Women's Health and Women's Herbs

Explore our botanicals specifically tailored to assist women on their journey through life.

Apart from wanting to maintain general good heath, women have their own particular issues, mainly to do with hormonal lifecycle changes – puberty, menstruation, childbearing, breastfeeding and menopause. For thousands of years women have harnessed the power of herbs to gently and effectively re-balance wayward hormones. And unlike harsh, synthetic pharmaceutical drugs, they rarely have side-effects.

Other situations that botanicals can help with include enhancing libido, sharpening the mind, raising low mood, boosting physical resilience for working-out, and increasing longevity. Herbs can be used preventatively or as cures. Browse the list below to see which best suit your situation.

Although herbs can work wonders on their own, they function most effectively when used as part of a healthy lifestyle – a balanced wholefood diet, detoxification, regular exercise, relaxation, stress management, adequate sleep, and emotional/spiritual fulfilment. At Indigo Herbs we believe that prevention is better than cure, and all these factors will contribute to building up your body to resist illness.

Today’s woman wants to take responsibility for her health and a good place to start is nutrition. Superfoods are nutrient-dense plants such as berries, seeds, algae, mushrooms, seaweeds and grasses. Used as a daily supplement, added to juices or smoothies, sprinkled on yoghurt or cereal, or made into raw-food energy bars (go on, experiment!), they can quickly transform your diet from 2-star to 5-star.

All our botanicals are pure, high-quality and ethically sourced.

 

Agnus castus

(Agnus castus)
Agnus Castus Benefits

Agnus Castus is a powerful adaptogenic herb that is perhaps most famous for its contribution to women's health. Research shows it can relieve PMS symptoms such as headaches, breast tenderness, headaches and fatigue. Improvements in mood swings and anxiety have also been reported. Herbalists believe Agnus Castus is a natural source of progesterone that can help to balance the ratio of oestrogen to progesterone. It has been used to successfully jump start the regular menstrual cycle and can be especially useful when coming off the birth control pill.

Since progesterone plays a crucial role in conception and sustaining pregnancy, Agnus Castus may also be a first step before trying infertility treatments. Progesterone is needed to thicken the uterine lining, and help with luteal phase defects—the period between ovulation and menstruation during a woman’s menstrual cycle which is typically 10-17 days long. When there is an insufficient luteal phase, it can lead to problems with conception and miscarriage.

Some studies have shown that the use of Agnus Castus extract may also help with the symptoms of perimenopause, the earliest stage of menopause. The hormone balancing qualities of this herb make it ideal for counteracting hot flushes and other symptoms.

 

Ashwagandha

(Withania somnifera)
Ashwagandha Benefits

Ashwagandha provides menopausal support to women, acting on the endocrine system by encouraging hormonal balance. In a recent study of 51 menopausal women, a significant reduction in symptoms such as hot flashes, anxiety and mood was noted as a result of supplementation with Ashwagandha.

Ashwagandha is also beneficial to breastfeeding mothers - it is thought to not only increase the flow of milk but to improve its quality too. 

 

Avena sativa

(Avena sativa)
Avena sativa benefits

Avena Sativa is a tonic to the nervous system, making it good for recovering from exhaustion. Tradition holds it increases vaginal stimulation and advances the physical and emotional desires for sex.  This effect is thought to be due to Avena Sativa’s ability to encourage blood circulation, a contributing factor to boosting sexual desire. In addition it is believed that Oatstraw frees up bound testosterone, an essential hormone for a healthy libido. 

Avena Sativa is also a great hormone balancer and can relieve PMS symptoms such as cramps, headaches and mood swings. 

 

 

 

Bearberry

(Arctostaphylos Uva-Ursi)
Bearberry Benefits

Cystitis is an infection of the urinary bladder that is more common in women than men. A bacterial infection with distressing symptoms such as; abdominal pain, a constant urge to pass urine, a burning sensation when passing urine sometimes accompanied by blood in the urine.

Bearberry leaves contain a high concentration of the phytochemical “arbutin” which is converted by bacteria in the urine into hydroquinone, a molecule which is anti-microbial and a highly potent bacterial killer. It is this compound that is thought to be responsible for the relief provided from cystitis and other urinary tract infections. As Bearberry passes out of the body through the urinary tract it soothes irritation and reduces inflammation whilst fighting the bacteria that is the cause of this debilitating condition. However, Bearberry works most effectively against UTIs when urine is kept alkaline by eating a generous plant-based diet and taking sodium bicarbonate. Arbutin also helps to reduce the accumulation of uric acid and can be beneficial in the treatment of kidney stones.

