Easy Peasy Fancy Hot Chocolate

Dairy-free, Vegan, Gluten-Free (it is a drink!)

This hot chocolate is fantastically warming, delicious and flavourful without being too sweet. What a great treat for a cozy winter afternoon!

Easy Peasy Fancy Hot Chocolate

Easy Peasy Fancy Hot Chocolate

Ingredients:

  • ~5 cardamon pods, crushed
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • ~3 cloves
  • 3 chilli flakes (or more, to taste)
  • Water (~1 L)
  • Cocoa powder (~1/4 cup)
  • Non-dairy milk (almond/hemp/rice/soy/coconut)
  • Maple syrup

 

 

Add spices to a pot of water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 min. Add cocoa powder and whisk. Simmer a bit longer. Ladle into mugs with your choice of non-dairy milk and a tbsp of maple syrup. 


(photo from “overacupofhotchocolate” on tumblr)

Goldenrod vs. Ragweed: Don’t Blame an Innocent Bystander for Your Seasonal Allergies!

Late summer – with its sunshine, abundance of harvest-ready produce, flowers, and extra fun squeezed into evenings, weekends & precious days off – is marred for many by the return of hayfever. Allergy symptoms are seriously blech, to use a technical term. If you are still suffering, ask me about natural solutions for your allergic rhinitis or seasonal allergies, or read more here.

 

And in the meantime, enjoy the beauty of late summer flowers without fear of sneezing by learning which plant is really to blame.

 

This is goldenrod (Solidago canadensis and other Solidago spp), a beautiful yellow flower offering great herbal medicine.

Goldenrod in Bloom

Goldenrod in Bloom

Goldenrod’s aerial parts are used as a tonic for mucus membranes, meaning it is often found in herbal formulas for such things as sinus infections, bladder infections, and even to treat seasonal allergies! It has been used historically as a kidney tonic, and also for the skin. Note the leaf shape to help identify the plant before it flowers. Note, also, that it grows fairly tall on a single stalk. Goldenrod pollen is too heavy to be airborne – rather, it is pollinated by insects. Thus it is an innocent bystander, falsely accused as far as seasonal allergies are concerned.

 

 

This is ragweed (Ambrosia psilostachya).

Ragweed in bloom

Ragweed in bloom

It has less showy green flowers, and a very different leaf shape. Ragweed pollen is lighter and IS airborne. If you suffer from hayfever, ragweed is not your friend! While ragweed and goldenrod do grow in similar environments, ragweed is usually shorter than its pretty medicinal companion, and can be differentiated long before flowers and pollen based on the leaves. With this information, you can weed it out of your yard to decrease your local pollen exposure.

 

 

 

Here is another picture of ragweed that I took, this time with goldenrod in the background to drive home the innocent bystander point:

Ragweed (foreground) vs Goldenrod

Ragweed in the foreground, getting goldenrod into trouble

 

 

 

And here is a side-by-side from the folks at The New England Academy of Herbal Medicine:

Ragweed vs Goldenrod

Ragweed vs Goldenrod

 

 

 

So, now you know, right? Ragweed has pretty leaves and small flowers with light pollen that causes “blech” symptoms. Goldenrod has pretty flowers with heavy, innocent pollen, and long skinny leaves off a tall main stalk. Spread the word: Enjoy goldenrod’s lovely late summer blooms, and help stop the false accusations!

Red Raspberry Leaf in Pregnancy

Red Raspberry Leaf (Rubus idaeus): Myths & Facts, Safety & Efficacy, Mechanism of Action

Red raspberry leaf tea is perhaps the best-known herbal medicine used in pregnancy. It has a long

Red Raspberry Leaf & Berries

Red Raspberry Leaf & Berries

tradition of use in both Europe and North America.  Many women have heard it is “good for you” and so they drink it.

Did your mom drink it when she was pregnant? Mine did. It is an excellent choice of herbal ally during pregnancy. Considering how useful it is, and how popular, I think it should be better understood.

MYTH: Red raspberry leaf induces labor.

NOT TRUE! NOT TRUE!

