"For decades, standard-practice medicine has advocated some form of hormone replacement as an almost routine protocol for women transitioning through their menopausal journeys. Since April 2002, a series of pronouncements from the conventional medical community itself has shed a glaringly bright light onto this wholesale prescribing of pharmaceutical hormone therapy to address women's health. Women, as always, are left to their own best judgment as to their personal course." -
Exploring Womanhood Interviews Carol Trasatto, herbalist
Trasatto been studying and practicing the healing plant arts for almost 25 years. Currently, she works several days a week at Radiance
Herbs and Massage in Olympia, WA as an herbal educator and buyer.
She also writes, maintains a private wellness counseling practice,
teaches in the community, and works with interns on a tutorial basis.
have invited Carol to join us in a discussion about ways to benefit
our ongoing health using natural plant-life. We may discuss using mineral-rich
herbs to enhance bone and muscle strength, gentle teas and infusions
to help lessen hot flashes, meditations and relaxation to calm our frazzled
nerves and busy minds... and much more. Her caring nature, nurturing
and giving spirit, and healthy knowledge of Mother Earth will give us
some much needed direction so that we can begin our path toward healthier
and more natural living.
has a few more questions coming in and we'll update this page shortly.
Many thanks to Carol Trasatto for joining us!
Hi Carol, My son turned two at the end of November and I am thinking
about weaning because my nipples are very sensitive lately and I am
feeling like I want my body back. My son seems ready and is beginning
to be less interested. I was wondering if you know of any herb I can
take to help with swelling and engorgement, and something that will
help dry me up gradually, or if that's even a good idea to do that.
The only reason I ask is that I am unsure of how much milk I have left
even though my breasts are still pretty big. Thank you, Jen
Jen, one of the tried-and-true traditional remedies for weaning a
babe is garden sage [Salvia officinalis]. One of its keynote uses
is to lessen excess secretions throughout the body. Women have relied
on it for generations. You can work with this as a simple tea or as
a tincture diluted in a bit of water. A typical dose of 2-3 cups per
day of the tea-or one dropperful of tincture 2-3 times per day-should
be sufficient for you to see a gradual lessening of your milk supply.
Eating fresh parsley on a daily basis is another simple way to reduce
your milk flow in addition to supplying abundant nutrition!
Reader: Carol, I am starting my menopause journey. So far, so
good. I've read Christiane Northrup's books and I can see that there
are many benefits to "going natural." There are so many products springing
up now on the market that I feel like companies are taking advantage
of the new statements on HRT. It scares me. If I were to make my own
herbal remedy for hot flashes and mood swings, where would I find
We are blessed with so many wonderful books at this time that are
penned by long-time practicing herbalists. Here are three of my favorites
that would give you solid information on formulating an herbal remedy
to address your sensations:
I am 14 and have bad pms each month. Is there something to take for
cramps that is natural? Thank you. Stella.
cramps most likely do not need to be a moontime experience for you.
From an herbal perspective, there are two main ways to approach PMS
and menstrual symptoms like uterine cramping. With cramping, one approach
is to act directly on the uterine muscle itself, working with herbs
with antispasmodic properties such as cramp bark [Viburnum opulus] or
black haw [Viburnum prunifolium]. These plants act in the moment and
can be taken repeatedly throughout the day when uterine spasms occur.
They help moderate the acute discomfort, which can be a very good thing
indeed. However, they don't address underlying factors-hormonal or otherwise-that
are provoking the cramps in the first place. For that, we turn to tonifying
herbs such as red raspberry leaf [Rubus idaeus], partridge berry [Mitchella
repens], black cohosh [Cimicifuga racemosa], chastetree berry [Vitex
agnus-castus], dong quai [Angelica sinensis] and other plants with affinity
to female reproductive health. Tonics supporting the liver and nervous
system may also be indicated.