 

Black Cohosh

(Actaea Racemosa)
Black Cohosh Benefits

Black Cohosh can be useful in managing erratic periods and/or easing cramps and uterine tension. It can also stimulate menstrual bleeding and improve uterine tone. Additionally it can have an impact on the hormonal balance of the body, making it useful to combat mood swings and stress brought about by PMS or the menopause.

A stark drop in oestrogen levels is responsible for bringing on the symptoms of menopause. Some researchers believe that Black Cohosh exerts its effects on menopausal symptoms through a brain-related action, such as modulation of serotonergic pathways, or through its potential ability to act as an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, or selective oestrogen receptor modulator. Research shows that Black Cohosh can alleviate menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety and mood swings.One study reported that Black Cohosh improved anxiety, menopause and vaginal symptoms. In addition, the number of hot flashes dropped from 5 to less than 1 average daily occurrence in the Black Cohosh group compared to those taking oestrogen in whom hot flashes dropped from 5 to 3.5 daily occurrences.

 

Blessed Thistle

(Cnicus benedictus)
Blessed Thistle Benefits

Blessed Thistle has the ability to act a galactagogue (to increase milk supply). In one particular study it was concluded that the most effective of the herbal galactagogues were Fenugreek and Blessed Thistle taken together. It not only stimulates the production of breast milk, it improves the quality too. 

It is also a well known herb as a remedy for other female problems, helping to alleviate PMS symptoms such as painful menstruation and PMS related headaches. 

 

Clary Sage

(Salvia scleria)
Clary Sage

Clary Sage is most well-known for its oestrogenic effects, helping to achieve female balance. As a hormone balancer it works to regulate periods, alleviate PMS and ease painful cramps. It is also a wonderful tonic for the womb and the uterus.

For menopausal or peri-menopausal symptoms, Clary Sage will provide relief from hot flashes, night sweats and promote a restful night's sleep. 

 

Dong Quai

(Angelica sinensis)
Dong Quai Benefits

Also known as "female Ginseng", Dong Quai has a long and enduring history as a potent herb for women. It has the ability to regulate oestrogen levels - whether they're too high or too low - strengthening the uterus, improving uterine tone and regulating the menstrual cycle. 

Dong Quai is also a blood tonic in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and has been shown to improve red blood cell counts which is helpful after menstruation has ended as the blood is replenished more rapidly. It increases blood flow to the reproductive system, reducing congestion and pain, it is traditionally used for situations of stagnation such as PCOS, endometriosis, ovarian cysts and uterine fibroids.

Dong Quai is usually prescribed in conjunction with other herbs in TCM to treat symptoms of the menopause. A recent randomised, placebo controlled study examining the effects of Dong Quai combined with Chamomile, found a significant difference in the relief of hot flashes, insomnia and fatigue between the treatment and placebo groups. The researchers concluded that treatment of menopausal symptoms was effective and without any side effects 

 

Evening Primrose

(Oenothera biennis)
Evening Primrose

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, irritablity and headaches. 

Also good for fertility, GLA has been shown to increase the production of cervical mucus which is a factor in successful conception. Cervical fluid is vital for allowing the sperm to swim freely through the cervix.

Evening Primrose Oil has been used by midwives in the last trimester of pregnancy for hundreds of years. It can be taken orally to ripen the cervix, or the mother can rub the cervix with this oil to enhance its effect. 

 

Fennel Seed

(Foeniculum vulgare)
Fennel Benefits

Fennel Seeds have been used by women in the Mediterranean area for many years to alleviate the symptoms of PMS and menstrual cramps. Research backs this up, with many studies showing that these seeds work just as well - even out performing some of their pharmaceutical counterparts. One study gave 55 young girls who suffered from menstrual pain either a fennel extract or an over the counter painkiller. 80% of the fennel group and 73% of the painkiller group reported complete pain relief or a significant decrease in pain. They also reported that 80% of the fennel group as opposed to 63% of the painkiller group no longer needed rest.

Fennel is also a powerful ally to women undergoing changes due to the menopause. Many studies have found it helps to minimise symptoms such as hot flashes and bone loss, but without increasing the risk of hormone driven cancers that have been associated with conventional HRT. 

