When hormones are out of balance how can nature help?
Women’s hormones work cyclically, following an average 28 day pattern, which is similar to the lunar (moon) cycle. This is different from men, whose hormones work on just a 24 hour cycle. Women tend to experience more hormonal imbalances and symptoms than men, as our bodies are more sensitive and can easily fall out of balance when we aren’t taking proper care of ourselves. Connecting more to nature can help to rebalance our hormones, whether that is by spending time relaxing outdoors for stress management or eating more vegetables to increase our nutrient intake. Some symptoms women may struggle with when dealing with hormone imbalances include PMS, fibroids, menstrual issues, PCOS, fluid retention, hot sweats and acne.
It’s important to know that we have power and control over our health and hormones. The aim is to get our body back in sync with its natural cycles by using the ‘food as medicine’ concept, lifestyle changes and supplementation with herbs and ‘superfoods’.
Here are some of my favourite natural remedies for rebalancing female hormones
Also known as “Peruvian Ginseng”, Maca is a hormonal adaptogen meaning that it does not contain any hormones, however, it contains the nutrients necessary to support normal hormone production and up/down regulates this according to your specific needs. Due to its nutrient density and high mineral content, Maca can support energy production, thyroid function and even increase sexual desire. Post-menopausal women with symptoms such as vaginal dryness, hot sweats, fatigue and insomnia often see great results due to the oestrogen regulating effects. (1)
If you are suffering with conditions such as Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), Endometriosis, Fibroids or Oestrogen dominance I would recommend you to speak to a healthcare practitioner before taking Maca as it could actually worsen symptoms such as breast tenderness, acne and PMS in some individuals.
These seeds are rich in anti-inflammatory, omega-3 fatty acids along with antioxidant substances called Lignans, that help promote hormone balance. Asian women tend to have lower rates of hormone dependant cancers, such as breast cancer, and this is often linked to their intake of soy products which contain isoflavones. In Western countries, we can use flaxseeds as an alternative to soy to benefit our hormones. Flaxseeds are also less allergenic and inflammatory than soy products can be.(2) They are also a great source of fibre, therefore will help with digestive regularity which is important for the excretion of ‘used’ and ‘excess’ hormones in the body. Lignans are considered natural “phyto-oestrogens,” which means they work somewhat similarly to the hormone oestrogen in the body. Phyto-oestrogens in flaxseed can alter oestrogen metabolism, causing either an increase or decrease in oestrogen activity depending on someone’s hormonal status. For example, in postmenopausal women, lignans can cause the body to produce less harmful forms of oestrogen, protecting against tumour growth. (3)
Evening primrose oil
Evening Primrose Oil has been used traditionally to treat women's health issues for centuries. It contains the omega-6 fatty acids ‘Linolenic acid’ (LA) and ‘Gamma-Linolenic Acid’ (GLA), both of which have been shown to support overall hormone function and reduce PMS symptoms such as bloating, breast tenderness, irritability and headaches. GLA has been shown to enhance fertility by increasing the production of cervical mucus- a factor in successful conception. Due to its anti-inflammatory properties evening primrose oil can also be beneficial for improving skin health, whether its hormonal acne in your 20’s or dry, cracked skin in your 60’s. (4)
This Ayurvedic herb is used as a female hormone balancer that can support women through every stage of their lives. Shatavari's main constituents are saponins which help with oestrogen modulation, therefore improving issues with the menstrual cycle, PMS symptoms, alleviating menstrual cramps and helping to control the amount of blood lost. It can be very helpful for women with fertility issues and also hormonal symptoms such as mood swings, especially if they are driven by stress and anxiety. Shatavari can also support menopausal women as it nourishes the female reproductive system from within, relieving symptoms such as vaginal dryness, hot flushes and insomnia.(5)
Vitex (Chaste Tree)
Vitex has been referred to as an ‘ovarian adaptogen’ and also helps to boost our own production of progesterone, therefore helping to balance the oestrogen to progesterone ratio. Many women are in a state of oestrogen dominance, relative to progesterone, and can suffer with symptoms associated with premenstrual syndrome such as cramps, acne, bloating, breast tenderness and anxiety, as a result. It is beneficial for most menstrual irregularities, pain and mood swings. Progesterone is only produced as a result of ovulation and should be the dominant hormone of the luteal phase (second half) of your menstrual cycle. Progesterone has been referred to as ‘natures valium’ due to its calming effects, but levels can be affected by many things, especially stress. In menopausal women, Vitex works best when combined with other herbs, such as black cohosh or dong quai, for alleviating symptoms such as insomnia and hot flushes.(6)
If you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) I would seek advice from a practitioner before using Vitex as it can raise Luteinizing Hormone (LH), which is often already elevated in women with this condition.
MotherwortMotherwort acts as a uterine tonic which helps to regulate menstruation, bring on delayed periods and can reduce menstrual cramps and migraines, by relaxing smooth muscle. Motherwort helps with pelvic circulation, improving blood flow and relaxing the nervous system. It can be particularly beneficial for women suffering with anxiety that is worse in the pre-menstrual phase or during the menopause. Women suffering with Hypothalamic Amenorrhea (lack of menstruation due to stress) should consider Motherwort due to its calming and menstruation stimulating effects. Motherwort helps to support women with emotional issues too, such as grief, anger and sadness. It is considered a remedy for both the physical and the emotional heart. (7)
It takes a holistic approach to ultimately restore hormonal balance. Focus on a nutrient dense, anti-inflammatory diet, daily movement, time in nature, high quality sleep and stress management techniques. Self care should also be incorporated into your daily routine for at least 10 minutes, in order to allow your body to go into a parasympathetic (rest and digest) mode. This could be reading a book, taking a bath, calling a friend or doing some breathing exercises. All of these things will support your hormonal system to rebalance, working FOR, not AGAINST you...as nature intended.
- Gonzales GF. Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii(Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM. 2012;2012:193496. doi:10.1155/2012/193496. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3184420/
- Jennifer D Brooks, Wendy E Ward, Jacqueline E Lewis, John Hilditch, Leslie Nickell, Evelyn Wong, Lilian U Thompson; Supplementation with flaxseed alters estrogen metabolism in postmenopausal women to a greater extent than does supplementation with an equal amount of soy, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 79, Issue 2, 1 February 2004, Pages 318–325. Available at: https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/79/2/318/4690098
- Goyal A, Sharma V, Upadhyay N, Gill S, Sihag M. Flax and flaxseed oil: an ancient medicine & modern functional food. Journal of Food Science and Technology. 2014;51(9):1633-1653. doi:10.1007/s13197-013-1247-9. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4152533/
- Ehrlich, S.D (2015) ‘Evening Primrose Oil’. University of Maryland Medical Centre (UMMC) Available at: https://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/evening-primrose-oil
- Alok S, Jain SK, Verma A, Kumar M, Mahor A, Sabharwal M. Plant profile, phytochemistry and pharmacology of Asparagus racemosus (Shatavari): A review. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Disease. 2013;3(3):242-251. doi:10.1016/S2222-1808(13)60049-3. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4027291/
- Aviva Romm M.D. ‘Botanic Medicine for Women’s Health.’ 1ST edn.
- Aviva Romm M.D. ‘Botanic Medicine for Women’s Health.’ 1ST edn