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Herbs

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Herbs

So you take your vitamins daily, exercise regularly and eat well. You drink lots of water and get enough slee.

So you take your vitamins daily, exercise regularly and eat well. You drink lots of water and get enough sleep. What more could you be doing to guarantee good health?

Keeping your metabolic rate at its best will ensure the best working environment for all your body’s enzymes and biochemical pathways. This means better functioning of every system in your body, including your digestive and immune systems. When your digestive system works well, food is processed and assimilated easily and rapidly. When your metabolic rate is good, your body can generate a fever to eliminate infections.

Think of your thyroid as the main conductor for your endocrine system (ovaries, uterus, adrenals, pancreas, thymus, pineal, pituitary). Your thyroid needs iodine to properly conduct. Iodized salt is not enough to maintain thyroid health. Most of us don’t include iodine-rich seaweeds like dulse, kelp and nori in our daily diet. You can also take minimal amounts of iodine regularly. Your optimum level will have your thyroid conducting at a comfortable rate. You’ll sleep well, have regular bowel movements, have energy and feel comfortably warm. The first solution for menstrual problems might be found by balancing your thyroid.

Your thyroid wants you to avoid fluoride (it attaches to your thyroid before iodine can), mercury and cadmium. These interfere with normal thyroid functioning. Selenium is essential in the production of thyroid hormones.

Birth control pills, insulin, lithium, cortisones and medications for arthritis and pain relief can interfere with normal thyroid activity. If you take any of these medications you may experience poor circulation, poor digestion, poor sleep, fatigue, low sex drive, poor immune response, poor night vision, poor quality hair, nails, skin, heavy menstrual flow or painful cramping. Search for alternatives and build up your thyroid. These include spirulina, bladderwrack, garlic, onions and legumes.

Stay Toned

Keeping your uterus and ovaries in tone isn’t difficult. Avoid coffee. Coffee–regular or decaffeinated–seems to mess up the balance of female bodies. (Not that it’s good for men!) Fibroids and cysts will often disappear when coffee isn’t around. As a diuretic, coffee also strips the minerals from your body and overworks your kidneys. Coffee is a powerful acid and can corrode your bladder. Cigarettes weaken thyroid function and eventually depress your metabolism.

Herbs like black cohosh, motherwort, cramp bark, pasque flower, vitex (chasteberry), yarrow, licorice (in combination with other herbs), camomile, raspberry leaf, oil of evening primrose and dong quai (the female version of ginseng), are all strong balancers of our reproductive organs. Of these, all but licorice can be taken alone. Licorice will increase a tendency toward water retention, so always take this herb with a natural diuretic like uva ursi, quackgrass, dandelion, parsley or even celery seeds. These herbs can be taken daily, but I have found that health benefits increase when herbs are taken in an alternating series.

Try taking yarrow tea in the mornings, raspberry, motherwort, black cohosh and cramp bark at mid-day and wind down with camomile or liquorice (with parsley, celery seeds, uva ursi or dandelion). The oil of evening primrose can be taken daily. Just as variety in our diets is a good thing, variety in our herbal intake is good for us, too.

A cup of tea that offers therapeutic benefits will have five millilitres (one teaspoon) of dried herb steeped in it. If you use a blend, add about seven mL (one and a half teaspoons) of tea per 250 mL (one cup) of boiled water. Cover and steep the herbs in the water for about five to seven minutes.

Ginseng contains androgens, which are precursors for testosterone. A number of physicians and natural therapy practitioners have urged menopausal and postmenopausal women to take ginseng. Unless you like the idea of shaving your face regularly, don’t! We women don’t need any more testosterone in our bodies than we already have. Instead of ginseng, try Siberian ginseng (contains no hormones), dandelion, motherwort, black cohosh, yarrow, oil of evening primrose or dong quai.

Digestive Dos

Eating one to two squares of organic tofu daily might even be enough to manage hot flashes as well as menstrual cramps. Tofu contains low levels of the good estrogen that our bodies also make. This low-key phyto-estrogen is taken up by your body faster than the two more powerful (and less protective) types our bodies also make. Tofu has been making news for the anti-cancer qualities of this good estrogen. Add some to your diet to help restore balance.

Keep your bowels moving regularly. By this I mean that a bowel movement will follow every meal. Otherwise, you are stockpiling digestive debris inside yourself. As this debris accumulates, the fermentation process continues. The bowel begins to leak this smelly material back into the rest of the body. Cascara sagrada, barberry, dandelion, senna pods, flax seeds, psyllium husks and red clover all work to promote bowel activity. When using cascara or senna, add an aromatic herb or two such as cinnamon, fennel, anise, caraway, dill, coriander, ginger or cayenne to the mix. These herbs will reduce the intensity of bowel stimulation, which means no cramping–and no diarrhea. Cleaning out should be comfortable and not feel like Montezuma’s revenge! Cleaning the bowel thoroughly should be done once every year, with smaller cleanses throughout the year.

When my oldest daughter turned 10, I began her on an alternating series of herb tinctures (licorice and dandelion, black cohosh, yarrow, uva ursi and cayenne) to nourish her growing reproductive organs. She went from crabby to mellow in a very short time. (Thankfully.)

Children need smaller amounts of tinctures than adults do. My daughter’s dose was eight drops of tincture per glass of water, three times daily. (My dose would be 15 drops) These drops can be added to juice as well. Or give your daughter a half-cup of tea for cosy evening chats.

Don’t wait until you or your daughter have symptoms before taking herbs to tone your bodies. Add tea to your regular routine!

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