Women's Health: Four Herbal Supplements for General Wellness
As a busy woman on the go, taking a simple multivitamin that contains the usual alphabet soup of vitamins and minerals can help to balance our diets and ensure proper nutrition. However, when you're grabbing your usual bottle of multivitamins off the shelf, take a minute to look around for some of the other supplements that women can take to boost their general health and wellbeing.
Chaste Tree Berry (Vitex agnus-castus)
Every woman has experienced it -- the violent moodswings, the crying at the drop of a hat, the acne breakouts. PMS is the bane of every woman, but popping a pill may just make it all go away. Native to the Mediterranean and Southern Europe, chaste tree berries have traditionally been used for many conflicting purposes surrounding the reproductive system. The Greeks and Romans used it to promote chastity while medieval monks reportedly used it to increase sexual desire. Today, the chaste tree berry is used to regulate a woman's hormones. Researchers at the University of Illinois have shown that the berry works by reducing pain and promoting relaxation. Other studies published in the Journal of Women's Health and Gender-Based Medicine provide evidence that the berry helps to relieve PMS, infertility and peri- or postmenopausal symptoms. The recommended dosage is 20 to 40 mg of the herb daily, or 20 drops once or twice daily if using a [Chaste Tree] tincture.
Gamma-linolenic acid (GLA)
GLA is another supplement that women can take to help relieve premenstrual symptoms. Sources of GLA include evening primrose oil, borage, or black currant seed oil. Studies show that women with PMS symptoms are GLA-deficient, so supplementing our body's requirements may prevent PMS. Dr. Evangeline Lausier of the Duke Integrative Medicine Center recommends taking three to six grams of evening primrose oil every day. While research trials have not shown concrete results, there is little risk of side effects from taking evening primrose oil. The National Institute of Health also endorses the oil as a treatment for eczema, and treating inflammation-related diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
Used for thousands of years in Chinese traditional medicine, dong guai is also known as the female ginseng due to its extensive use in treating gynecological disorders. Alternative medicine practitioners commonly prescribe the herb, which has estrogen-like properties, for women suffering from menopause, painful menstruations, or who are just recovering from childbirth. It is also used to treat low vitality or fatigue following menstruation. Known as an anticoagulant, dong guai is also used to help patients with high blood pressure, headaches, or inflammation. The herb is available in tablet, liquid, or raw root form.
A member of the buttercup family, black cohosh is commonly used by the Native Americans to treat gynecological conditions, including menstrual cramps, bloating, and vaginal dryness. The American College of Obstetricians have also recommended the use of black cohosh to treat menopausal symptoms like hot flashes. The herb is also used to treat a variety of aches and pains, including sore throat, indigestion, and muscle pain. However, little is known about how the herb works, so pregnant women are advised never to use it without qualified supervision. Additionally, black cohosh has been linked with liver damage, and excessive use may also cause seizures or an irregular heartbeat.
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Related: Also see a selection of vitamins for women.