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Holistic Hormonal Health with Herbalism

Integrating Herbalism to Balance Hormones and Eliminate Painful Periods

Hormones are chemicals in our bodies that regulate our mental, physical, and emotional aspects of health. This includes appetite, energy, reproductive systems, and mood. When your body is in alignment, your body produces the perfect amount of hormones needed for all of these systems to function perfectly. 

However, when there are nutrient deficiencies, excess stress, excess consumption of foods that tax the body like sugar or alcohol, these systems can suffer and misalignment can cause symptoms or worse, disease. 

In the midst of chaos of symptoms or disease associated with hormone imbalance, there’s hope: reclaiming hormone balance naturally with herbs. Let’s explore this journey of supporting our bodies’ wisdom to heal itself while embracing plant-based nourishment for healthy hormone regulation.

This article covers how herbs support the body’s ability to manage healthy hormone regulation, a bit about what an herbalist does and why you might consider adding an herbalist to your integrative care team, especially as a menstruating person experiencing painful periods.

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Menstrual Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance

When your hormones are running at their peak and your body is creating all the hormones it needs, your menstrual cycle runs like clockwork without pain, without excessive bleeding, without breakthrough bleeding, without mood swings and bloating. 

Just as with any other pain in your body, pain is a sign that something is out of alignment in your body. If your hormones are out of alignment you will see:

  • Painful and heavy periods
  • Bloating
  • Mood swings
  • Insulin resistance
  • Weight gain
  • Facial hair growth

It is important to note that menstruation should not be painful!

– Phyllis Jaworski, Master Herbalist

Plant Medicine for Managing Painful Periods

Once an imbalance is suspected there are options for bringing your body back into healthy hormonal regulation. Gentle and effective, is integrating herbalism into your treatment plan.

In contrast to the approach of modern pharmaceuticals, which often focus on symptom suppression, herbs offer a holistic method, working to facilitate the flow of energy through the body, thereby addressing underlying imbalances. 

Through their multifaceted actions, herbs not only provide relief from symptoms like cramping but also aid in the realignment of hormones and promote sustained hormonal health, emphasizing the importance of integrating plant-based nutrition into our daily routines for comprehensive well-being.

What is Herbalism?

Herbalism, in short, is the use of plants for medicinal purposes. You can read more about what herbalism is here.

Herbalism, an ancient practice rooted in using plants for nourishment and medicine, has a rich history dating back to 1500 BCE, as evidenced by Egyptian medical texts. This tradition has endured over millennia, gaining prominence in recent decades, particularly notable in the United States, where there has been a surge in herbal use for medicinal and nutritional purposes. This growing trend aligns with the increasing costs of healthcare and pharmaceuticals in our nation. But in other parts of the world, the reliance on plant medicine remains steady and strong.

  • According to Cornell University, up to four billion people, roughly 80% of the global population, rely significantly on herbal remedies for primary healthcare.
  • The World Health Organization reports widespread acceptance of traditional medicine, including herbal remedies, with 88% of nations embracing these practices.
  • Germany stands as a notable example, boasting 600 to 700 plant-based medicines available, with 70% of physicians prescribing them.

Beyond traditional herbal remedies, plants continue to influence modern medicine. Many conventional pharmaceuticals trace their origins to plants, such as aspirin (willow bark), digoxin (foxglove), quinine (cinchona bark), and morphine (opium poppy). This interconnectedness underscores the enduring relevance of herbalism in addressing contemporary healthcare needs.

How do Herbal Medicines Work?

Plant’s various parts like; berries, leaves, roots, and bark, contain a plethora of constituents, including minerals, water, phytochemicals, and cellulose. 

Phytochemicals, which exhibit specific physiological actions in the body, can be extracted through aqueous or alcoholic solutions, as in the case of tinctures. While water is typically used for extracting minerals in brewed teas, or infusions, the consumption of whole foods remains the simplest approach. Let food be thy medicine!

Instead of isolating individual components like pharmaceuticals do, herbalism utilizes the entire plant, allowing all its constituents to work together synergistically. This synergy is thought to reduce side effects and enhance the plant’s effectiveness.

How Can this Work be Integrated into my Treatment Plan?

Herbalist recommendations for regulating hormones pair extremely well in collaboration with other practitioners and in some cases with specific medications. 

Examples of Medical Approaches that are amplified with Herbalism:

  • Pelvic Floor Prolapse
    • While physical therapy will help with strengthening the pelvic floor, specific herbs are recommended to enhance nutrition for the specific tissues in the area. This nutrition supports the toning of the muscles.
  • Endometriosis
    • Tinctures and teas are used to reduce excess estrogens to help slow the spread of endometrial cells. There are additional tinctures and plants that help stop or even reverse the effects of Endometriosis, the myriad of symptoms during menstruation and give the body much needed nutrition if blood loss is an issue. Many of these herbs can be used in tandem with medications. 

What Might an Herbalist Recommend to Support Healthy Hormone Regulation?

After a comprehensive evaluation, an herbalist might recommend various herbs and supplements to support healthy hormone regulation. Here are some commonly recommended ones:

  1. Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus): Also known as Vitex, Chaste Tree is often used to balance hormones, particularly in women. It can help regulate the menstrual cycle and alleviate symptoms of PMS and menopause.
  2. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera): Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that helps the body adapt to stress. It may support hormone balance by reducing cortisol levels, which can in turn help regulate other hormones.
  3. Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra): Licorice root can support adrenal function and help balance cortisol levels, which may indirectly support hormone balance.
  4. Evening Primrose Oil: Evening primrose oil is rich in gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), which is an essential fatty acid that supports hormone balance, particularly in women experiencing hormonal imbalances related to menstruation or menopause.
  5. Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea): Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb that helps the body adapt to stress. It may support hormone balance by reducing cortisol levels and improving mood and energy levels.
  6. Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum): Also known as tulsi, holy basil is another adaptogenic herb that can help the body cope with stress. It may support hormone balance by reducing cortisol levels and promoting a sense of calm.

