Taking Hormones? These Herbs
Are for You
and more American women are using herbal remedies to help them with menopausal
problems. Those who do take ERT (estrogen replacement) or HRT (hormone replacement)
may be surprised to discover that herbal medicine has a lot to offer them as well.
Herbs for women on ERT/HRT include those that alleviate side-effects as well
as those that counter problems caused by the hormones.
Water Retention is the symptom most often cited
for dissatisfaction with hormone replacement. Herbal tinctures and tea, such as
dandelion or cleavers, and ordinary foods can not only relieve the distress, they
will go to the root of the problem and help prevent recurrences.
root tincture (Taraxacum officinale) strengthens the liver and helps it process
out the excess hormones you are taking. When the liver works well, the kidneys
work better, and tissues no longer bloat. A dose is 10-20 drops in several ounces
of water or juice 2--3 three times a day. If you have any digestion problems,
take your dandelion before meals; otherwise, anytime is fine. You can safely take
dandelion daily for months or years if you need or want to.
* Cleavers herb
tincture (Galium molluga) tells the lymphatic tissues to get moving. Relief from
edema is usually rapid when 20-30 drops are taken in several ounces of water or
juice. Repeat up to six times at hourly intervals if needed. Cleavers is especially
helpful for easing swollen, sore breasts.
* Foods that relieve water retention
include (in order of effectiveness): asparagus, nettles, corn (and corn silk tea),
grapes, cucumbers, watermelon (and watermelon seed tea), parsley, celery, black
tea, and green tea.
Headaches are the second most common side-effect
of hormone use. Unfortunately, they are common among menopausal women not taking
hormones, too. Herbs that help relieve headache without a drug-like action --
such as dandelion, yellow dock, milk thistle, burdock, garden sage, skullcap,
and St. John's/Joan's wort -- are generally considered safe to take with hormones.
Chinese herbalists say headaches are caused by liver stress. My favorite liver-strengthening
herbs are dandelion, yellow dock, milk thistle seed, and burdock. I use one at
a time, a 15-25 drops of the tincture several times a day, for two weeks. If symptoms
continue, I switch to a different herb.
* A strong tea of garden sage leaves
(Salvia officinalis) offers immediate relief from headaches and helps prevent
future ones. It also reduces night sweats.
* Tinctures of skullcap (Scutellaria
lateriflora) and St. Joan's/John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) ease pain and relieve
muscle spasms. Use 5-20 drops of skullcap and a dropperful of St.J's at the very
first sign, no the very first thought, of a headache. Repeat the doses every five
minutes until pain free. Skullcap can be quite sedative, especially in large doses.
Herbal Allies That Prevent Problems Caused by Taking Hormones
Cancer risk is increased 20% in women who use ERT for five or more
years. Use of HRT for five or more years increases breast cancer risk by 40%.
Each five years of continued use increases the risk. In addition, women who take
ERT are far more likely to get uterine or endometrial cancers. All women on hormones
increase their risks of lung and ovarian cancer, too. Nourishing herbs such as
red clover, and foods such as beans and yogurt, offer easy ways to stay cancer-free.
Red clover blossoms (Trifolium pratense), when dried and brewed into a strong
infusion (one ounce herb steeped in a quart of boiling water for at least four
hours) prevent cancer by providing phytoestrogens that counter the cancer-promoting
effects of oral hormones. Usual dose is 2-4 cups a day. The infusion tastes like
black tea and can be flavored with mint if you like.
* Beans, especially
lentils, but also yellow split peas, black turtle beans, baby limas, Anasazi beans,
and red kidney beans are also rich sources of anti-cancer phytoestrogens. Since
uncooked beans and unfermented soy contain anti-nutritional factors that may promote
bone loss and dementia, soy "milk" and tofu are not recommended. Miso
and tamari definitely help to prevent breast cancer but soy isoflavones may promote
* Yogurt helps build powerful immunity. Women who eat a quart of yogurt
a week have 700% less cancer than women who eat no yogurt.
afflict more than 9% of women using ERT and over 7% of those on HRT. Risk increases
by 70% for every year of continued use. And the longer a woman uses hormones,
the greater her risk. Herbs such as oatstraw, chamomile, and chickweed can help
relieve and prevent this problem.
