Isn’t it wonderful to be a woman? We are naturally gifted with intuition, empathy, and the ability to bring forth and nourish life. Thanks to female hormones, we also have unique health issues. Natural herbs are now being used by many women to support various health conditions. Some of these herbs have been used traditionally for many years in certain cultures. Although we have a lot more to learn, we now have clinical studies providing great evidence for the medicinal power of plants. The benefit for us is that herbs are often less expensive than pharmaceuticals and don’t carry the same side effects. So how can you use herbal medicine to help support your health? Read on for the top three herbs that have been proven to treat common female health conditions.
Although herbs are very safe, you should speak to your physician about taking herbal supplements if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, have a chronic condition, or take medication regularly. You also want to make sure to stick to the dosages provided on the label or recommended by your health practitioner. Remember that although herbs are natural, there may still be contraindications.
Cranberry for Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)
Cranberry is a member of the same family as bilberry and blueberry. The fruit is used medicinally to support urinary tract health. A pilot study published in Phytomedicine suggested that cranberry may prevent urinary tract infections.1 Research has suggested cranberry may be effective against UTIs because it prevents E. coli, the bacteria that causes most urinary tract infections, from attaching to the walls of the bladder.2 Cranberry is not, however, a substitute for antibiotics in the treatment of acute UTIs. To use cranberry to support your urinary tract health, try 4 to 10 ounces of unsweetened cranberry juice daily or 400 mg of powdered cranberry concentrate twice per day.
Chaste Tree for PMS
Chaste tree, also known as Chasteberry or Vitex, is used to support menstrual health and help alleviate premenstrual symptoms. The berries of this North African shrub are phytosterol rich and help balance the hormones by promoting the production of progesterone and normalizing the estrogen cycle. Studies have shown that using vitex once in the morning over a period of several months helps normalize hormone balance and thus alleviate the symptoms of PMS.3 Healthcare practitioners recommend 40 drops of a liquid, concentrated vitex extract or one capsule of the equivalent dried, powdered extract (20 mg) once per day in the morning with some liquid. Vitex should be taken for at least four menstrual cycles to determine efficacy. (Chaste tree may decrease effectiveness of birth control pills, so speak with your doctor before using it).
Black Cohosh for Menopause
Black cohosh is a shrub-like plant native to the eastern deciduous forests of North America in which the root and rhizome are dried and used medicinally. Black Cohosh is used to treat symptoms associated with menopause. In a three-month study of postmenopausal women, 40 mg per day of an extract of black cohosh was as effective as estrogen therapy in the treatment of hot flashes.4 Other promising findings with black cohosh treatment are an increase in stimulation of vaginal lubrication and possible prevention of bone degradation. Recommendations for black cohosh are 20 mg of a highly concentrated herbal extract taken twice per day. Black cohosh should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women.
1. Bailey DT, Dalton C, Joseph Daugherty FJ, Tempesta MS. Can a concentrated cranberry extract prevent recurrent urinary tract infections in women? A pilot study.Phytomedicine 2007;14:237–41.
2. Sobota AE. Inhibition of bacterial adherence by cranberry juice: Potential use for the treatment of urinary tract infections. J Urol 1984;131:1013–6.
3. Dittmar FW, Böhnert KJ, et al. Premenstrual syndrome: Treatment with a phytopharmaceutical. TherapiwocheGynäkol 1992;5:60–8.
4. Nappi RE, Malavasi B, Brundu B, Facchinetti F. Efficacy of Cimicifugaracemosa on climacteric complaints: a randomized study versus low-dose transdermal estradiol. GynecolEndocrinol 2005;20:30–