 

Fenugreek Seed

(Trigonella fornum)
Fenugreek Benefits

Fenugreek Seeds have been used for 1000's of years in Ayurvedic medicine with many of its physicians prescribing it to nursing mothers. Classed as a "galactagogue" (a herb that helps to increase breast milk production), this benefit is attributed to the amount of diosgenin in it which helps to increase the amount of milk produced by the breasts. It is also high in magnesium and many important vitamins which in turn helps to increase the quality of the milk. 

It is also classed as an emmenagogue (a substance that stimulates or increases menstrual flow). This adaptable herb is known to balance the hormones that are responsible for the occurence of periods and it eases menstrual cramps and PMS symptoms.

The diosgenin and estrogenic isoflavones in Fenugreek also make it a good herb to reduce menopausal symptoms. In one particular study that lasted for 90 days, oestrogen levels were found to have more than doubled in the Fenugreek treated group. Furthermore, a reduction in symptoms among this group included a 57% drop in night sweats, a 68% drop in mood swings, a 75% drop in insomnia and a 54% drop in headaches. Additionally, 32% of the group reported that their hot flashes had completely disappeared with the rest of the group experiencing a reduction in hot flashes from 3 - 5 times a day at the beginning of the study to 1 - 2 times per day. 

 

Ginkgo Biloba

(Ginkgo biloba, Salisburia adiantifolia, Salisburia macrophylla)
Ginkgo Biloba Benefits

Ginkgo Biloba has been shown to be of great benefit to PMS in several clinical trials. It not only improves the psychological symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome, it also helps to alleviate some physical issues. In a double blind study of 165 women, symptom diaries kept by the participants and subsequent evaluation by a physician showed that Ginkgo Biloba was particularly effective in relieving the breast pain and tenderness experienced by some women with PMS.

Ginkgo Biloba has also shown promise in reviving sex drive in women both peri-menopausal and menopausal. It promotes blood flow to the vulva and the vagina, enhancing sensation and sexual pleasure, especially when taken long term. 

 

Horny Goat Weed

(Epimedium sagittatum)
Horny Goat Weed Benefits

Often believed to be exclusively for men, Horny Goat Weed has many benefits for women too. Several studies have found that the active constituents of Horny Goat Weed balance oestrogen and estradiol levels in women. Icariin is a prenylflavonoid compound which acts as a natural phytoestrogen, associated with decreased symptoms of menopause, including low libido and vaginal dryness.

Osteoporosis is a common problem experience by many women as they age. Research done by the Department of Chemistry and Biotechnology at the University of Tokyo found that Horny Goat Weed has positive effects on restoring bone density, with findings from animal studies showing that icariin is a strong candidate for an osteogenic compound for use in bone tissue engineering.Another study in China reported similar results - they found evidence that icariin can prevent osteoporosis by increasing bone density and bone formation, decreasing bone resorption and improving the microstructure of bone. 

Finally, Horny Goat Weed's aphrodisiac effects work on women too, increasing blood circulation and improving blood flow to the genital area, this herb is excellent for stimulating female libido and decreasing sexual dysfunction.

 

Motherwort

(Leonurus cardiaca)
Motherwort Benefits

As an emmenogogue, Motherwort acts as a uterine tonic which helps to regulate menstruation, bring on delayed periods and can reduce smooth muscle cramping – particularly menstrual cramps.

Motherwort can also help relieve premenstrual tension and discomfort. Most menstrual cramps are partially due to inadequate circulation in the pelvis. Motherwort may help calm menstrual pain by both reducing spasms in the uterus and improving blood flow to the pelvis.

Though it is not to be used until labour, Motherwort can ease early labour pains if they begin prematurely. It can also alleviate the restlessness, anxiety, tension and insomnia some women experience during labour. Post natally, it is given to help the uterus relax and return to normal.

 

Mugwort

(Artemisia Vulgaris)
Mugwort Benefits

Mugwort is a uterine tonic and an emmenagogue (a substance that stimulates or increases menstrual flow). The uterus depends on healthy circulation to the pelvic region and strong uterine muscles to function properly. A toned uterus that is receiving good blood circulation allows for healthy monthly periods.

Before using this herb to stimulate monthly menses it is advised that a pregnancy test is done first as this powerful herb can cause miscarriages and is contraindicated during pregnancy and lactation.

 

Olive Leaf

(Olea europaea L. folium)
Olive Leaf Benefits

There is a higher risk for osteoporosis for women as they age, however there are many bone supportive herbs that can be used to minimise the risk for this debilitating disease, Olive Leaf being a particularly powerful weapon in your herbal arsenal. 

