For some women, their menstrual cycle can cause not only pain and discomfort, but worry over fertility too. And although each woman is different, there have been some studies into herbal remedies which can help balance and regulate the cycle.
We look at five herbs and plants that have been known to help women's reproductive health to find one that is right for you.
Also known as Vitex or Monk's Pepper, it was used by monks in the Middle Ages as a herbal remedy to reduce their sex drive and help them maintain celibacy. Today however, chaste tree is used by women who suffer with their menstrual cycle. For many women, problems like infertility, irregular bleeding or painful heavy periods can be a result of lack of progesterone in the body. Chaste tree, although it contains no hormonal compounds, has a similar effect on the body as progesterone. When taking chaste tree, it acts on the pituitary gland in the brain and helps normalise follicle stimulating hormones (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) which are related to the menstrual cycle. Because the herb works to normalise LH levels, it helps ease these complaints and has been known to regularise the menstrual cycle and treat some cases of acne flare up during menstruation.
Red clover is a perennial plant, but it is the flowers of the plant that are used in herbal medicine. Although scientific testing is limited on the effectiveness of the clover, it has been linked to treating many conditions such as high cholesterol, indigestion, asthma and also to treat symptoms of menopause in women. Research has found in recent years that women suffering from hot flashes, breast pain or tenderness (also knows as mastalgia) and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) have found some relief in taking red clover supplements.
Dong Quai is also known as Chinese Angelica and it has been linked to treating women's symptoms of menopause and PMS. Dong Quai is said to have phytohormonal properties, meaning it imitates the actions of both oestrogen and progesterone hormones. This has a balancing effect on the menstrual cycle, making it an ideal treatment for anyone suffering from irregular or absent periods, especially if they are accompanied with muscular tension, cramping and severe pain.
A form of wild asparagus, Shatavari has been used to aid women's health - particularly reproductive health - for centuries. Hailing from India, the name is said to mean 'she who possesses a hundred husbands', referring to the herb's rejuvenating effects on women's reproductive organs. Today, Shatavari is still used to help women with menstrual and reproductive problems - from infertility, loss of libido, menopausal symptoms and PMS, herbalists turn to this herb.
Wild Yam has long been used by herbalists as a treatment for menstrual cramps and inflammatory disorders in the body. It's medicinal properties include a compound called diosgenin, which is a precursor for progesterone. Similar to using chaste tree, by increasing the levels of progesterone in the body, there should be a balance between oestrogen and progesterone to help alleviate the symptoms of PMS. It is also known to have muscle relaxing qualities which are known to help ease muscle cramps during the menstrual cycle.