Fact: Red raspberry leaf is safe and useful throughout pregnancy, especially in the second and third trimesters. It does not induce labor.

This misunderstanding stems from the fact that Rubus ideaus is used to prepare for labor. The herb is a wonderfully effective uterine tonic, meaning it has a toning, strengthening, and nourishing effect on the tissue and function of female reproductive tract (Hoffman, 2003).

Via its mineral content (especially calcium) and various polypeptides, it enhances the ability of the uterus to contract when labor begins, and can make labor more efficient.

The herb affects smooth muscles, meaning it has gentle action beyond the uterus in the smooth muscles lining the digestive tract. As a herb for digestion, it is most often used when stool is loose, but can also be part of a formula to address constipation.

Red raspberry leaf is also rich in tannins, lending it a whole other realm of actions. Tannins astringe,

Rubus idaeus

Rubus idaeus

or pull together tissue. Think of the feeling of black tea – also rich in tannins – in your mouth. It is a little bit drying, but also toning & tightening, making it great for skin and mucous membranes. Tannins are a good fit when there is excess fluid, as in diarrhea or certain kinds of gut inflammation, and can also be used to address bleeding. Indeed, a red raspberry leaf mouthwash is used for bleeding gums. Further down in the body, Rubus idaeus tea is used for postpartum uterine bleeding as well as bleeding in the gastrointestinal tract.

Red raspberry leaf plays a role in supporting fertility as well, as it is thought to help thicken the uterine lining (Gilbert, 2015).

Actions

Uterine Tonic (also tones pelvic floor); Partus preparator; Astringent; Nutritive

Uses

Pregnancy; Fertility; Painful periods; Diarrhea; Constipation (mild); Decreasing excess bleeding (eg postpartum, but also gastrointestinal, as a mouthwash for bleeding gums)

Note: some references list Red Raspberry leaf as a galactagogue, aka promoter of lactation, but this is not a primary action of the herb, and for most folks, not the best herb for this action. The herb is also listed as a nausea treatment in pregnancy, but clinically, nausea would not be my reason to choose Rubus ideaus. The herb may also lower blood sugar if it is elevated, but, again, this is not a primary action of the herb.

What is a partus preparator?

An herbal combination used traditionally to help someone prepare to give birth, usually taken in the last 4-6 weeks of pregnancy. The combination is designed to tonify the uterus, encouraging efficient contractions, as well as being mildly soothing and astringent. While the herbs used vary considerably, common choices include Red Raspberry Leaf, Blue Cohosh, Black Cohosh, Partridge Berry, Cotton Root and Spikenard.

Blue Cohosh in particular does not have a good safety profile. There have been case reports of infants with bleeding in the brain or heart attacks (Romm, 2010) – and this herb should be used only with the advice of a trained herbal clinician.

In fact, modern herbal medicine practitioners are now divided as to the efficacy or necessity of a partus preparator formula, and may prefer to select specific herbs to meet the needs of the individual pregnant client. Many practitioners will use homeopathics and acupuncture rather than a partus preparator formula.

Constituents of Red Raspberry Leaf

Flavonoids, tannins (8-14 %), polypeptides, minerals (eg calcium, iron, phophorus).

Some sources reference an alkaloid, fragrine, but recent research has not confirmed its presence.

Dose

Most commonly taken as a tea: 1 tsp to 2 tbsp per cup, steeped 10 min to overnight depending on desired action. (Longer steeping will result in a stronger medicinal action, as well as higher mineral content). 1-4 cups per day.

Studies have found efficacy with certain extracts in tablet form as well.

Tincture: 2-4 ml (1:5 in 40% alcohol), 3 times per day.

Preparations

Check out this Pregnancy Tonic Tea featuring Red Raspberry & Nettle Leaves.

Or become a kitchen herbalist with this fancy/simple Red Raspberry Leaf Vinegar.

Research

I will refer below only studies on pregnant women, leaving out studies on rats, guinea pigs, cats, rabbits, and isolated uterine muscle as these do not replicate the complex physiology of a pregnant human drinking a herbal infusion.