Refer to Ann McIntyre's
or Rosemary Gladstar's books listed above to fine-tune which plants
are appropriate for you or, if new to natural healing, consult with
an herbalist or naturopathic physician specializing in herbal therapies
for personalized guidance.
was wondering what is generally used for nasal congestion. I am also
getting sinus headaches. I understand that most herbs on the market
are over-harvested. I would like to stay away from those herbs (i.e.
echinacea) for that reason. Any suggestions? I am not pregnant or nursing.
chronic nasal congestion and nasal headaches is one of those very multi-faceted
and individualized explorations. First, we need to look at possible environmental
provocations such as air-borne allergens like dust, mold, woodsmoke, pollens.
Next, we need to consider possible dietary contributions, such as sensitivities
to wheat, dairy, and so on. Having information from those two major perspectives,
we can then tailor specific herbal and dietary and lifestyle suggestions.
As with menstrual cramps discussed earlier, we can work to lessen acute
discomfort but for long-term relief we need to look deeper. For short-term
relief, try nasal rinse with a warm saline solution, inhalation of camphorous
essential oils such as eucalyptus or pine-breathing vapors straight from
the bottle or via drops of oil in steams, and herbal teas such as elder
flower, eyebright, red raspberry leaf, sage, yarrow, peppermint, or ginger.
In addition, try eliminating cow's milk dairy products as an experiment
and see if that lessens your discomfort.
Which herbs are dangerous during pregnancy? Which are good during this
question of using herbs during pregnancy is complex. The issue is most
definitely not black and white. An herb which might be contraindicated
during the first trimester might be appropriate in the third. Or an herb
which might generally be avoided during an uneventful pregnancy still
might be a more benign choice when compared to a drug prescribed to address
an unexpected acute situation during pregnancy. Sometimes an herb capable
of stimulating uterine contractions in high doses could be just the right
medicine in a carefully administered smaller dose. Other variables include:
the overall constitution and sensitivity of the woman, whether she has
used herbs previously, whether this is her first pregnancy, the character
of any previous pregnancies, what other options a woman is considering
to address an acute situation, and so on. Women have eaten plants and
have drunk herbal brews for thousands of years to strengthen them during
pregnancy and prepare themselves for an easier birth. Healing plants are
not to be feared during pregnancy, but used with knowledge, skill and
discernment. Especially if you have not worked with herbs before, this
is not a time to self-medicate. Enter into the stream of women's wisdom
and find an experienced practitioner to help guide you in this.
There are multiple ways to think about herbs and pregnancy.
Some women start regularly drinking infusions of red raspberry leaf, oatstraw,
nettles, and other highly food-like herbs when they begin intentionally
opening to conception. They are looking for the abundant nutrients in
these plants to strengthen their uterine muscle, to build bone and mineral
reserves, and to enhance their overall vitality. Some women begin such
a routine once they have conceived. Others wait until the second or even
the third trimester to work with these plants. If a woman has never worked
with herbs before, and there are no specific needs to address such as
nausea or a threatened miscarriage, some herbalists would recommend simply
foregoing any new herbs during the first trimester. But for the common
complaints of pregnancy-such as nausea, indigestion, constipation, fatigue,
cramping, spasms, anxiety, sleeplessness, low iron, exposure to infectious
disease, and so on, herbal remedies can be a blessing of the goddess.
Some plants are typically reserved for the final weeks before birth to
help ripen and prepare the mother's body for labor.
Having said all that,
let me summarize by saying that lists of herbs to avoid are just the starting
point and are not written in stone. There are some rules of thumb, however,
to guide you in understanding the logic of those lists. Certain categories
of plant activity which can be otherwise beneficial are generally contraindicated
during pregnancy. These remedies may in some way irritate the placenta
or provoke premature muscular contractions in the uterus. It is obvious
to avoid abortifacients. Beyond that, it is generally advisable to avoid
emmenagogues or uterine stimulants, plants with strong alkaloids such
as goldenseal and coffee, plants which constrict blood flow, irritating
anthraquinone laxatives such as senna and Cascara sagrada, potent herbs
such as poke root with very selective therapeutic use and narrow windows
of safe dosing, bitters, many stimulants, and certain plants containing
essential oils such as juniper berries, nutmeg [in large amounts], and
Again, choices about herbs during pregnancy are always
relative and subjective, specific to a particular woman, her circumstances,
and the skill of her practitioner in offering guidance.
