The most interesting book I have ever seen dealing with menstruation is Red Flower: Rethinking Menstruation by Dena Taylor. Her goal is to “show that women do celebrate and honor menstruation.” She continues, “I want to help dispel the idea that menstruation is shameful, that it should be kept hidden. We need to recognize this part of our cycle—to be aware of its subtle and powerful effects on us, and to use these in a way that enriches our lives.” [Dena Taylor, Red Flower: Rethinking Menstruation, Freedom, CA: The Crossing Press, 1988, p. 1.]
Taylor makes a stand that I have to admit I never heard before picking up her book. Menstruation is a wonderful, healing, healthy, creative, and powerful influence on us that connects us not only to Mother Earth, but the moon and the complete cycle of birth and death. Therefore, we need to develop a new attitude regarding its monthly visit. Her book states: “It is the force of life. It is the gift of being female. It is more than we know or understand in this day and age. I believe it to be held in honor in our past ages—we’ve only forgotten.” [Ibid., p. 32.]
If you are interested in the sisterhood of the goddesses, I highly suggest this book. It is positive, witty, innovative, helpful, healing, and fun.
There are many good books available to help you on the important subject of a woman’s cycle. Because I’ve found a direct correlation between unbalanced hormones and acne, I want to include some general information for you to get started on balancing yourself. I don’t have any scientific data or college degrees in this field. This is strictly based on my own struggles and solutions and talking to thousands of women. The main question I ask is: “Do you see a correlation between your cycle and your acne?” More than 90% in my informal, unscientific, broad survey say, “Yes.” So if you are suffering from period-related acne, I suggest you really delve into this subject much further than these pages. I am just outlining some basic information.
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a collection of symptoms caused by hormonal imbalances that have been recorded since Hippocrates. Symptoms include irritability, bloating, headaches, craving for sweets, fatigue, confusion, and lethargy.
Many of us simply dismiss the extra stress and tension, the arguments with loved ones, the snapping at co-workers, or the swearing at the car that just pulled out in front of us as “just PMS.” Yet it can also be useful and insightful to look at what else is going on in your life. Your mood swings may be reflective of things that have been bothering you all month, but you are expressing your anger at this time of the month. Is the problem “moodiness” or is it an inequity that you have not adequately addressed in your life?
Menstrual cramps or dysmenorrhea are thought to be a chemical problem. According to Dr. Penny Wise Budoff, director of the Women’s Medical Center in Bethpage, New York, “Each month, the lining of a woman’s uterus produces chemicals called prostaglandins, which help the uterine muscles contract and expel tissue and fluids during menstruation. High levels of prostaglandins cause uterine muscle contractions or cramps.” [Debora Tkac, ed., The Doctors Book of Home Remedies, Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, 1990, p. 419.]
The following are suggestions many have found helpful to balance hormones and ease pain:
- Keep track of your cycle and schedule your work accordingly—go easy on yourself.
- Eat fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Get a ton of sleep.
- Go to a chiropractor to obtain relief.
- Do yoga, particularly the triangle pose.
- Try acupuncture.
- Go for a walk.
- Add sea salt, baking soda, and essential oil of lavender to your bath water.
- Make love.
- Drink herbal teas with willow bark or chamomile.
- Take a nap with a hops and lavender pillow.
- Make a tincture of any of the herbs mentioned.
- Inhale fennel seed essential oil to reduce pain from the cramps.
- Take all the vitamin Bs.
- Take brewer’s yeast daily.
- Get your minerals checked to see if you need to take iron, calcium, magnesium, and/or zinc.
- Take alfalfa tablets daily.
- Try vitamins A and E.
- Drink cramp bark tea.
- Try pennyroyal or dandelion for cramps (used by Native Americans).
- Take primrose oil daily.
- Take vitex.
- Take omega-6 oil.
- Take flaxseed oil.
- Get a massage.
- Get rolfed.
- Take the amino acid threonine.
- Keep a journal of your cycle and feelings.
- Take dong quai.
- Drink chicory tea.
- Take white willow bark for pain and as an anti-inflammatory.
- Exercise daily, though not too strenuously.
- Lie in the sunshine.
- Do deep breathing.
- Drink lots of water.
- Apply a heating pad.
