Welcome to my garden at Medicine Lodge Ranch! As a midwife, physician, woman, and mother, caring for and connecting with women has always been near and dear to my heart. Today, I want to share four herbs that I think are vitally important for women’s health.
Raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus)
When you think of raspberry, you probably think of beautiful fruit and thorny stalks. (The genus name is of this plant is Rubus, which means brambles). But it’s actually the leaf of the raspberry plant we use to make tea.
Raspberry leaf tea is used by women to help them regulate their menstrual cycles. I drank raspberry leaf tea three or four times a week for many years. During that time, my periods were regular like clockwork and light and pain-free.
Raspberry leaf is also believed to tone and strengthen the uterus, and women often drink it as part of a pregnancy tea blend during the last six weeks of pregnancy. Does it work? Well, study results are somewhat mixed, but what they do show is generally women who drink raspberry leaf tea during the last month of pregnancy tend to have a shorter second stage of labor and fewer interventions, like the use of forceps or c-section.
Raspberry leaf tea can be brewed normally or made like a sun tea. It’s delicious hot or iced. You don’t have to drink this nutritive tea every day to reap its many benefits; simply enjoying it two or three times a week is a good idea for many women.
Nettle leaf (Urtica dioica)
If you’ve ever stumbled into a patch of them while exploring outside, you understand where stinging nettle gets its name. The little hairs on the plant contain formic acid, which can cause skin irritation and a release of histamine in the body.
But when you cook nettles, brew them into a tea, or prepare them like you would spinach, they’re actually quite safe and extremely delicious. For a tasty and healthy side dish, I like to steam nettles for 15 minutes and sauté in a little olive oil with garlic and salt. I also hang bunches of nettle leaf to use for medicine.
Nettle has traditionally been combined with raspberry leaf for nutrition and is a great source of iron, vitamin C, and other nourishing nutrients, so women would use it to strengthen their systems. Nettle was particularly prized by women who wanted to restore and replenish themselves after giving birth. These traditional applications are still resonant among women today.
Nutritious nettle is safe and helpful for people of any age, including kids. For women, I recommend combining nettle and raspberry leaf and brewing this mixture as a tea to get the most from these supportive herbs.
Lady’s mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris)
The scientific name of this lesser known (but no less lovely) herb is Alchemilla, derived from the Arabic word for alchemy. People thought the ability of lady’s mantle leaves to hold water was a form of alchemy, and that the drops of water on the leaves that lasted until late afternoon had some sort of magical power to them.
I can’t attest to any magic found in the water on the lady’s mantle leaf, but I can tell you that lady’s mantle has been used for hundreds of years in women’s health. Taken as a tea, this herb can be used to help relieve menstrual pain and staunch excessive bleeding. Many women like to consume lady’s mantle if they have painful, heavy periods.
Lady’s mantle is a wonderful herb for women to keep on hand, especially if you struggle with these problems relating to your menstrual cycle.
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Sage is such a beautiful herb! It has so many medicinal properties— hence its genus name Salvia, from the word salvere meaning “to save.” But sage has a very special purpose for women who are making the transition into their “sage” years.
As women move through menopause, sage can be excellent for helping to ease hot flashes, and it’s supremely effective for night sweats. Many women will find that just a cup of sage tea taken in the evening can help slow sweating and improve sleep, while also lessening hot flashes throughout the day.
Menopause presents unique physical challenges for women. Sage can be a trusted ally as you begin your journey through menopause.
Please note that sage should only be used as a culinary herb during pregnancy.
Women and Herbal Medicine
Clearly there are more herbs that can be used to promote women’s health, but these four are exceptional. They make a fine addition to any garden, and I believe every woman can benefit from having them in her herbal medicine cabinet.
Women have been the keepers of healing ways and secrets of plant medicines. It is a part of our lineage. It is our birthright. I encourage you to learn as much as you can about how to care for yourself and your loved ones using gentle and effective means of treatment like these four herbs.