It’s important to note that while these herbs may support hormone balance, individual responses can vary, and any herb can interact with an existing prescribed medication. It’s essential to consult with and be supervised by a qualified healthcare practitioner, such as a naturopathic doctor or herbalist, before starting any new supplement regimen, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medications.

Herbal Tincture vs. Tea?

Your herbalist may recommend a tincture or tea protocol, or perhaps another method of consumption (we went into more detail here)

While there are endless herbal preparations to choose from today, the most common way to use herbs medicinally is with tinctures or teas.

Tinctures, or alcohol extracts, are typically used for acute dosing issues ranging from cramping to anxiety. They are useful for those who may not like the taste of tea or who do not have time to prepare tea throughout the day.

Teas are the aqueous extraction of plant constituents with hot water that usually need to be consumed in 1-3 cups a day. While teas work well for pulling out water based constituents, they also extract nutrients like minerals, macronutrients like protein and some volatile oils. 

Misconceptions about Plant Medicine

While herbalism can be wildly effective, there is some resistance to these methods. The most common misconception about plant medicine is that it is not safe.

Here in the US, herbal supplements are not regulated by the FDA which leaves room for herbal products to be adulterated or give false claims in efficacy. 

To ensure that you are seeking quality herbs, look for products that are:

  • Certified organic or pesticide-free plant products that are sustainably harvested
  • Herbs that are proven safe through third-party laboratory analysis
  • Herbs that look vibrant, have a good aroma, and texture

*Important to note! With the recent popularity of herbs, some plants are now on the brink of extinction due to overharvesting. If you are looking to use herbs for health, but sure to work with a certified herbal practitioner to be sure you will be working with sustainably grown and sourced herbs that are right for you and your circumstances. 

Hormone Success Stories

Eve reached out in early 2023 looking for support with PMS and extreme cramping during her menstruation that she had had since starting her menstruation. With her busy schedule of college and military training, she was limited in what she could take as far as preparations. 

We worked with tinctures to address her symptoms of cramping and aligning her hormones. I recommended supplements to correct underlying deficiencies and recommended supportive foods/herbs  for long term nutritional support. We worked together to find foods that she has access to at school and while training for the army. 

Due to her unique circumstances, all of her supplements needed to be ones that can be shipped/carried with her wherever she may be. After 4 months of working together she is PMS and menstrual cramp free. 

Jane sought my help in the Fall of 2022 for menstrual cycle pain,  fatigue, nausea with menstruation, hair loss, and difficulty sleeping through the night. She feels some of her issues were exacerbated by a recent bout of COVID. With her hectic work life she requested tinctures and supplements that were easy to take with her during her busy days.

We started off with herbs to support a healthy hormone cycle and supplements to address deficiencies. About half way through our session, she moved to Hawaii and her hectic schedule changed. She then wanted to work on using food/herbs to realign her hormones so we changed her tinctures to teas, supportive foods and natural sunlight! 

At the end of our sessions her cycles had improved, her menstrual cramping went from excruciating pain to mild discomfort and she was falling asleep faster and staying asleep through more of the night which in turn helped her to feel energized in the morning. 

Supporting Evidence

While herbs and plants have been integral to supporting women’s hormonal health for millennia, medical studies originating in the US that highlight their efficacy pose a challenge to find, primarily due to several factors. 

  • First, conventional doctors are restricted from recommending herbal medicines, limiting their inclusion in mainstream healthcare practices. 
  • Second, the inability to patent uncultivated plants diminishes the financial incentive for pharmaceutical companies to invest in proving their effectiveness. 
  • Lastly, the intricate nature of women’s menstrual cycles presents a hurdle in conducting clinical trials, resulting in limited research in this area.

For those seeking reliable information on tested herbs, I recommend;

  • Consult the European Medicines Agency, which meticulously outlines the efficacy, safety, and recommended uses of 409 herbs in medicinal preparations.
  • Leverage the American Botanical Council , it’s an invaluable resource, offering a wealth of free information and studies on herbal medicine, with the option for a subscription providing access to the latest research in the field.

How to Find Others Providing Hormone Health that is Right for you? 

Searching for providers that can support you with your unique body, constitution, symptoms and desires for care can seem daunting. When looking outside of the Conventional Health Care System, it can be confusing on who you can trust. Here are some places you can go to find recommendations for integrative and holistic healthcare providers. 

Here are some of my favorite herbalists or websites for herbal information and recipes! 

Mountain Rose Herbs –
Kami McBride –
Learning Herbs –
Herbal Remedies Advice –

You got this!

Hormones play a crucial role in regulating various aspects of health, including appetite, energy, reproduction, and mood. Nutrient deficiencies, stress, and poor dietary habits can disrupt hormone balance, leading to symptoms or diseases.

Herbalism offers a natural approach to restoring hormone balance, by utilizing plants’ medicinal properties to support the body’s healing process. We’re here to help make it less intimidating and more accessible. Reach out with any questions!

About the Author –

Phyllis Jaworski, MH

Phyllis Jaworski is the founder of Sacred Ibis Botanicals in Hudson, WI. As an herbal clinician she supports her clients in having pain-free menstrual cycles, and being energized and to live their best life every day of the month. Phyllis focuses on using whole plant preparations to address symptom relief and the core of hormonal imbalances. When not supporting clients you can find her out collecting plants, creating herbal products or traveling with her family.


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