac health, correct pelvic floor laxity problems or, even, prevent breast cancer (Romm, 2010) Again we will look at a few key beneficial herbs for this time in a women’s life.
The now classic herbs for relieving hot flashes, hight sweats and the accompanying symptoms are our now familiar herb; black cohosh. “Remifem” is the commercial product. Black cohosh may be taken in tablet form commercially produced. It doesn’t work for all women but consistency and dosage is key. Other herbs that contain phytoestrogens which are the plants that allay vasomotor symptoms include red clover and dong quai (Angelica sinensis). Sage (Salvia officinalis) is included due its drying nature, inhibiting sweating.
“Insomnia,” said one midwife in conversation a long time ago, “is the number one reason why women come into my office.” It’s common and night after night of interrupted sleep is debilitating over time. How many of us are there? The Sleep Foundation states that 61% of women by the time that they are post-menopausal suffer from insomnia!
My favorite herbs for sleep associated with anxiety and irritability include hops, passionflower, chamomile, blue vervain, and kava. Daytime anti-stress herbs may include motherwort (one of my favorites), lavender, linden, and lemon balm. In fact, combining these last three herbs make up an amazingly delicious tea. For a bit of a pick- up, sprinkle in a bit of spearmint. Ahhh.
Motherwort is also a cardiotonic herb, so this is an ideal herb for women that have associated heart palpitations. Hawthorn is the most researched for cardiac health and should be mentioned. Its leaves, flowers, and fruits are all used. It makes a lovely tea and often is combined with other herbs to improve circulation cardiac muscle tone.
In my opinion, one of the more disturbing symptoms, memory loss, comes along with menopause. Short term memory recollection is the most noticed. The proverbial “where did I put my….” has been experienced by almost everyone over 50! Absentmindedness and memory loss have propelled research to explore the traditional uses of such herbs as gingko to verify its effectiveness. It turns out that ginkgo has been shown to improve circulation rather memory. Though, this makes sense since we need oxygenated blood to reach our brain in order to think clearly.
There are many nourishing and strengthening herbs for women. We are wonderfully complex while being intimately connected to the cycles of the moon and earth. It seems mysterious but wonderfully so, that we can find plants that are here uniquely for us.
Be mindful where you purchase your herbs. Make sure that they are cultivated and organic. Herbs that are wild-harvested that can be purchased must not be among those listed on “at-risk”, rare or endangered species lists. Do not wild-harvest plants yourself that are on these lists. An old Native American proverb is to pick every third plant. My version is similar; only harvest a species if there is more than 10 plants of its kind in an area.
When discussing “herbs for men,” it’s important to note that first and foremost, we’re dealing with human problems. Men and women aren’t as different in the ways society might have us believe, and you’ll see many “women’s herbs” here again in the men’s section. That said, there are some specific issues that men face as the move through life. And putting aside all of that, there are just some parts that men have to worry about and women don’t (and vice versa), and different hormonal components as well.
The most important way to keep your body healthy is to keep in mind the holistic viewpoint. A pinch of good sleep, good food, and adequate exercise go further than a pinch of even the most potent herbs to help cure our body’s ills, and prevent future problems.
So in order to keep ourselves in good health, we must sleep well, be mindful of what we put into our body, make sure to set aside time to exercise and play, and most difficult of all for many men, we must properly express emotion. In a world where men are told that “real men” don’t show emotion, we’re taught to bottle up feelings of sadness, frustration, and even joy, and that is actively harmful to our health. It takes a real man to be sincere about his emotions, and to give himself permission to cry in times of grief, joy, empathy, or extreme stress. Tears are a natural relief valve for our emotions, and if we let them out instead of keeping them in, we decrease our risk of heart disease, hypertension, and many other common problems. Many herbs like rose and hawthorn are useful for “opening the heart,” allowing one to be present with their emotions.
Suggested use: 40-60 drops 3 times per day.