Inspired by epidemiological evidence showing that people who ate a traditional Mediterranean diet were less likely to suffer from osteoporosis, Dr Veronique Coxam has led research and development of the powerfully active compounds in Olive Leaf – oleuropein and hydroxytyrosol. Her early work found showed that both of these compounds had an impact on inflammation in bones – findings since confirmed by animal studies.

Research performed by scientists at the University of Cordoba, Spain, studied the effects of a range of oleuropein concentrations on the formation of osteoblasts (a cell that secretes the substance of bone), in stem cells from human bone marrow. The researchers concluded, “Our data suggests that oleuropein, highly abundant in olive tree products included in the traditional Mediterranean diet, could prevent age related bone loss and osteoporosis.” 

 

Prunes

(Prunus Domestica)
Prunes Benefits

With a higher risk for osteoporosis for women as they age, Prunes have been found to have an extremely positive effect upon bone health. Studies have linked Prune consumption with a reduced risk of debilitating bone conditions such as osteoporosis. Whilst it’s still unclear why Prunes exert such a positive effect on bone health, one definite contributor is the amount of vitamin K contained in these fruits. One 25g serving of Prunes will provide around twice the RDA of vitamin K, an essential nutrient to the maintenance of normal bones. This works together with vitamin D to produce the protein “osteocalcin” - without this protein minerals cannot bind together to form the density of bones.

There is also evidence that vitamin K positively affects calcium balance – a key mineral in bone metabolism.

 

Raspberry

(Rubus idaeus)

Raspberry Leaf is perhaps most famous for its use in matters of fertility, childbirth and postnatal care. High in antioxidant vitamins, it helps to clear toxins from the system that might be preventing pregnancy. It also strengthens the uterine wall which may increase the chances of embryo implatation whilst reducing the risk of early miscarriage. 

There is evidence to suggest that by strengthening and toning the womb with herbs such as Raspberry Leaf, it will help the uterus get ready for action, making it less likely that the mother will go past 41 weeks. There are anecdotal accounts of women experiencing shorter and less painful labours that are attributed to the use of Raspberry Leaf. It is reported to be especially beneficial to women who what a vaginal birth after a caesarian section because it strengthens both the uterine wall and the round ligaments surrounding the uterus.

Post-natally, Raspberry Leaf Tea can help the uterus return to pre-pregnancy size and help to reduce post-natal depression. It is also commonly used to stimulate the production of breast milk.

 

Sage

(Salvia officinalis)
Sage Benefits

Whilst studies of Sage in this area are quite limited, it has been well documented for centuries that its use in the alleviation of night sweats and hot flushes has considerable effect. A study was conducted in 2011 to assess the efficacy and safety of Sage as a herbal tonic to reduce the frequency and severity of menopausal hot flushes. 71 menopausal women with an average age of 56 were assessed across eight treatment centres in Switzerland. All had been menopausal for at least a year and were experiencing in excess of 5 hot flushes a day and were treated with a daily tablet of fresh Sage leaves for a period of eight weeks.

Half the women experienced a significant decrease in hot flush symptoms after four weeks, and 64% benefitted from the fresh sage preparation after persevering with the treatment for eight weeks. On average, the hot flushes decreased every week and incidences of very severe flushes were eliminated completely. The study showed a decrease in both the frequency and severity of hot flushes among those taking fresh sage daily. The results strongly support its use to alleviate the menopausal symptoms of hot flushes and night sweats.

 

Shatavari

(Asparagus racemosus)
Shatavari Benefits

Used for 1000's of years as a general female tonic and hormone balancer, as an all round women's herb, Shatavari is hard to beat. Supporting women through every stage of their lives, Shatavari's main constituents are steroidal saponins that suggest its use as an oestrogen regulator. This modulation helps to regulate menstrual cycles, manage PMS symptoms, alleviate menstrual cramps and control the amount of blood lost. Shatavari greatly helps with fluid retention and may also be helpful with the uncomfortable bloating often suffered before a period.

It is also very helpful to women who have fertility issues due to stress or immune-mediated problems, with Shatavari supporting proper immunological function. It supports the mucous membranes as it contains mucilage, this lines and protects the membranes of the cervix which is helpful for women with low cervical mucous. Adequate cervical mucous allows sperm to swim freely through the cervix. 

