Example Formulas for Dysmenorrhea

April 18th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink

    One thing I love about herbalism is that every herbalist has different herbs, practices and tactics that they favor. There is so many varieties and examples to learn from!  Some seem to be more into tonics, others use simples (single herbs) in almost homeopathic dosages, but most all have specific remedies for symptoms while reiterating the need to support the body systems over the long term.

    No matter how you look at it, suggested herbal formulas from trusted herbalists are a good place to start. They can also be used as guidelines when formulating for the individual. After going over a few examples from a few different herbalists, the beginning herbalist gains knowledge through researching the materia medica and action categories mentioned.

    Let’s look at a few formulas to get some ideas, starting with some from Rosemary Gladstar. She reiterates that you should stick to an herbal program at least four months. Here is a “Hormonal Regulator Tea” from Herbal Healing for Woman, p 117. Decoct, and drink 3-4 cups for 3 weeks out of the month. As you can see, it is not simply herbs for the reproductive system. It offers much support for the liver, which has to process all the hormones circulating in the body, and supports the digestive system, inflammation, and enriches the blood.

    • 1 part wild yam
    • 1 part ginger
    • 2 parts dandelion root (raw)
    • 2 parts burdock root (raw)
    • 2 parts licorice
    • 2 parts sassafras
    • 1 part yellow dock
    • 1/4 vitex

    It is also important to include sufficient calcium, as a low amount has been linked to cramping, as blood levels of calcium drop off 10 days before menstruation. Again, there are more than just calcium-rich herbs in here! There are nervines, blood and uterine tonics and emmenagogues.  “High Calcium Tea” (p 118):

    • 2 parts oatstraw
    • 1 part horsetail
    • 2 parts comfrey
    • 2 parts nettle
    • 4 parts peppermint
    • 2 parts pennyroyal
    • 4 parts raspberry leaf

    For acute cramping, she recommends the following “Cramp-T”

    • 1 part cramp bark or black haw
    • 1 part pennyroyal
    • 1 part valerian
    • 1/2 part ginger

    A tincture of valerian, about 1/2 teaspoon every twenty minuets until the pain decreases. Another handy remedy to have around is pennyroyal essential oil, to rub a few diluted drops on the abdomen during cramping. Please be cautions with pennyroyal essential oil and never take it internally, because it is extremely toxic internally.

    Now let’s take a look at David Winston’s recommendations. In my last entry, I asked, “…I don’t know if all anodyne work on the same parts of the body…”. Well, Winston has cleared that up for me. Here is “Aspirea Compound” (32)

    • willow bark
    • meadowsweet herb
    • St. John’s wortSt. Johns Wort
    • Jamaica dogwood
    • indian pipe

    It has anti-inflammatory herbs (willow, meadowsweet, St. John’s wort), Jamaica dogwood which is analgesic and antispasmodic which Winston says is “especially for dysmenorrhea…”, and indian pipe which “…creates a feeling of separation from the pain” (32). I have tried this formula for other types of pain with great success (tooth ache, back spasm), but have yet to use it for cramps. It is very relaxing.

    “Full Moon – Woman’s Antispasmodic Compound”

    • PA-Free Petasites root
    • Black haw
    • wild yam
    • Jamaica dogwood
    • cyperus root
    • Roman chamomile flowers

    Winston’s notes: for mild to severe dysmenorrhea and some of the accompanying symptoms, take acutely, not daily. Here we see lots of antispasmodics at work.

    “J. Kloss Anti-spasmodic Compound” (p4 6)

    • black cohosh
    • myrrh
    • skullcap
    • skunk cabbage
    • lobelia
    • cayenne

    This is an example of a classic formula that works well as is, or can be adapted to suit individual needs. I have seen and used a couple variations of this formula (Dr. Christopher has one), one with blue vervain, blue cohosh instead of myrrh and skunk cabbage for treating epilepsy in a dog (2 drops a day for 3 months) and a severe tension headache (1/4 teaspoon every hour), both times it worked great. In the later, I sipped miso soup to quell the nausea that came with the lobelia and vervain.

    Here is one more set of examples from David Hoffmann’s Medical Herbalism from page 387 -8.