It is worth noting that from the studies on isolated uterine muscle, red raspberry leaf appears to have a tonic effect – that is, it increases tone of relaxed smooth muscle, and induces relaxation where muscle tone is already high (Mills & Bone, 2005; Mills, Duguoa et al 2006). It is also noteworthy that Rubus ideaus has an apparent relaxing effect on the muscle of the small intestine (specifically the ileum), at least in Guinea pigs (Rojas-Vera J1Patel AVDacke CG, 2002).

Although nearly two thirds of US midwives report prescribing Red Raspberry leaf to their clients red raspberry leaf with teapot(McFarlin et al 1999), and many, many women self prescribe the tea, there have been relatively few human studies.

One randomized controlled trial of 192 women with low-risk single pregnancies compared red raspberry leaf tablets (2 x 1.2 g per day) to placebo from 32 weeks gestation onwards. There were no adverse effects for either mothers or babies.

Those who took the herbal tablets had a shorter second stage of labor, as well as lower rates of forceps delivery (Simpson et al, 2001).

Another study involving 108 women (57 in treatment group, 51 in control group) confirmed that the herb is safe. They also noted lower rates of pre and post-term gestation – meaning fewer babies were born too early or late – as well as less likelihood of obstetric interventions, including caesarian section, and vacuum or forceps delivery (Parsons et al 1999).

Safety & Concerns

Considered safe in pregnancy and while breast-feeding.

Due to the high tannin content, the herb may interfere with absorption of iron and other minerals, similar to black tea. So, take supplemental iron at a different time than you drink your tea. Note that the herb itself contains iron along with other minerals. In balance as they occur in nature, this mineral content is considered well-absorbed.

 

References

 

Boon, Heather & Smith, Michael. 2004. The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to the 50 Most Common Medicinal Herbs. Toronto, ON: Robert Rose, Inc.

 

Gilbert, Cyndi. 2015. The Essential Guide to Women’s Herbal Medicine. Toronto, ON: Robert Rose, Inc.

 

Gladstar, Rosemary. 1993. Herbal Healing for Women. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, Inc.

 

Hoffmann, David. 2003. Medical Herbalism: The Science & Practice of Herbal Medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, a division of Inner Traditions International.

 

McFarlin B, Gibson M, O’Rear J, Harman P. 1999. A national survey of herbal preparation use by nurse-midwives for labor stimulation. Review of the literature and recommendations for practice. J Nurse Midwifery, 44:205-216.

 

Mills, Simon & Bone, Kerry. 2005. The Essential Guide to Herbal Safety. St Louis, MO: Elsevier – Churchill Livingstone.

 

Mills, Edward, Dugoa, Jean-Jacques, Perri, Dan, Koren, Gideon. 2006. Herbal Medicines in Pregnancy & Lactation: An Evidence-Based Approach. London & New York: Taylor & Francis Group.

 

Rojas-Vera J1, Patel AVDacke CG. 2002. Relaxant activity of raspberry (Rubus idaeus) leaf extract in guinea-pig ileum in vitro. Phytother Res. Nov;16(7):665-8.

 

Romm, Aviva. 2010. Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health. St Louis, MO: Elsevier – Churchill Livingstone.

 

Simpson M, Parsons M, Greenwood J, Wade K. 2001. Raspberry leaf in pregnancy: its safety and efficacy in labor. J Midwifery Women’s Health, 46:51-59.

 

Weed, Susun. 1986. Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year. Woodstock, NY: Ash Tree Publishing.

 

Wood, Matthew. 2009. The Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to New World Medicinal Plants. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.

Kitchen Herbalism: Red Raspberry Leaf Vinegar

Red raspberry leaf in spring

Herbal Vinegar in Mason Jar

Herbal Vinegar in Mason Jar

Wildcrafting note:

Raspberry is abundant in wild and semi-wild spaces throughout temperate North America and Europe, and perhaps can be found in your own yard or a local abandoned lot. Ideally harvest the leaves for use before the fruits appear. In the Toronto area, this means later June or early July.

