For as long as I can remember, my menstrual cycle has been a source of pain, fatigue, and emotionality. While I consider this monthly process of the body to be a sacred one, the disruption that it causes due to the pain and fatigue that I experience during this time is at the point of needing to plan events and trips around my cycle, and sometimes needing to cancel events when it arrives. Needless to say, for the majority of my life, I have overall not ‘enjoyed’ my menstrual cycle, and it is something that I have come to dread and feel powerless to the effects of.
Like many women, I experience dysmenorrhea—menstrual cramps—during the first few days of my cycle, which includes cramps in the abdominal region as well as pain in my lower back. The pain itself is, of course, unpleasant and it saps the rest of my body’s energy in the process. For the first two days at least, I feel delirious and exhausted. During my cycle, there is also an emotional component where I feel things more deeply and am more likely to feel sad, teary, or overwhelmed by that which life brings—a low tolerance for stress is one way of putting it. In the past, I used to experience irritability, moodiness, and “feeling crazy” during the week or so before my period began. I also experienced PMS pretty hard and gained weight due to water retention.
As a result of all of these symptoms and issues, I have spent many years trying to find ways to lessen the unpleasant symptoms of my menstrual cycle. I have tried many remedies and have had great success with them—acupuncture, Chinese herbs, exercising regularly (especially during the premenstrual week), rest, and more.
I have many remedies to suggest, but for this particular article, I would like to focus on an herbal tea blend that I have formulated with the help of some local herbalists over the years. It is yummy and cleansing and has helped me with all of the above symptoms.
My menstrual tea blend includes:
Raspberry leaf can help to regulate the menstrual cycle in a number of ways. Raspberry leaf contains fragrine, a very potent alkaloid that helps to tone the muscles surrounding the uterus and pelvic region. When the uterus is toned, it is more relaxed and it helps the blood flow smoothly and reduces cramps. Raspberry leaf is also a good source of calcium, which helps to regulate the excessive amount of hormones the body produces every month around the menstrual cycle. Raspberry leaf can help reduce cramping, anxiety and irritability.
Dandelion root cleanses the pancreas, liver, gallbladder, and kidneys. Many symptoms of PMS and menstruation—irritability, moodiness, fatigue—are related to stagnation in the liver, so cleansing the liver is particularly important. Dandelion (particularly the leaves) is a diuretic, so it can help to relieve water retention as well. It can also help with constipation, which many women suffer from during this time of month. Dandelion is high in potassium, which is also helpful during menstruation.
Many women experience stomach upset during their premenstrual and menstrual time. Marshmallow root soothes the digestive system and can help with both constipation and diarrhea. Marshmallow root also serves as a diuretic, which helps with water retention during the menstrual cycle and helps to increase urination and balance fluids during this time.
Calendula, amongst its many other uses, can be used as a “pelvic decongestant,” as a few herbalists have told me. It can stimulate the menstrual cycle itself, and also helps with liver stagnation and digestive irritability—all good things, especially around the menstrual cycle.
‘Root Beer’ Tea
This is a particular blend in and of itself that I buy from Rebecca’s Herbal Apothecary in Boulder, Colorado (but you can order online, too). It includes the following ingredients: Organic Dandelion Root, Wildcrafted Sassafras, Organic Ginger, Organic Cinnamon, Organic Wild Yam, Organic Licorice, Organic Orange Peel, Organic Dong Quai, Wildcrafted Black Haw, and Organic Black Pepper. I won’t go into the benefits of each individual herb here since there are so many.
You can decide how much of each of these herbs you want in your tea blend. What I have come to do over the years is to vary it with about 1-2 tablespoons of the raspberry leaf, dandelion root, root beer tea, and the marshmallow root. With the calendula, I just grab a handful and break it up into the mixture. Using your intuition to decide how to balance this blend is a good way to go. For example, if you feel like your liver needs some extra cleansing, you might go heavier on the dandelion root. That said, you will know what your body needs best.
Ideally, drinking this tea daily for a solid week before your menstrual cycle begins is best and will help with premenstrual syndrome symptoms as well as the bleeding part of your menstrual cycle. I use a French press to make this herbal blend, which makes for multiple servings of this tea and no messy straining. I buy these herbs from Rebecca’s Apothecary in Boulder, but you can likely find these natural and loose at your local health food store.
Being able to make this tea blend each month not only makes me feel better emotionally and symptomatically for reasons of my menstrual cycle, but I also feel empowered in being able to take care of myself in this way, and I know that I am giving my body what it needs during this sacred monthly cycle.