Fluctuating hormones as part of your monthly cycle can wreak havoc on your weight, mood, digestion, fertility, metabolism, sleep, and more. But there’s good news – certain clever herbs, roots and algaes mean it doesn’t have to be a wild and rocky ride every month. By understanding how your body works during different menstrual phases, you can adjust your diet and lifestyle to support hormonal changes. We’ve cultivated a collection of supportive natural extracts that can help you achieve harmony through your monthly cycle.
While hormone changes are a normal part of the menstrual cycle, sometimes hormonal imbalances can be due to underlying medical issues, so always consult a healthcare professional if you have any concerns.
What happens during menstruation?
Let’s start at the very beginning. The first day of your bleed marks the beginning of your menstrual cycle. If an egg is unfertilised, estrogen and progesterone hormone levels drop, signalling to your body to begin menstruation. During menstruation, the lining of the uterus is broken down and released from the body in the form of menstrual blood and tissue flow.
Supportive supplements for menstruation
During menstruation, it’s relatively common for women to experience mood swings, PMS, headaches, digestive upset, cramping, fatigue, anxiety and tender breasts. Here are some powerful herbs and adaptogens that can help you with those fluctuating hormone levels.
The key bioactive compound in turmeric, curcumin, has potent anti-inflammatory properties making it potentially effective against PMS and period cramps.
This supplement can be taken in pill or capsule form or added to food like curries or scrambled eggs. Make sure you add black pepper or combine it with fats when cooking to make it bioavailable.
Many of the symptoms like anxiety, depression and fatigue can be attributed to iron loss. Due to its rich iron content, spirulina is an excellent choice for those who experience heavy menstrual bleeds.
Spirulina can be added to smoothies or taken in capsule form. If you are not a fan of the spirulina taste, you can enjoy it as part of a pre-infused drink that can also be one of the great alternatives to coffee. According to one 2014 study published by the Journal of Taibah University Medical Sciences, caffeine consumption is associated with prolonged, heavy menstruation.
Holy basil (Tulsi)
Holy basil can is another rich source of iron, with just one teaspoon providing around 10% of the RDA. It is also known as an adaptogen, helping the body adapt to stress and helping with mild depression associated with PMS.
Holy basil is often enjoyed as a tea infusion but can also be taken in capsule form.
Ashwagandha is another adaptogen that can help balance stress levels and increase vitality. It’s common for energy levels to dip during this phase and ashwagandha can help support your adrenal glands.
Ashwagandha can be taken as a capsule or added as a powder to warm milk.
What happens during the follicular phase?
The follicular phase includes menstruation and the regrowth and reconstruction of the uterine lining. It is around two weeks long and ends with ovulation. Estrogen increases while the egg undergoes a maturation process restoring strength to the body and preparing for conception.
Supportive supplements for the follicular
We often feel energy and vitality building during the follicular phase, making us more social and confident. This is because of our primal instincts of attracting a mate during our most fertile phase. Supporting your hormones is essential during this time to promote overall health and balance, especially if you’re trying to get pregnant.
Red clover is a flowering plant that possesses chemicals similar to estrogen, called phytoestrogens. This helps support the need for increased estrogen during this stage of the menstrual cycle. In addition, it can help thicken the lining of the uterus for implantations to increase fertility, and it may relieve symptoms of menopause like hot flashes and night sweats.
Red clover is commonly taken as a tincture and can also be taken as tea.
Shatavari is an adaptogen used in Ayurvedic medicine. The word shatavari translates to “a woman with one thousand husbands,” suggestive of its use in female reproductive health. Shatavari helps to add vitality and supports estrogen balance.
It can be consumed as a powdered extract or in capsule form.
What happens during the luteal phase?
The luteal phase usually begins on the day of ovulation and ends on the first day of menstruation. It’s vital that hormones are balanced in this phase to facilitate implantation if an egg is fertilised. It takes around seven days from the day of fertilisation for an egg to reach the uterus for implantation. Progesterone and estrogen levels rise to create the environment for conception and begin to decline if implantation doesn’t occur, leading to menstruation.
Supportive supplements for the luteal phase
This change in hormones can cause unpleasant feelings associated with PMS. As our energy levels decrease, we may become more withdrawn and reclusive. Other PMS symptoms may include headaches, bloating, mood swings, acne, appetite changes, fatigue, insomnia, nausea, muscle pain and abdominal cramps. Here are some herbs that can be taken to support us during the luteal phase of our menstrual cycle:
For centuries, this fruit extract was used by monks to reduce sexual desire (chastity). Nowadays, it is used to help women’s reproductive health by lengthening the luteal phase.
This supplement should only be taken under the guidance of a qualified herbalist.
Spirulina drinks have been hailed as the superfood of the sea for being a rich source of essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals. It’s also a sustainable protein, which is needed for the growth, regeneration, energy and longevity of cells.
Spirulina is cooling and can help clear excess heat from the body and liver, decreasing symptoms such as bloating and diarrhoea.
Spirulina is most often enjoyed as an antioxidant-rich drink, such as smoothies or soda alternatives.
Like spirulina, burdock root is cooling and has benefits for supporting liver health. A cleansed and healthy liver is better equipped to eliminate excess hormones from the body.
Burdock root is often taken as a tea, herbal tincture, or in powdered form.