NB: Always be sure to confirm the identity of a plant before harvesting or consuming.

What you’ll need: 

  • Red Raspberry Leaves (fresh or dried)
  • Organic Vinegar (apple cider, wine, or rice)
  • Mason Jar

What to do:

  1. If using fresh leaves, let them wilt and dry out a little before starting and make sure there is no additional moisture (water drops etc) on your leaves.
  2. Fill your clean, DRY jar with raspberry leaves.
  3. Warm vinegar in a non-reactive pot. Pour warmed vinegar of your choice over the leaves, submerging them completely and filling the jar with liquid.
  4. Seal the jar and place in a cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks.
  5. Strain the vinegar through a cheese cloth or a clean, white cotton cloth.
  6. Rebottle your vinegar (keep bottle out of direct sunlight).
  7. Enjoy! As part of dressing for green, bean, or grain salads or as an aperitif to aid digestion (1 TBSP in a cup of water before meals)

 
WHY red raspberry vinegar:
 
Vinegar is especially valuable for extracting alkaloids, vitamins, and minerals from plants. Vinegar is a good choice for tonic remedies that are intended for regular use over a long period of time to strengthen and build the system. Vinegar extractions can be used by children and are a good choice for adults who avoid alcohol. One tablespoon of this vinegar extract provides about 150-200mg of calcium. And…it’s delicious!

Read here for more about using Red Raspberry Leaf as medicine.

 

Pregnancy Tonic Tea: nettle & raspberry edition

 

Red Raspberry & Nettle Pregnancy Tonic Tea

Red Raspberry & Nettle Pregnancy Tonic Tea

Starting at 20 weeks or so:

  • Place ¼ cup (8 g) dried red raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus) and 1 cup (8-9 g) dried nettle leaf (Urtica dioica) in a large French press (eg Bodum) or sturdy jar. Add (~1 – 1.5 L) boiling water.
  • Let steep 4 hours or up to overnight.
  • Strain and enjoy at room temp or chilled.
  • Drink within 24-36 hours. So, 3-4 cups daily.

For extra calming and nerve nourishment: consider adding 1-2 tbsp of oatstraw (Avena sativa).

For extra digestive support (especially for gas and bloating), consider adding 1 tsp fennel seeds.
 
Benefits: see Red Raspberry Monograph for the specifics of this wonderful herbal ally in pregnancy. Nettle is another highly nutritive herb supporting a healthy gestation. Additionally, it is a natural anti-histamine, and can help with allergies. 

Natural Solutions for Seasonal Allergies

Good news: you can manage your seasonal allergies naturally!

Naturopathic News: there isn’t one natural medicine that works for everyone.

 

What’s good for allergies? Seasonal allergy symptoms occur when the level of inflammation in our car-exhaust590_284x213bodies reaches a certain threshold. For some, this is purely due to extreme sensitivity to pollens, along with dust, animal dander, etc. For others, it relates also to the level of smog they are breathing in, the amount of stress they are currently swimming in, and any foods they might be eating that aren’t a good fit for their systems.

Personally, my “seasonal allergy” symptoms go away when I go camping, as this is a happy, no-stress place for me, and there is way less smog in the back woods. (Luckily, pine pollen is not a trigger for me!). Others notice that when they are in other provinces, even in a city, their symptoms vanish. This can be related to the change in local pollens, the air quality, decreased stress of vacation, or any combination of these things.

 

allergies_flowers&tissueOn a physiological level, seasonal allergy symptoms relate to increased histamine release in the upper respiratory system. Thus, many people find relief by using natural antihistamines such as quercetin and nettles. For others, though, the inflammation needs to be stopped at a different point in the inflammatory pathway. A common intervention point for seasonal allergies is the liver. Using herbs such as milk thistle and antioxidants such as N-acetyl cysteine for liver support can vanish allergy symptoms completely for a subset of people.

Other people’s symptoms respond immediately to a targeted homeopathic remedy, or to gemmotherapy, while still other people find acupuncture gives them the best relief.

While there are some common prescriptions for allergy relief, the right fit for you will be as unique as your life situation, your history, and your current physiology.

