Herbalism, Women's Health
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Example Formulas for Dysmenorrhea

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.

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