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Emmenagogue Herbs

By Cynthia L Huddle

Hmm... emmenagogue herb.... What is that? I had never heard that word before. So, I looked at the definition of herb. I found that Webster Online says it is a seed-producing annual, biennial, or perennial that does not develop persistent woody tissue but dies down at the end of a growing season. It also says that it is a plant or plant part valued for its medicinal, savory, or aromatic qualities. From these definitions- we know that an herb is all natural, and is not synthetic. So, what do we know about emmenagogue? The same source explains that it is an agent that promotes menstrual discharge. So, now that we know what an emmenagogue herb is- a plant, or part of a plant whose medicinal value promotes a menstrual cycle. Some of us may wonder why we even need it. Who wants to have a period anyway? I mean, isn’t it also called “The Curse” by some women? As young girls waiting to become young women, it seems like a blessing. It brings us into womanhood! We pray everyday, “Divine, Please let me have my period today. Please let today be MY day to become a WOMAN.” Once we finally get it, we spend the next 40 or so years wishing that it would go away. However, do we ever stop to think of why we go through such a thing every single month? Is it only just to prepare us to have a baby? What is it that is so special about us that we need to expel blood out of our vaginal area every 28 days? And why don’t men get it?

In order to understand why we would need such an herb, I did a little research on the menstrual cycle, and have discovered some reasoning behind all of this mess. No pun intended. We know that this is a 28 day cycle- approximately, sometimes more, and sometimes less. These details we will get into a little later. The “average” woman has a 28-day cycle. From the first day of the menstruation up to the tenth to fourteenth day we go through the follicular phase, when our estrogen and progesterone levels are at their lowest. Then we hit ovulation, where we drop an egg from one of our ovaries and it flows through the fallopian tubes to the uterus.# At this point our estrogen peaks. The progesterone level rises to its highest point and the two hormones work together increasing the blood flow to the uterus, and thickening the uterine lining.## This is called the luteal phase and lasts for the next ten to sixteen days. Once that egg hits the uterus, it needs to be fertilized within 24 hours. If the egg is not fertilized, then we begin to drop the extra lining of the uterus, called the endometrium, along with blood and mucus through the vagina, and our estrogen and progesterone levels drop back down.# Thus produces our menstrual cycle, or “periods”. Any little thing that happens in our daily lives can disrupt this. This could be something as simple as changing our eating and exercising habits, daily stress, or something as eventful as changing careers, disruption in the family home, or maybe a more physical stress like an eating disorder, or getting the flu. Other causes for a menstrual cycle delay would be if we have cysts, a tumor, or another major reproductive disorder.# So, if you never have a menstrual cycle or if they begin coming later and later, please consult a medical or naturopathic doctor.

However, there are other reasons we have menstrual cycles. Through Native American, and Ayurvedic medicines, I have learned that we are blessed to be able to have this time. This is a time of purification, a time to cleanse our bodies, and spirits. It is a time to rejuvenate and revitalize ourselves. According to Native American belief- it started out with the women holding the power behind the family. She kept up everything, and harbored every emotion within herself. All joys and all sorrows were put on her shoulders. Eventually, after taking on so much, the women would become very ill. Finally, one woman went to the forest to cry. She couldn’t handle it anymore. Finally, the Raven asks her why she is crying. The mother told the Raven that the burden had become too much, she could handle no more pains and sorrows. Her cup was full.. The Raven decided to seek help from Grandmother Ocean. Grandmother Ocean tells the Raven that if the women would come to her, she could wash away their pains. However, there were women who were unable to travel that distance. So, she asked her sister, Grandmother Moon for assistance with this mother‘s pain. Since she held the Power of femininity, she decided that once every Moon cycle, she would send Grandmother Oceans’ water through every woman carrying her Power. Thus produces a menstrual cycle.#

Either way we look at it, whether that be an outlet for our emotions, a time where it is okay to be angry, or sad (we all hear it from our men- Oh, it’s THAT time huh?), or for our physical health and push out our toxins, we need a menstrual cycle to replenish. How can we do that? You can look to the emmenagogue herbs to help. These are the herbs that contain the active constituents borneol, bornyl-acetate, limonene, and caryophyllene, or any antispasmodic constituent. Some of these herbs are ginger, juniper, pennyroyal, and cinnamon, amongst others.# James A Duke tells us in The Green Pharmacy of other herbs that will help. These include chasteberry (helps restore prolactin hormone), black and blue cohosh (stimulates uterine contractions), dill, celery, parsley (all contain uterine stimulant, apiole), marshmallow (contains phytoestrogen). Others can be catnip, motherswort, oregano, marigold, and a multitude of others that can be mixed together in one tea, or tincture.#

Any herb that can help you relax can be an emmenagogue herb, because it helps take stress off of the body, and mind, allowing you to relax and let your body do what it is meant to do. If we could all just relax during our “time of the month”, our menstrual cycle, and actually all the time, then we could allow this process to happen, and let it flow. When we hold in our anger, and hold in our emotions, then we put stress on our bodies, not letting the hormones, as well as blood flow easily, and we hold in our menstrual period, along with all of the toxins. If you feel yourself doing this, relax, take a few emmenagogue herbs, and take it easy, let your body do what it was meant to do, and don’t be angry at it for doing that. It is part of your nature as a woman. It is a blessing, not a curse. It is a time to push out the old, and make room for the new...Rejuvenate yourself...Revitalize yourself...Welcome the power of Grandmother Ocean’s waves flow through you as a gift from Grandmother Moon. Only a woman can be that lucky.

 

# From http://www.mothernature.com/Library/bookshelf/Books/51/17.cfm retrieved October 16, 2004

# From http://womenshealth.about.com/cs/menstruation/a/undrstndmnstrtn_2.htm retrieved October 15, 2004

# From http://www.ovulation-calculator.com/conception.htm retrieved October 16, 2004

# From

http://womenshealth.about.com/cs/menstruation/a/undrstndmnstrtn.htm retrieved on October 15, 2004

# Weil, Andrew, Dr. Eating Well for Optimum Health. New York: Alfred A. Knopf; 2000

# From http://www.nicholasnoblewolf.com/writings/gift_from_moon.html retrieved October 21, 2004

# From http://medherb.com/Therapeutics/Female_-_Herbs_and_Dysmenorrhea_.htm retrieved November 3, 2004

# Duke, James A. The Green Pharmacy. New York, NY: St Martin’s Press, 1998

http://womenshealth.about.com/cs/menstruation/a/undrstndmnstrtn.htm retrieved on October 15, 2004

# Weil, Andrew, Dr. Eating Well for Optimum Health. New York: Alfred A. Knopf; 2000

# From http://www.nicholasnoblewolf.com/writings/gift_from_moon.html retrieved October 21, 2004

# From http://medherb.com/Therapeutics/Female_-_Herbs_and_Dysmenorrhea_.htm retrieved November 3, 2004

# Duke, James A. The Green Pharmacy. New York, NY: St Martin’s Press, 1998

~namaste~
Cyn

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