My advice? Don’t guess, and don’t suffer needlessly. Book a consult to get your body ready for allergy season, sneeze & sniffle-free.

If your period is kicking your ass, kick back

No More Painful Periods

So, it turns out that menstruating doesn’t have to hurt. Is this hard to imagine?

In this instalment of the Natural Medicine for Painful Periods series, I share some stats and underlying causes, and present evidence for another way to minimize period pain, naturally. In other words, If your period kicks your ass every month, kick back!
 
Dysmenorrhea – difficult/painful menstruation – affects more than half of all menstruating women (estimates range from 45-95%). 7-15% of women experience debilitating to incapacitating dysmenorrhea monthly. Symptoms commonly include painful uterine cramps, pelvic heaviness, aching, and/or uterine spasms, and may be accompanied by low back pain or pain down the backs of the thighs. The pain may begin with the start of menstrual flow, or a couple days before. Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, headaches and migraines can also occur as part of dysmenorrhea. What a party, every month!
 
Treat the cause
Endometriosis, ovarian cysts, fibroids, adenomyosis, IUD use, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs), and interstitial cystitis (IC) can all cause dysmenorrhea. If your symptoms are related to an underlying condition such as these, it is called Secondary Dysmenorrhea. In order to truly resolve your painful periods, a naturopathic physician will not only address your immediate discomfort but will also work with you to uncover and address the cause(s).
 
On the other hand, primary dysmenorrhea refers to painful periods without any of the above conditions. Note that primary dysmenorrhea may still be aggravated by food allergies or sensitivities, which will also be addressed in treatment. 
 

Tip #2 in Natural Medicine for Painful Periods:


living room dance party cat on couchMove your body. Regularly. Have you noticed that this advice shows up for the prevention or treatment of virtually every chronic condition? Regular aerobic exercise (the sort that gets your heart rate up) decreases stagnation of liver qi in the pelvis. And stagnant qi is a major cause of dysmenorrhea according to the Traditional Chinese Medicine paradigm. Of course, there are studies to back this up in western science terms.  Regular yoga practice, and specific yoga poses have both been studied and found to reduce pain during menstruation. Yoga-on-the-Mountain-You know, given that yoga and other forms of movement also improve mood, and oh, decrease your risk of heart disease and cancer, the top two causes of death, I really can’t see why you wouldn’t try it. Move your body, please. If you don’t feel comfortable going to a gym or studio, and you can’t imagine doing yoga as instructed in a youtube video, start with a daily 3 song dance party in your living room and build from there. Or take up hula hooping. Or volunteer to walk a dog. Move. Kick back.

If PMS has you down, see my 10 Tips for a Happy Menstrual Cycle.

For more, personalized, strategies to ease your monthly cycle (including energy medicine, herbal medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture and therapeutic nutrition),contact Mahalia for an appointment. 

What is herbal medicine?