The saponins contained in Shatavari have been shown to have an "anti-oxytocin" effect which in turn may help uterine contractions subside - protecting against threatened miscarriage. Consultation with a Ayurvedic or Naturopathic Practitioner is advised before using Shatavari for this condition. 

Due to its oily, heavy nature, Shatavari nourishes the female reproductive system from within to relieve menopause symptoms such as vaginal dryness, hot flashes and insomnia. This phytoestrogen-rich herb naturally helps to balance the hormones responsible for many of the more unpleasant symptoms associated with this change in life. Shatavari also stimulates and balances the production of happy hormones; endorphins, serotonin and dopamine - meaning it can greatly reduce mood swings, irritablility and menopause induced depression. 

 

Skullcap

(Scutellaria lateriflora)
Skullcap Benefits

An excellent women’s herb, Skullcap contains large amounts of flavonoids, including scutellarin and baicalin, which are believed to be the active components accounting for its sedative and antispasmodic activity. This antispasmodic activity make it an extremely effective herb for menstrual cramps and it calming action aids PMT symptoms.

It has also been used traditionally for centuries to stimulate menstrual bleeding.

 

St John's Wort

(Hypericum perforatum)
St John's Wort Benefits

St John's Wort is an excellent herb to treat the psychological symptoms associated with PMS. A 2010 study looked at the efficacy of St John’s Wort for the treatment of PMS. The results of this randomised, double blind, placebo controlled trial found that: “St John’s Wort was statistically more beneficial than the placebo for food cravings, swelling, poor co-ordination, insomnia, confusion, headaches, crying and fatigue”. 

St John's Wort can also be effective for menopause symptoms with one randomised, double blind placebo study finding that 100 women reported a reduction in the severity, frequency and duration of hot flashes after taking this herb for 8 weeks. In another study 111 women reported improvements in sexual well-being after supplementation with an extract of St John's Wort. 

 

Tongkat Ali

(Eurycoma longifolia)
Tongkat Ali Benefits

Tongkat Ali's main benefits come from its ability to balance hormones and generally support women's health. Common symptoms of hormone imbalance can include low sex drive, brain fog, fatigue and slow metabolism. With hormones playing a significant role in metabolism, Tonkat Ali's stabilising effect can help to maintain healthy metabolism, therefore preventing age-related weight gain.

When hormones are out of kilter this can play havoc with many bodily systems, especially in women - low energy levels being a common complaint along with fatigue. Tongkat Ali is a natural energy booster, with Asian communities using this herb for centuries for just this effect, alongside it being used to ramp up sex drive and boost testosterone levels (necessary for both male and female sexual health). It is also said to be helpful in increasing the sensitivity of women's erogenous zones, further adding to its libido boosting qualities.

Another side-effect of low hormone levels (especially testosterone), is and increased risk of osteoporosis - common in women over a certain age. As long as levels of magnesium, calcium and vitamin D are normal, Tongkat Ali's ablility to encourage serum levels of testosterone make this herb extremely useful for improving and maintaining superior bone health. 

 

White Willow

(Salix alba)
White Willow Benefits

Painful menstrual cramps are usually the result of inflammation of the uterine lining and the contractions which are triggered by prostaglandins. White Willow bark regulates the production of prostaglandins and reduces inflammation which will help to soothe not only cramps but other PMS symptoms. The only side effect to using this remedy could be an increase in the flow of blood due to its blood thinning effects.

 

Wild Yam

(Dioscorea villosa)
Wild Yam Benefits

Wild Yam root is perhaps most famous for its ability to support women in the health of their reproductive systems. With powerful antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties, Wild Yam is often prescribed by herbalists to relieve menstrual cramps and chronic pelvic pain. Helping the uterus to work more efficiently during menses, this uterine support allows for proper function of the uterus whilst working to prevent cramping and spasms.  

There is much controversy over the effectiveness of this herb for the menopause - Wild Yam has long been promoted as a source of natural progesterone. It is thought to aid in menopausal symptoms due to its containing a precursor to the steroid hormone “diosgenin”, however diosgenin does not have any hormonal activity and cannot be converted to any hormones the body can use. Despite the debate, there does seem to be some credible research that Wild Yam is beneficial for menopausal women. One study of 22 menopausal women who ate this tuber for 30 days showed improved status of sex hormones, lipids and antioxidants. The researchers speculated this may reduce the risk of breast cancer and cardiovascular disease in post-menopausal women, although they admitted “the mechanism is not clear”. Sometimes we just have to trust that nature really does know best.