Herbal Programs for Women’s Health

Herbal and nutritional supplements have been traditionally used in treating and enhancing women’s health for a long time. Premenstrual syndrome, menopause, and other difficulties can respond favorably to natural medicine. There is, however, confusion as to which remedy to take, when to take it, and how long it should be continued. The question also arises as to how to combine an herbal remedy with other nutritional supplements for maximum effectiveness.

Although all natural medicine prescriptions should be individualized for optimal results, there are many effective general programs to try. A good herbal program rotates botanical remedies and combines them with synergistic nutritional supplements in an organized and rational manner. I have found that this type of system greatly enhances effectiveness and works in conjunction with natural body rhythms. By using natural remedies in specific cycles, the body remains more responsive and clinical results improve dramatically. This is especially true for women who tend to have sensitive metabolisms due to the complexity of the menstrual cycle and fluctuating hormone cycles.

Herbal programs for women are based upon the 4 weeks of the menstrual cycle. The first phase (weeks 1 & 2) involves the transition from menstruation to ovulation. The second phase (weeks 3 & 4) deals with the ovulation to menstruation process. Using herbal and nutritional supplements that support metabolic functions during these two distinct phases is the key to obtaining optimal results.

In the first phase, we find that toning the body by “nourishing” the blood and balancing the hormones is most beneficial. During this time, the hormones are building as the estrogen prepares the body for ovulation and potential fertilization of the egg. The two most important herbs during this first phase are Dong Quai and Red Raspberry leaf. Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis root) is the noted Chinese herb that is used as a blood tonic. It contains micronutrients known for their blood building properties (iron, vitamin B12, and vitamin E). Dong Quai balances estrogen in the body, and is traditionally used in China to regulate the menstrual cycle. Red Raspberry (Rubus idaeus leaf) is a rough equivalent to Dong Quai in Western herbology. It is a blood tonic and blood builder with hormone-regulating and uterine-toning properties.

Because Dong Quai is “warming” in nature, and Red Raspberry leaf is “cooling”, I prefer to use a blend of these two herbs. As a combination they are neutral, and may be used on a long term basis to treat a variety of menstrual complaints.

During the second phase, there is a metabolic shift in the body. The hormone Progesterone predominates, as it prepares the uterus for possible implantation of the fertilized egg. It is also during this time that the liver comes under the most stress. It is responsible for the balance of “favorable” estrogen with “unfavorable” estrogen, as well as the balance of estrogen with progesterone. The liver often becomes congested during these last two weeks of the cycle, causing the hormonal balance to fluctuate. Premenstrual symptoms are the result. It is interesting to note that recent advances in Western physiology point to this dysfunction in liver metabolism. However, for over 2,000 years Chinese medicine has diagnosed the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome as a problem with liver function.

So, we find that “clearing” the liver is the preferred treatment plan for the second two weeks of the menstrual cycle. The Western herb Dandelion and the Chinese herb Bupleurum are effective in taking congestion out of the liver. Liver cleansing formulas with these herbs as the principal ingredients are beneficial. The nutrients Choline, Inositol, and Methionine (known collectively as “lipotrophic factors”) are also excellent for stabilizing liver function.

With these two phases in mind, let’s look at several herbal programs that benefit optimal health for women:

Optimal Health for Women: General

This is a general program for women to both regulate and balance the hormonal system as well as to enhance body resistance. It can be used for several months, however it is not designed for women with severe premenstrual syndrome.


  • Week 1

    Dong Quai and Red Raspberry leaf combination
    For hormone balancing and blood building
    Dosage: As a liquid extract, tablet, capsule or tea, 3 times daily

  • Week 2

    Dong Quai and Red Raspberry leaf combination
    For hormone balancing and blood building
    Dosage: As a liquid extract, tablet, capsule or tea, 3 times daily

  • Week 3


    Adaptogenic herbs (Astragalus, American Ginseng, or Chinese Ginseng)
    To tonify the body’s deep immune system
    Dosage: As a liquid extract, tablet, capsule or tea, 3 times daily

  • Week 4


    Echinacea & Goldenseal combination
    For their anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties
    Dosage: As a liquid extract, tablet, capsule or tea, 3 times daily

Premenstrual Syndrome: General

This is a general program based upon hormone balancing and blood building during the first two weeks, and liver clearing during the second two weeks.