mortar&pestle_wood Herbal medicine is the art and science of using plants to support human health. It is a system of healing in which medicinal plants and natural protocols are used in the prevention or treatment of acute and chronic diseases, and in the maintenance of optimum health and well-being. Rather than simply substituting herbs for prescription drugs, herbal medicine works from a different paradigm entirely. Herbal medical care aims to rebalance the body as a whole and treat the cause as well as addressing the symptoms quickly and gently. Herbs are complex living medicines with multiple actions, crossing body systems in their impact. A current high-profile example is St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum): effective for mild-to-moderate depression, it is not simply a plant version of an antidepressant (although it does have SSRI-like and MAOI-like actions). St John’s wort is also an effective wound healer, and a potently antiviral herb.   Herbal medicine practice may be based on “scientific” evidence of constituent actions (eg Tumeric, with thousands of studies on Curcumin pointing to its anti-inflammatory and anticancer action). It may also be based on history of use and clinical effectiveness (eg traditional indigenous use of herbs around the world, as well as herbal medicine in older medical frameworks including Ayurveda (6000 years) and Traditional Chinese Medicine (5000 years).   Herbal medicine has a history of over 100 000 years of recorded continuous use, with distinct herbal traditions and philosophies in particular countries and regions. Consistently, herbal medical philosophy centres on treating the whole person, taking into account the full context of a person’s life in assessing their health. The holistic approach includes seeking and treating the cause, and always operating from the principle that our bodies have an inherent ability to establish, maintain, and restore health. Practitioners choose treatments that work to restore and support the powerful and innate capacity of your body, mind, and spirit to heal and to prevent further disease from occurring.   Herbal medicine is a distinct modality. While excellent and extensive training exists for herbalists in Canada (see http://www.herbalists.on.ca/education.html for a partial list), external regulation and licensing is not available for Herbalists in Canada. Herbal medicine is practiced in different forms by Naturopathic Doctors (NDs), Doctors of Chinese Medicine (D TCM), Chinese herbalists, Ayurvedic medicine practitioners, Western Herbalists, Medical Herbalists, Clinical Herbalists, and traditional medicine practitioners from every corner of the world.   For more information please see http://www.herbalists.on.ca/index.html and http://www.americanherbalistsguild.com/   Mahalia Freed is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor, Reiki Master and BodyTalk Practitioner in Toronto. Herbal medicine is an important part of her practice at www.drmahaliafreed.com.

Holy Basil

holy_basil

Tulsi, or holy basil, is a great ally for winter, for cold and flu season, for when you are feeling stressed and sad.
Holy Basil is a restorative and tonic herb. It is uplifting, calming, and supports a balanced stress response. It is also antiviral. This is a herb I look to often for clients who are stressed, wired, and having trouble sleeping. As well, I like to include holy basil in mood formulas. I blend it into tinctures, teas. I will share a secret: I think it is an important part of what makes the potions I offer people “magic potions”.
Think of holy basil for stress management, for anxiety & depression, for insomnia, and for fending off winter’s supply of viral infections.
This month, try it as a tea. You can drink it straight, or blend it with other ingredients like lavender, rose petals, hibiscus or chai spices.
Cautions: avoid during pregnancy/if trying to conceive. Monitor your blood sugar if you are on insulin – you may need to lower your dose while using tulsi tea.
For more about this amazing herb, check out this monograph by Rosalee de la Foret.

PMS Prevention Plan: 10 Tips For a Happy Menstrual Cycle

by Dr. Mahalia Freed, ND


Umm, happy? Isn’t that taking things a bit far? No, no it is entirely possible and reasonable. Read on. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is not inevitable or unavoidable. PMS is common, but it is not “normal”.
 
Did you know that PMS can include over 100-300 different symptoms? While mood changes like anxiety, depression, irritability and lability (moodiness) are the most recognized, other common symptoms include breast pain or swelling, bloating, bowel changes (e.g. constipation, diarrhea), insomnia, headaches, migraines, food cravings, acne, back pain, fluid retention in the legs, and fatigue. For some people, PMS takes the form of increased clumsiness and brain fog. For others, it means less vocal range (an issue if you are a professional vocalist!), or even seizures. Finally, many women notice that their immunity is decreased at this time of the month. It is a time when cold sores or genital herpes might erupt, when asthma symptoms may flare, or when a yeast infection could make itself known. It is considered PMS if the symptoms occur in a cyclical pattern, related to the menstrual cycle, over several months. Symptoms may begin at ovulation (around day 14), or 1-2 days before the period begins.
 
The majority of women will experience PMS symptoms at some point in their lives.
 
So, shouldn’t we all know how to stay healthy, happy and stable in the face of Premenstrual Syndrome?  

Here are my Top 10 Tips for PMS Prevention:

 

  1. Nourish yourself with food. Eat lots of vegetables, eat home-made, eat clean protein. Eat organic whenever possible (in this case because xenoestrogens in pesticides impact your hormone balance). Remember that organic junk food is still junk food. Enjoy your treats.

Careful with caffeine. Most of us have figured out the therapeutic power of good chocolate, and I won’t be the one to take this away, but caffeine does make breast tenderness worse, and it can destabilize mood and worsen digestive symptoms. Consider cutting down on coffee.

