Bothered by mood swings? Did your last business presentation include a demo of hot flashes? Do you long to fall asleep before the late, late, late show? If any of these statements speak to you, then it’s time to get familiar with a few female-friendly floras that can help these and other symptoms fade.


Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium)

Migraines

Feverfew contains several sesquiterpene lactones, most notably parthenolide. Collectively, these agents produce anti-inflammatory effects by blocking anti-IgE-induced histamine release from mast cells. They also inhibit prostaglandin synthesis, block platelet granule secretion and reduce spasm and constriction in vascular smooth muscle. According to the National Institutes of Health, the American Botanical Council and the Physicians’ Desk Reference for Herbal Medicines, feverfew may reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches.

How to Take

  • Capsules: 200-250 mg daily of the dried leaf.
  • Fresh: 1-3 leaves up to 2 times daily.
  • Infusion: Up to 3 cups per day, prepared as tea.

Cautions
People who take blood-thinning medications should not use feverfew due to an increased risk of bleeding, or by those who take Retin-A because compounds in the herb increase photosensitivity. If you have a known allergy to other plants in the daisy family, you may experience an allergic reaction to feverfew. Do not take during pregnancy.


Ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Nausea, Heartburn, Diarrhea

Ginger is used to counter nausea, vomiting and indigestion associated with motion sickness and morning sickness during pregnancy. The anti-emetic properties of this plant are due to the presence of Gingerols and shogaols in the root and, unlike many other anti-nausea medications, ginger compounds act locally rather than on the central nervous system. Specifically, these chemicals increase the flow of saliva, gastric secretions and bile, while reducing gastric contractions. One ginger compound, galanolactone, appears to block the activity of serotonin at receptor sites, which reduces smooth muscle contraction.

How to Take

  • Use freely in cooking.
  • Infusion: 1 teaspoon, prepared as tea
  • Capsules: 100-500 mg, powdered root

Cautions
Do not take ginger if you have a history of gallstones or if you take anti-platelet or anti-coagulant medications. This herb is generally considered safe in therapeutic dosages during pregnancy, but check with your doctor first.


Chaste Tree / Berry (V. agnus castus)

PMS, Menstrual Pain

Chaste tree, also known as chaste berry, is traditionally used to treat unpleasant symptoms related to menstruation, such as cramps, irritability, mood swings and headache. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, several studies show that this herb enhances mood and deters headache and breast tenderness. A study published in the April 2010 issue of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology reported that a double-blind, placebo-controlled study conducted in China showed that 64 out of 67 participating women experienced significant relief from 17 PMS-related symptoms, especially insomnia. The researchers concluded that chaste tree is an effective treatment for mild-to-moderate PMS.

How to Take

  • Standardized extract: 400 mg before breakfast.
  • Capsules: 20-40 mg daily.

Cautions
Due to potential estrogenic effects, do not take this herb during pregnancy, while nursing or if you have a history of endometriosis or a hormone-driven cancer. This herb may also interfere with birth control medications and dopamine agonists used in the treatment of Parkinson's disease.


Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa, formerly Cimicifuga racemosa)

Adverse Menstrual and Menopause Symptoms

Black cohosh has been used for centuries to relieve menstrual cramps and symptoms related to menopause, including mood swings, hot flashes and insomnia. In Europe, the herb is approved for medicine use by the German E Commission and has been widely prescribed for women for decades. Black cohosh contains a number of compounds responsible for its pharmacological effects, including isoferulic acids, glycosides and phytoestrogens. In addition to easing symptoms associated with menstruation and menopause, black cohosh may also combat inflammation in osteoarthritis and help to prevent bone loss that leads to osteoporosis.

How to Take

  • Tablets: 2 tablets standardized to contain 1 mg of 27-deoxyactein, daily.
  • Tincture: 2-4 ml, up to 3 times per day taken in water or tea.
  • Decoction: 20 g of dried root in 34 oz of water, boiled and simmered until reduced by half, up to 3 cups per day (discard liquid after 48 hours).

Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon)

Urinary Tract Infections

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, one in five women will experience a urinary tract infection (UTI) at some point. For centuries, cranberry has been used to treat urinary and bladder infections by Native Americans and early European settlers. Although it was assumed that cranberry neutralized infection-causing bacteria, we now know that compounds in the fruit prevent bacteria – like Escherichia coli -- from binding to cell surface membranes of the urinary tract. However, the important distinction here is that cranberry prevents but does not treat UTIs. As an added bonus, cranberry contains a variety of proanthocyanidins, potent antioxidants that combat free radicals and may offer some protection against cancer and heart disease. Cranberry may also prevent surface binding of Helicobacter pylori in the stomach, the bacteria responsible for producing ulcers.

How to Take

  • Juice: At least 3 oz pure juice per day, or 10 oz cranberry juice cocktail.
  • Capsules: 300-400 mg, divided into 6 doses per day.

Cautions

Cranberry contains high amounts of oxalate, so restrict your intake if you have a history of kidney stones. Do not take in combination with Warfarin or other blood-thinning medications. Cranberry may decrease the effectiveness of H2 blockers used to reduce stomach acid.

Note: These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, prevent or treat any disease. If you have a chronic condition, are taking prescription or over-the-counter medications or are pregnant or nursing, do not add herbal medicines to your treatment regimen without consulting a qualified health care practitioner. The University of Maryland Medical Center and the Physicians’ Desk Reference for Herbal Medicines (Thomas Brendler, et al., 2007) provide the dosage information for this article.