- Increase potassium through fresh bananas, orange juice, and peanut butter.
- Meditate using relaxation techniques and imagery.
In a class I attended at the Center for Botanical Studies in Boulder, Christopher Hobbs, a noted author of books on herbs, recommended wild carrot seeds as a hormone regulator. Black cohosh has been used historically to help balance hormones. For very heavy periods accompanied by blood clots, try a tea made of a combination of pasque flower, chamomile, blue cohosh, wild yam, and motherwort.
Vitex, commonly known as chaste tree berry, was first recorded by Hippocrates in the fourth century B.C. He stated: “If blood flows from the womb, let the woman drink dark wine in which the leaves of the vitex have been steeped.” Later, Dioscordides suggested vitex to promote menstruation. It is widely thought today that vitex promotes the homeostasis in the estrogen-progesterone relationship, the imbalance of which not only causes pain for women, but acne, as well. Some believe that vitex helps the pituitary gland put out more progesterone, which helps balance the estrogen. PMS is usually associated with high estrogen levels.
Yohimbe, an herb from South America, has been used traditionally as an aphrodisiac, and to treat impotence, frigidity, and painful menstruation. It is said to be able to reduce irritability, hyperactivity, and water retention.
Dancing Willow Herbs in Durango, Colorado, sells a premixed tea containing oatstraw, red raspberry, dandelion, vitex, nettle, licorice, and sarsaparilla that the company says is a “wonderful tea as a daily general tonic for women. A balancing tonic for women’s hormonal system.” Three ounces is $6.75. Call (888) 247-1654. Or simply blend your own.
Acupuncture can help with PMS and period-related disorders within three or four menstrual cycles. One acupuncturist told me that the goal of the therapy is to teach the woman what foods to avoid and what lifestyle choices to make to end the symptoms for good. The theory is to rebalance the entire body’s mechanism so it regains vibrant good health. This therapy positively affects each of the major organs and the bowels, as well as a woman’s energy levels, blood, and body fluids. While Western doctors deal with PMS in terms of prostaglandin and hormones, the Chinese methods deal with the whole body and all the organs. A really good acupuncturist can prescribe teas of herbs that can balance your system. I have had great success from my acupuncturist’s treatments and teas.
My favorite essential oil for any female problem is fennel. Simply inhale it. A great blend of essential oils for mood swings is geranium, lavender, cedarwood, and cypress; you can also add cardamom or coriander.
Try using one or more of the following essential oils blended with almond oil and applied to your wrists, then inhaled often: bergamot, clary sage, fennel, juniper, lavender, peppermint, rose, rosemary, sandalwood, or jasmine.
To balance your hormones on a regular basis, try clary sage, fennel sage, and geranium. For mood swings, also try bergamot, eucalyptus, fennel, and peppermint. For irritability, try frankincense, lavender, chamomile, rose, and ylang ylang.
Like a good Girl Scout, “Be prepared.” Make yourself a PMS kit. Gather and put together in a container the following:
- Your favorite PMS tea
- Your favorite essential oils for PMS (see above)
- Your favorite body oil
- Your favorite bath herbs for PMS
- Your favorite steam herbs
- Your favorite sleep essential oils
- Your favorite meditation
- Your favorite prayer
- Your favorite candle
- Your favorite book
Follow the basic instructions for relaxation from the Lily of Colorado Homespa in the Relaxing section of this book.
Ask questions and investigate more
There are many books on the subject of a woman’s cycle available at your health food store, bookstore, and library. All are jam-packed with detailed information. The people who work in the natural living section of your health food store are usually extremely knowledgeable on this topic and can be a great resource. I have personally learned much from these folks. Many of the women that work in the health food stores have worked for years finding solutions to normalizing their own cycles naturally, so have tried just about every remedy available.
An excellent book on the subject is Menstrual Cramps Self-Help Book by Susan M. Lark, M.D. If you are suffering from any monthly menstrual symptoms, get this book. It outlines what distinguishes a normal menstrual cycle from one out of balance, and includes chapters on everything from evaluating your own symptoms, including charts for you to track your cycles, to finding solutions through all kinds of therapies. It even includes menus, meal plans, and recipes.
For more information and beauty tips you can purchase Beauty, Health and Happiness–A way of life an online version for only $2.99!