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Herbal medicine has been used by many cultures around the world for thousands of years, long before pharmaceuticals were created. Whether used in cooking or as medicine, plants offer a safe and effective way to treat women’s health concerns when utilized correctly. Let’s explore five herbs and their application to women’s sexual and reproductive health.

Chastetree

For women experiencing infertility or premenstrual symptoms such as cramping, monthly breakouts and mood changes, Chastetree is one of my favourite hormone regulating herbs. Chastetree works on the pituitary gland to decrease prolactin and to increase progesterone. The use of this herb should be considered in women with irregular menstrual cycles and with a history of recurring miscarriage.

Maca

Maca root is a nutrient-rich aphrodisiac which is used for infertility in both men and women. Native to the Andes of Peru, it has been in use for centuries by the local population as a food staple. In women, Maca has been shown in studies to improve sexual desire and to reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. The powder can be added to smoothies and homemade energy bars. It is also available in capsule form.

Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha is a hormone balancing herb native to India and northern Africa. It is primarily used to help the body adapt to stressful situations, to improve your energy, thyroid function and to prevent immune system dysfunction which can occur after a bout of chronic stress. In practice, I use this herb with women who are dealing with infertility and the stress and anxiety that can result from months of trying to conceive. Ashwagandha has been shown in studies to have mood enhancing benefits.

Red Raspberry Leaf

During pregnancy, red raspberry leaf is often used to strengthen and relax the uterus, preparing it for labour. It is typically recommended by naturopathic doctors, doulas and midwives during the second and third trimesters as a partus preparatus, or mother’s cordial which is a combination of herbs used in the third trimester to prepare the body for birth. Women who regularly drink red raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy, report faster labour and a quicker recovery time. When taken in the first trimester, red raspberry leaf tea may reduce nausea and morning sickness symptoms.

Dong Quai

Dong quai has been used in Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. I often recommend Dong quai for the treatment of hot flashes and night sweats usually in combination with other herbs in a liquid extract form. Dong quai is a hormone balancer. It is useful for premenstrual syndrome and infertility. It also contains folic acid and B12, two important nutrients in women’s health.

Red Clover

A native North American plant, Red Clover is a natural source of phytoestrogens, chemicals that act like estrogen in the body. For this reason, this herb may be beneficial during menopause for insomnia, bone loss prevention and night sweats. However, most importantly, Red Clover does not come with the risk of side effects such as breast cancer and heart disease which were reported in the Women’s Health Initiative Study by women taking pharmaceutical hormone replacement therapy.

Always consult with a healthcare practitioner before using herbal medicine. Although most herbal medicines are seen as safe, interactions with medications and other herbs may occur. In order to reap the full benefits of herbal medicine, consult with a knowledgeable practitioner who can provide a tailored approach to your health concerns.

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Dr. Olivia Rose
About the Author

Dr. Olivia Rose graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences and in 2006, she graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.

In addition to her private practice, Dr. Rose is the director of Fertility Acupuncture Services, a mobile service that brings acupuncture to couples undergoing in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination at Toronto fertility clinics. Her special areas of interest include infertility; children and teen health; stress management; weight loss; heart disease; digestive and immune health; skin rejuvenation and pain management. She is a birth doula and has additional training in cosmetic acupuncture and needle-less therapies for skin rejuvenation and joint pain.

Dr. Rose is a sought-after lecturer for community organizations; a freelance writer and mentor to new graduates. She has been interviewed by various media outlets including Global Toronto’s, “The Morning Show”, “News at Noon” and “News Hour”. In her free time, she unplugs at the spa and she enjoys spending quality time with her husband, son and tea-cup Yorkie. For more information on Dr. Rose's practice and special events, please visit - www.oroseND.com