  1. Cut the sugar. Refined sugar and processed foods aggravate pain and mood issues, even though they seem like a good idea in the moment. (Except a bit of good, dark chocolate).

 

  1. Move your body. Regular movement of any kind is effective, but yoga stands out in its efficacy in the clinical trials.

 

  1. Increase target micronutrients with supplementation:
  • B6: especially helpful for mood symptoms, B6 is essential for the metabolism of estrogen. Take it as part of a good-quality B complex.
  • Cal-Mag: Both calcium and magnesium are proven effective for managing premenstrual symptoms, from fatigue to depression to cramps. Consider supplementing with one or both.
  • Fish Oil (especially EPA): while more researched for other health concerns, fish oil is known to be effective for mood balance, and for shifting physiology to decrease inflammation. Thus, it is a good choice for certain types of PMS.

 
5. Work with an herbal ally or few

  • Herbs to consider for PMS include: St John’s Wort, Vitex agnus-castus, gingko, black cohosh, kava, motherwort, skullcap, passionflower. The specific herbs best for you will depend on your particular symptoms. Some people use combination formulas, while others see great results with only one or two herbs. Ask me for a personalized herbal prescription.

 

  1. Regulate your sleep schedule. Women with a regular sleep routine have more stable hormone levels than those whose sleep patterns are all over the place. Go to bed at the same time every night. For maximum benefit, go to sleep well before midnight, and sleep in total darkness (see melatonin, below).

 

  1. Increase your melatonin. You know how it feels like your hormones are crazy when you have PMS? Well, in fact the only hormonal difference scientists have found between women with severe PMS and controls is melatonin levels. That’s right, no estrogen excess or deficiency, no progesterone excess or deficiency. The other hormone issues are believed to stem from changes in hormone receptor sensitivity. But, this is still theory. In the meantime, you can increase your melatonin naturally:
  1. Sleep in complete darkness (blackout curtains, an eye mask if light is unavoidable)
  2. Start sleeping sooner. Melatonin production is higher before midnight.
  3. Ensure you give your body the building blocks. Pumpkin seed is a great source of tryptophan, the amino acid precursor to serotonin and melatonin. The reaction requires B6 (see above).
  4. Alternate nostril breathing can stimulate the pineal gland to increase melatonin production (and generally promotes calm when done before sleep).
  5. If you have been diagnosed with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), consider supplementing with melatonin. Start with 3 mg per day before bed. And, contact me for more (nonprescription) options.

 

  1. Honor the wisdom within you. If you are exhausted and feel irritated by anyone talking to you, maybe this is the time of the month to carve out a couple hours to curl up with a novel, or journal, rather than pushing yourself to maintain your usual pace. For those who experience intense shifts in mood, think of PMS as the time when the tide is out, and all the feelings and nagging thoughts that you can push down (under the water) the rest of the month are exposed. Sometimes PMS emotionality is just PMS, but often there are important nuggets of truth buried in the sad or mad or irritable state. Look for these truths and give them space at other times in the month. If the nagging thought is “this (job/relationship/etc.) doesn’t feel right”, then make space to explore that. Make changes. As things in your life shift in response to you listening to your inner voice, watch your PMS symptoms abate.

 

  1. Cultivate a happy microbial community:
  • Eat fermented or cultured foods regularly (e.g. unpasteurized sauerkraut, kimchi, kosher-style dill pickles).
  • Consider reseeding your flora with a quality probiotic supplement, especially if you have taken antibiotics.
  • (Good gut flora are associated with better mood, and good gut flora are also important for hormone balance)

 

  1. As always, I highly encourage you to seek out personalized naturopathic care to help map out the big picture, and tunnel down to the right supports for you. Constitutional homeopathy, acupuncture, flower essences, therapeutic nutrition and custom formulated herbal medicines can all offer incredible healing & resolution for PMS symptoms. With professional guidance and the advantage of an outside eye, meet your health goals faster, with less time lost to the contradictory information offered by Dr Google.

Contact me for information on becoming a client/patient.