    • black haw
    • skullcap
    • black cohosh

    This is a basic formula that covers the many of the action categories mentioned in the last entry. All are antispasmodic, al are nervine, and black cohosh is  uterine tonic. The dosage is 5mL of tincture as needed, so when pain is approaching and in full swing. If a woman has secondary dysmenorrhea caused by pelvic lesions (from endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease) the dosage is 5 mL of the following tincture taken three times a day, rather than just symptomatically:

    • cramp bark
    • wild yam
    • black cohosh

    Again, all herbs are antispasmodic, cramp bark and black cohosh are nervines with black cohosh being the uterine tonic.

    Motherwort – Leonurus cardiaca

    May 26th, 2008 § 5 comments § permalink

    motherwort.jpgDo you see the motherwort in this picture? Hint: its vertical. Mmmm…Motherwort! I have been craving the bitter herb for a steady week running – and as a tea! Who in their right mind drinks motherwort infusion? Someone who needs it, or who likes the bitter zing. Have you ever eaten a motherwort flower? Try it, I dare you. I have been drinking motherwort infusion to calm my critical and exacting PMS self to a down to a low roar; its working quite well. It is also nourishing, stockpiling nutrients that will soon be shed; for this purpose I add a bit of nettle or oat straw. At this time in my cycle I tend to see things very clearly, which can either enrich my life with wise insight or keep me up at night ruminating. Motherwort, along with hops, eases my mind.

    In the middle of winter, I dream of a sunny day and a garden full of motherwort. There is something very awakening and attracting about the upright member of the mint family. A friend once became very aquatinted with a particular motherwort plant and described her as juicy. I have yet to have a garden full of motherwort, as my seeds never seem to germinate. This year I am trying really hard to get my seeds sprouted…so wish me luck.

    Motherwort promotes menstruation, reduces nervous tension and cramps, and is regulating to stress and anxiety caused heart problems, racing and/or irregular heartbeat (tachycardia). Culpepper says about motherwort, “Venus owns this herb and it is under Leo. There is no better herb to drive melancholy vapors from the heart, to strengthen it and make the mind cheerful, blithe and merry”. Yes, motherwort is warming in taste and even color with the sweet downy pink with white whorls of flowers, soothing to the heart and demanding emotions, and a wonderful ally for women of all ages and at all times of their cycles. The way it stands in the garden, attracting bees like mad, reminds me of an seemingly innocent attention-seeking amorous Leo. Well, not that innocent, if you have ever been tangled amongst their sharp seed pods at the end of the season!

    It is called Ectes Herzgespann in German, which in an excruciatingly literal translation is “common heart team”; luckily a German woman described it to me as meaning “it pulls the heart forward, as one would lead a team of yoked oxen”. What a wonderful way to visualize this herb’s actions. Like many herbs, motherwort contains a myriad of chemical compounds that give rise to its unique uses. From its taste we know that it works on the digestion; Tierra says it is specifically a carminative. The tannins make it astringent to the uterus, and according to Wikipedia, “the herb contains the alkaloid leonurine, which is a mild vasodilator and has a relaxing effect on the smooth muscles. For this reason, it has long been used as a cardiac tonic, nervine, and as an emmenagogue.”

    As an emmenagogue, I view it as enriching the blood and circulating it, rather than starting delayed menstruation, as the latter has never worked for me. It still has an important pre-menstrual use of allying stress, anger and rage, worrying that keeps you up at night, and anxious palpitations. Stress and anxiety keeping your period away? Try motherwort. Motherwort may be helpful include during the last few weeks of pregnancy to promote uterine tone. Ruth Trickey states in Women, Hormones and the Menstrual Cycle that motherwort “is one of the many herbs which posses the apparently contradictory actions of relieving spasm and stimulating uterine activity–an effect which seems to be brought about by a reduction in the irritability (spasticity) of the uterine muscle. This allows contractions to be followed by an adequate rest period when blood can circulate through the muscle again”(470). Of course, motherwort is useful for peri-menopausal women, adressing palpitations, night sweats and worrying keeping you up at night, Trickey combines hops, motherwort and black cohosh for this reason with “excellent results”.

    References:

    Tierra, Micheal. Planetary Herbology.

    Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motherwort

    Culpepper’s Complete Herbal. http://www.bibliomania.com/2/1/66/113/frameset.html

    Trickey, Ruth. Women, Hormones and the Menstrual Cycle.

    Gladstar, Rosemary. Rosemary Gladstar’s Family Herbal.

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