Stress is a common, everyday thing for many of us, we live our lives stressed about the next paycheck, or what’s for dinner, or any number of things. Stress can cause blood pressure to rise, which is the beginning of some major heart problems if it’s left untreated. Cholesterol build-up also leads to many problems, and the best way to counteract that is with exercise, followed by a diet of quality greens. (The more wild the greens, the better, according to James Green, author of Male Herbal.) Wild harvested stinging nettle can be steamed up and enjoyed as a post-run snack, lightly seasoned with apple cider vinegar.
Other common herbs for keeping your heart healthy include garlic, ginger, yarrow, ginkgo, horse chestnut, and hawthorn. For the latter, the berries, blossoms and leaves are all useful! Hawthorn’s action strengthens the cardiac muscles and arterial tissue, linden has a similar action and is specifically useful to deal with arteriosclerosis, yarrow flowers have a beneficial hypotensive, astringent, and diuretic effect, and ginkgo supports the other three. Thus, a basic formula for heart health might be:
2 parts hawthorn berries and/or flowers
1 part linden flowers
1 part ginkgo leaves
1 part yarrow flowers
To this formula, you can add whatever herbs work holistically with your full symptoms, remembering to treat the whole person, not just the disease symptoms.
The last bit to add to heart health is a little tip about digestion. If you have indigestion, gas, or similar symptoms, it can put undue stress on your heart and cardiovascular system. Many of the herbs recommended for heart health also help your digestive system. So remember, good digestion equals a healthy heart.
Stress and anger are two feelings that society tell us men are allowed to have, and in fact society praises us for over-stressing ourselves, and has normalized a kind of violent anger that is harmful to everyone involved. So what can be done to make sure feelings of frustration, stress, and anger are appropriately handled? Well to reiterate what we said above, expressing your emotions as they come up is the first step. Laughter and play, particularly spontaneous play, have been proven to be effective stress relievers.
Stress can be caused by the unexpended energy from adrenal secretions, pent up “fight or flight” response. If this is the case, that physical stress can be worked off, short term, by exercise, which also releases endorphins. Another short term solution is to try any of the nervines, herbs which relax and can help soften the physical response to stress. These two methods aren’t best if combined of course, because the relaxing action of the herbs makes it more difficult to exercise.
When looking for long term solutions, the best way to select herbs is by their secondary actions. Many herbs can help with anxiety, but finding one that will appropriately address other issues is important. For example, St. John’s wort is a nervine that will help with stress, and also has antidepressant properties, so it would be a good herb to treat both long term stress and depression that could be a resultant symptom of that constant stress. On the other hand, if long term anxiety has been putting stress on your immune system, echinacea may be the herb to go with.
Herbs to help with long term stress:
St. John’s wort
Pau d’Arco bark
Adrenal Gland Support
Non herbal holistic therapies for alleviating stress are numerous, and can be used in conjunction with appropriate tonics as part of a holistic treatment regimen. These include massage, meditation, stretching, tai-chi, yoga, aromatherapy, gardening, and nature walks.
Along with the steps and herbs listed for stress management, there are a few holistic helpers for those of us who find ourselves angry, either too often or to an unhealthy degree. Herbs such as skullcap, along with the nervines mentioned above, can help calm and soothe angry feelings when they’re becoming hard to handle. This is important, because it allows you to approach the situation and express your frustrations or concerns in a rational manner.
To go along with this, identifying the true source of anger is an important step to dealing with it. Many things can “trigger” angry feelings within us, but the thing that pushes us over the edge is rarely the root cause. Meditation, which will also help with calming yourself down, can be a good tool for introspection.
The amino acid tryptophan, found in egg whites, chickpeas, sunflower seeds, and even bananas, can increase the production and uptake of serotonin, a chemical in the brain that helps maintain happy and stable moods.
The prostate gland may be small but nevertheless, causes big issues in many men. This chestnut-shaped organ sits below the bladder, and the urethra, the tube that drains the bladder, runs through the middle of it. Urination needs a nicely open urethra. Diseases of the prostate can squeeze the urethra causing lots of problems with urination.
The prostate is also intimately involved with ejaculation. The ejaculate or semen is a milky fluid comprised of sperm with supporting fluids from the sperm sacs (seminal vesicles) and the prostate.