* Oatstraw infusion (Avena sativa)
cools and moistens your eyes from the inside out, builds strong bones too. Use
one ounce of dried herb in a quart jar; fill to the top with boiling water and
cap tightly. Let steep four or more hours. Dose is 2-4 cups a day. Refrigerate
* Cucumber slices ease dry eyes; so do chamomile tea bags.
The ultimate ally for women with dry eyes is fresh chickweed (Stellaria media),
applied as a poultice to the closed eyes. Leave on for five minutes, or until
the plant material feels warm (it will heat up). Repeat as needed.
and Heart Attack are actually increased by use of ERT/HRT, though modern medicine
has long proclaimed the opposite. Every major double-blind study done to date
has created a larger and larger gap between ERT/HRT's supposed ability to help
cardiovascular health and its actual results. Protect you heart with nourishing
and tonifying herbs and foods such as motherwort, hawthorn, and cherries.
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca) tincture helps the heart. The Japanese claim it
is their secret of longevity. A dose is 5-15 drops, twice a day. Motherwort also
relieves hot flashes, calms tachycardiia, and eases anxiety. It's an all-in-one
remedy for menopausal women.
* Hawthorn (Crataegus oxycantha) flowers, leaves,
and fruits are all used to maintain heart health and control fluid build-up in
hear tissues. A dose is 20-30 drops of tincture 2-4 times a day, or a cup of tea
with meals. This widespread shrub is considered one of the finest heart tonics
in the world.
* Cherries are even better than apples at keeping the doctor
away. Dried cherries and cherry juice, even tincture of cherries.
three-quarters of the women in America over the age of fifty have refused ERT/HRT.
If you want to join them, taper off your dosage slowly, while continuing to use
nourishing and tonifying herbs such as dandelion, motherwort, red clover, oatstraw,
copyright 2002, Susun S. Weed, reprinted here with express
authorization from the author. This article is based on information in New Menopausal
Years the Wise Woman Way, available from www.ashtreepublishing.com
Visit Susun Weed at: www.susunweed.com
For permission to reprint this article, contact Susan Weed
Susun Weed's books include:
Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing
Year Author: Susun S. Weed. Simple, safe remedies for pregnancy, childbirth,
lactation, and newborns. Includes herbs for fertility and birth control. Foreword
by Jeannine Parvati Baker. 196 pages, index, illustrations.
Wise Author: Susun S. Weed. Superb herbal in the feminine-intuitive mode.
Complete instructions for using common plants for food, beauty, medicine, and
longevity. Introduction by Jean Houston. 312 pages, index, illustrations.
Menopausal Years the Wise Woman Way Author: Susun S. Weed. The best book
on menopause is now better. Completely revised with 100 new pages. All the remedies
women know and trust plus hundreds of new ones. New sections on thyroid health,
fibromyalgia, hairy problems, male menopause, and herbs for women taking hormones.
Recommended by Susan Love MD and Christiane Northrup MD. Foreword by Juliette
de Bairacli Levy. 304 pages, index, illustrations. For more great info on menopause,
Breast Cancer? Breast Health! Author: Susun S. Weed. Foods,
exercises, and attitudes to keep your breasts healthy. Supportive complimentary
medicines to ease side-effects of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or tamoxifen.
Foreword by Christiane Northrup, M.D. 380 pages, index, illustrations.
books available at www.ash-tree-publishing.com
and Reproductive Health: A state of complete physical, mental, spiritual and social
well-being in all matters relating to sexual and reprodutive health.
Foundation Women of Color Initiative 2002
Feminist Women's Health Center