I’ve avoided writing “best of” lists for years but was inspired last weekend by naturopathic elder and women’s health expert Tori Hudson, ND, speaking at a conference here in Toronto.
Whenever I’m coming up with a treatment plan for a patient, I always think about using the fewest number of remedies possible to address the whole person sitting across from me. (I also think about the least invasive thing I can start with, though that is for another article.) In other words, I’m looking for one or two herbs to address multiple symptoms or health problems at the same time. John Scudder called these specific medicines. Tori Hudson calls these twofers, threefers, or fourfers.
Even though it took a lot of restraint to keep this list small, here are my top 7 herbs for women’s health in honour of twofers and threefers.
Twofer – hormonal regulation and rheumatism
Threefer – PMS, menorrhagia and infertility
Chaste tree, like black cohosh, is considered one of the best herbs for hormonal regulation. Chaste tree works best when a specific hormone called prolactin is high. High prolactin can contribute a variety of symptoms and conditions such as amenorrhea, mastalgia (breast pain and swelling), infertility, PMS, and menorrhagia. If these symptoms are present and/or there is a shortened luteal phase during the menstrual cycle, chaste tree is very helpful.
Threefer – high blood pressure, high cholesterol, vaginitis
Fourfer – colds/flus, nausea, indigestion, menstrual cramps, and arthritis
Threefer – anxiety, depression, and headaches
Lavender’s gently calming scent has long been used in dream pillows and eye pillows to promote a restful sleep. Recent research into lavender has shown that it effectively reduces generalized anxiety and depression, both when used as aromatherapy and when taken internally. Lavender makes for a wonderfully relaxing bath to ease both emotional and physical tension. Applied topically, lavender oil can be a quick way to reduce the pain of headaches, migraines, and muscle pain.
Multifer – endometriosis, cancer, arthritis, eczema, fatty liver disease, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, …
Twofer- excess bleeding of any kind (e.g. menorrhagia, hemorrhoids) and benign pelvic masses (e.g. fibroids, endometriosis)
Yarrow is my herb of choice for ensuring a healthy flow of blood, either when there is too much blood, or when blood has congealed into clots or benign growths. Yarrow helps stop excessive bleeding, whether due to menorrhagia (excess menstrual blood), a cut, or hemorrhoids. When I fell hands first through a glass pane while working on top of a cold frame, a quick poultice of yarrow stopped the bleeding until I could get to a hospital for a few stitches. Yarrow also helps break up stagnant blood and tissues in the genitourinary system, as in the case of menstrual clots, fibroids, or endometriosis.
For more information about the best herbs for women’s health, take a look at my book The Essential Guide to Women’s Herbal Medicine.