In many men as they age, the prostate gland enlarges and compresses the urethra, which as we mentioned above, runs through the center of the prostate.
Normal urination needs a nicely open urethra and a squashed and constricted urethra can mean a lot of difficulty with urination. Enlargement of the prostate occurs from an increase in the number of cells. This condition is called benign prostate hyperplasia or BPH. The exact causeof BPH is still unclear, but is correlated to changes in hormone levels as men age. By the age of 60, over 50% of men will have BPH, and by the age 85 over 85% of men.
While the enlargement itself is benign and doesn’t lead to or increase the risk of cancer, the compression on the urethra can lead to discomfort related to urinary urgency, straining, feeling of an incompletely emptied bladder, dribbling, weakness in the bladder, and lower urinary tract infections. Severe BPH can lead to complete inability to void, a condition called acute urinary retention that requires immediate medical attention.
There are various cell types that comprise the structure of the prostate:
1) Glandular tissue cells which make secretions.
2) Lining cells that make ducts that convey the secretions.
3) Smooth muscle cells, which are responsible for the pumping action that pushes secretions through and out. This tissue responds well to herbal smooth muscle antispasmodics (also called spasmolytics) that are also anti-inflammatory like chamomile, wild yam, dong quai (Angelica sinensis), and black cohosh.
When people hear “prostate” and “herbs” there is one herbs that likely comes to mind: saw palmetto. A current men’s “herb du jour” as herbalists like to call those herbs that are promoted and often overly hyped by mainstream marketing, saw palmetto berries were used as both food and as medicine by indigenous people of southeast United States.
Adapted from David Hoffmann
1 part horsetail
1 part couch grass
1 part uva ursi
Prostatitis is swelling and inflammation of the prostate gland and can be caused by several factors including infection, injury, disorders of the immune or nervous systems, and food sensitivities that case inflammation.
Symptoms of prostatitis include pain or difficulty when urinating, frequent urination, pain in the perineum, penis, testicles, groin area, lower back, or abdomen. When the prostatitis is bacterial, flu-like symptoms may present. It is important to see a doctor when bacterial prostatitis is suspected because this condition can be life-threatening.
The herbal actions called for when addressing any condition ending in “itis” (which denotes inflammation) would again be spasmolytics to ease muscle spasms, and of course, anti-inflammatory herbs to quench inflammation. If the underlying cause of the prostatitis is bacteria in the urinary tract (UT), herbalists would first use antibacterial herbs with an affinity for the UT, like juniper berry and uva ursi (neither to be used more than a week). If food sensitivities are suspected, one should work with a practitioner to identify the source of the irritation.
Avoiding prolonged sitting, especially on cushy chairs, and avoiding stress and irritating foods and drink are all important lifestyle considerations during prostatitis. In addition, herbalist James Green recommends alternating the application of ice and hot packs to the prostate area: hot packs applied for 4-8 minutes, and ice pack applied for 1-2 minutes. This application can be repeated 2-3 times a session as frequently as desired (Green, 1991).
The testes produce both sperm (direct production) and male hormones (endocrine function), The epididymis drains the sperm and matures it and the sperm then travels into the vas deferens and down into the sperm sacs (seminal vesicles) where it is stored.Inflammation of the testicle is called orchitis. Orchitis can be caused by the mumps virus or by secondary bacterial infections related to sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea, but it is most commonly associated with bacterial urinary tract infections.
Epididymitis is inflammation of the epididymis and is most often due to bacterial infection. The epididymis becomes enlarged and painful and tender. Commonly epididymitis leads to orchitis and the condition is then called epididymorchitis. Both conditions are characterized by pain and swelling. There may also be nausea, fever, discharge, and pain and tenderness when sitting.
Again, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial herbs like uva ursi are called for, and lifestyle considerations to improve blood and lymph flow should be employed. Black cohosh, smilax, yarrow, baikal skullcap are also useful. When pain is caused by loose “boggy” tissue, red raspberry leaf can be taken as an astringent and tonic for the pelvic area.
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