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Dong Quai (angelica)

Dong quai has been used in Asia for thousands of years as a tonic for the female reproductive system. In fact, it ranks just below ginseng as the most popular herb in China and Japan, although its effectiveness has yet to be substantiated by conventional Western standards.

Chasteberry

In medieval times, the chasteberry (botanically known as Vitex agnus-castus) was thought to suppress the libido of both males and females. Legend has it that monks once chewed on the dried berries in an effort to adhere to their vows of celibacy. Today, it’s clear that the herb does not affect sexual drive, but chasteberry does have an important role to play in treating women’s reproductive-tract disorders and menstrual-related complaints. In Europe, chasteberry is now recommended more often than any other herb for relieving the symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome).

Calcium/Magnesium

These two important minerals are often combined into one convenient product. Such combinations are a practical way to prevent or treat myriad ailments, from back pain and perimenopause to PMS and endometriosis. While there is little to distinguish one calcium/magnesium product from another, it’s smart to take a combination that includes different forms of the key minerals (such as calcium citrate, carbonate, and malate; and magnesium citrate, aspartate, and glycinate) as insurance that at least one will get absorbed into your system and do its work.

Borage Oil

From its bristly stems to its blue star-shaped flowers, virtually all parts of the borage plant (Borago officinalis) have been used over the centuries for their healing properties and as a flavoring for foods. As early as the 1600s, Europeans mixed borage leaves and flowers into a wine that was renown for relieving boredom and dispelling melancholy.

Black Cohosh

Generations of American women have relied on the gnarled root of black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) to relieve various “female problems,” from PMS and menstrual cramps to menopausal symptoms. In the 1900s, this indigenous American wildflower, a member of the buttercup family, provided the main ingredient in a popular tonic for women. (The concoction–Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound–is still sold, but it no longer contains the herb.) Black cohosh has also been used to treat a variety of other complaints, including insect bites and eczema.

Melatonin and Perimenopause

I was surprised to see a clinical report using the nutritional supplement melatonin in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science, simply because it’s a very conservative journal, rarely acknowledging the existence of natural medicine.