I’m going through a rough patch at mid-life. I know diet makes a big difference, yes, I do. Did I pay attention to my diet? No, I ate pretty much everything that came my way. Extra body fat makes a difference; it can affect estrogen levels. Did I keep my weight where it should be? No, see above. I am five foot three, I should weigh about 120 pounds, but it’s more like 140. I don’t mind weighing that if the extra twenty pounds is muscle, but it is not.
I am changing my diet to one low in fat, high in fibre. I need more vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin D. I also need to normalize my hormone levels so that menopause is less stressful. My hearing is failing, as well, and I think it is partly due to chronic inflammation in response to allergies. Eliminating chemical triggers from the home is the first step.
I don’t take herbs all the time. They are a regular part of my healthcare, but unless I feel I am unbalanced, I don’t take what I don’t need. It’s obvious that I need to regain some of that balance, though, so this is my new regimen.
Teas – right now, yarrow, lemon balm and elderflower. Soon I will switch to milk thistle and stinging nettle, and continue with the lemon balm.
Lemon balm (melissa officinalis) is well-known for reducing inflammation, calming the mind, and fighting viruses. It is a traditional longevity herb, and can be safely taken every day of your life. It is good for hyperactive children and highstrung adults. It will ward off herpes flare-ups such as shingles. It is excellent to give for chicken pox and influenza. It may be beneficial to heart health, since chronic inflammation can lead to heart stress. I am taking it to reduce inflammation throughout my body and to prevent shingles flare-ups. It is called melissa because of the honey-like taste.
Yarrow is a famous styptic – it stops bleeding. It can be used fresh or dried on bleeding wounds. I used to dry it, powder it, and keep it in a shaker top jar to use when shearing or when the animals got scratched by fences or thorns. I take it in a tea to stop overprofuse and extended menstrual bleeding. It can be used internally for quite a while, and can be of use to anyone who has chronic internal bleeding. It is named Achillea because of Achilles, the warrior who used it on the battlefield to heal wounds. It is a very good herb to use for colds and influenza, and will check diarrhea safely in children. I recommend it for women who have heavy periods – start taking it after the first day. It has a pleasant, tannic taste.
Elder flower (sambucus) is an ancient panacea, used since time immemorial all over the Mediterranean and Europe for its great healing properties. The flowers are a remedy for colds, fevers, and especially pulmonary infections. I find it eases allergy symptoms as well. Elderberries made into a syrup with sugar or honey are a good cure for colds and coughs. The berries are mildly laxative (c0ok them with some sweetener first) and the leaves and bark have uses as well. The elder has held a place of high esteem in natural medicine for generations. The liqueur called Sambuca is made from it.
Milk thistle (silybum or carduus marianum) is used for support of liver health. A well-tuned liver is necessary for good hormonal health. Milk thistle is sometimes called a “blood-cleanser” – this only means it helps liver function. A diet too rich in fats, especially animal fats, can stress the liver, as does overindulgence in alcohol and sugar.I’m not a heavy drinker, but I have been eating too much meat and too much sugar. I do want to emphasize, though, that milk thistle will not rescue a person from overconsumption! Changing the diet and using milk thistle for a few weeks will strengthen this all-important organ.
Black cohosh (cimicifuga racemosa) is a woman’s herb, taken to regulate hormonal levels, to prevent hot flashes and to make the menstrual cycle regular. It usually isn’t employed until perimenopause, the time before the onset of true menopause, and can be used after the periods stop to prevent hot flashes. I am taking it in capsules. Sometimes it is available mixed with other herbs such as wild yam, a phytoestrogen. The brand I am taking is Natural Factors, which bills the product as a natural HRT (horomone relacement therapy) alternative. I don’t think it works like estrogen, but instead strengthens the adrenals and ovaries to function normally. I am taking this as a standardized capsule, up to 120 mg a day, in two doses.
Other herbs that can help in menopause and menstruation as well as in inflammation and viral infections are rosemary, thyme and summer savoury, common herbs in the spice cabinet. Thyme is the only one to use cautiously, no more than a small amount as tea for three days at a time. It will help curb menstrual bleeding. I use the three together when this is a problem, and it will relieve some of the symptoms quickly. Rosemary is a tonic herb that will fight infections and inflammations.
The tea herbs I am using are from Herbaria, a Hungarian company. They are of high quality, come in regular 25-bag tea boxes, and the packaging is beautiful, with good illustrations of the herbs on the box. Another company that makes good herbal teas is Three Crown, a German brand, although they do not have a full line of medicinals.