  • Week 1

    Dong Quai and Red Raspberry leaf combination
    For hormone balancing and blood building
    Dosage: As a liquid extract, tablet, capsule or tea, 3 times daily

  • Week 2


    Repeat Week 1, or until onset of ovulation (then skip to Week 3)

  • Week 3


    Vitamin B6 and Magnesium
    Nutritional support to reduce PMS symptoms and cramps
    Dosage: 2-3 times daily

    Lipotrophic Factors (Choline, Inositol, Methionine)
    To stabilize liver function
    Dosage: 2-3 times daily

    Herbal liver cleansing formula (Dandelion, Bupleurum, et al)
    Dosage: As a liquid extract, tablet, capsule or tea, 2-3 times daily

  • Week 4


    Repeat Week 3, until the beginning of menstrual flow

Premenstrual Syndrome with Flu Like Symptoms

For women whose immune systems become compromised during the week prior the menstruation. They frequently complain of cold and flu symptoms, with aching and general inflammation. Follow weeks 1 and 2 of the above PMS program. For Weeks 3 and 4, try the following:


  • Weeks 3 & 4

    Echinacea and Goldenseal combination
    For their anti-bacterial, anti-viral, and anti-inflammatory properties
    Dosage: As a liquid extract, tablet, capsule or tea, 3 times daily

    Vitamin B6 and Magnesium
    Nutritional support to reduce PMS symptoms and cramps
    Dosage: 2-3 times daily

    Lipotrophic Factors (Choline, Inositol, Methionine)
    To stabilize liver function
    Dosage: 2-3 times daily

    Herbal liver cleansing formula (Dandelion, Bupleurum, et al)
    Dosage: As a liquid extract, tablet, capsule or tea, 2-3 times daily

Premenstrual Syndrome with Severe Cramps

For women with PMS accompanied by severe uterine cramps. Following the general program for premenstrual syndrome over a period of time will alleviate severe cramps if they are not due to a more serious condition (such as fibroids). For symptomatic relief of cramps, add the following at the onset of symptoms:


  • Week 4

    Homeopathic Mag Phos 6X
    To relieve the symptoms of uterine cramps
    Dosage: Every 1 to 2 hours until relief, then three times daily for 3 days

Anemias

Women with anemia and borderline anemia need to build the blood. The following program should be used in conjunction with Iron and Iron synergistic nutrients prescribed by your health care practitioner. It features the blood-building herbs Dong Quai and Red Raspberry leaf every week of the month.


  • For all Four Weeks


    Dong Quai and Red Raspberry leaf combination
    For hormone balancing and blood-building
    Dosage: As a liquid extract, tablet, capsule or tea, 3 times daily

In addition, add the follow individual herbs:


  • Week 1

    Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus leaf)
    Chlorophyll nutritional support
    Dosage: As a liquid extract or tea, 3 times daily

  • Week 2

    American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius root)
    For its blood-building properties
    Dosage: As a liquid extract or tea, 3 times daily

  • Week 3

    Nettle (Urtica dioica leaf)
    Chlorophyll nutritional support
    Dosage: As a liquid extract or tea, 3 times daily

  • Week 4

    Alfalfa (Medicago sativa leaf)
    Chlorophyll nutritional support
    Dosage: As a liquid extract or tea, 3 times daily


Optimal health for women requires some thought in relation to the specific phase of the menstrual cycle. Keeping this in mind, your results with herbal and nutritional supplements can be greatly enhanced. These programs are not intended as a substitute for individualized care. In the event of illness, consult your health care practitioner.

Janet Zand, OMD, L.Ac., is a respected naturopathic physician who lives and practices in the Los Angeles area. She has developed a unique and effective method of combining herbal medicine with nutrition, homeopathy, and acupuncture. Her credentials include a Doctor of Naturopathy, Doctor of Oriental Medicine, and is a Certified Acupuncturist. Dr. Zand has over fifteen years of clinical experience treating women and children, as well as formulating her own line of herbal supplements.

Janet Zand LAc OMD Written by Janet Zand LAc OMD

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