As I move into peri-menopause I have found that soy milk seems to reduce
my premenstrual emotional fragility. My concern though is that this phytoestrogen
may carry the same risks as synthetic estrogens. What do you think? Any
other suggestions on what to do for PMS besides healthy living and a good
attitude? Thank You Kathy
question offers several branches to explore: the issue of soy in the diet,
the safety of phytoestrogens, and approaches for alleviating pre-menstrual
complaints. Let me take them one at a time.
On soy: I do not suggest
relying on soymilk as a source of phytosterols, compounds in plants which
can have mild estrogenic effects. For one thing, it is a heavily processed
food. Often, the soy is mixed with honey or some other sweetener and that
food combination can prove devastating to many women's digestive tracts,
resulting in painful gas and bloating. Abstaining from soymilk resolves
the discomfort. Another piece about soy is that most, if not all, of the
studies on the health benefits of soy were looking at fermented soy products.
Tempeh, miso, and cultured soy milk are examples. Tempeh is much more
of a whole food than soymilk or tofu. It consists of mashed cooked soybeans
made into cakes, either alone or combined with grain, and fermented with
a beneficial organism which partially digests the protein and makes it
very assimilable to the human gut. Most legumes are rich in phytosterols
such as the isoflavonoids celebrated in soybeans. Sprouting the legumes
before cooking increases the level of phytosterols present in the food.
These days, there is also the unfortunate issue of avoiding the unknown
consequences of eating foods which have been genetically modified. Soy
is one of the chief food crops being experimented with--and, of course--by
ingesting genetically modified soybeans the experiment continues in our
bodies. Look for GMO-free labeling.
As to the question
of plant-based molecules carrying the same risk as synthetic estrogens,
I'm assuming you're particularly referring to the scenario of a woman
with an estrogen-responsive cancer, such as breast or ovarian cancer,
or the genetic predisposition to manifest them. Synthetic estrogens strongly
turn on the hormonally sensitive tissue and are therefore contraindicated.
Phytosterols, on the other hand, compete with naturally occurring, strongly
acting estrogens and environmentally sourced xenoestrogens [such as pesticides]
for cellular receptor sites, occupying those sites and gently tweaking
them in a limited way--thus offering what is seen as a protective
effect on estrogen-sensitive tissue. Phytosterols can ease the symptoms
of declining levels of endogenous estrogens circulating in the bloodstream
which is the case during perimenopause. I do not fear them. There is more
that could be said here, but I think this may address your concern.
There are many foods
and herbs which can address the discomforts that may arise during perimenopause.
The list is long--what a blessing! One key piece in any formula for
women's hormonal balance is support for optimum liver function. Basic
support for the liver begins with avoiding chemicals in food and drink,
avoiding fried foods and alcohol, avoiding rancid foods. There are many
liver-tonifying herbs which might be appropriate for a given woman including
dandelion root, milk thistle seed, burdock root, schizandra berries, turmeric
rhizome, and so on. When formulating an herbal compound, it is ideal to
customize the blend to match the individual's specific constitution and
experience of body/mind/spirit. Check out the books I mentioned in a previous
discussion or consult with someone trained in herbal/natural medicine.
Hi Carol! Thanks for taking the time to answer all these questions. I
am nursing and was wondering if there is anything you suggest on an herbal
basis that is good for producing more milk or "better quality" milk (if
there is such a thing : )). Thank you!
plant world is generous in its gifts to women--for our own health
and the health of our babies and children. There are plants both to stimulate
increased production of breast milk and to enhance the nutritional content
of your milk. These allies are used by wise women in many traditions around
the world. Some typical herbs to increase production include fennel seed,
blessed thistle leaf, fenugreek seed, borage, or goat's rue. Nutrient-rich
plants include nettle leaf, red raspberry or thimbleberry leaves, alfalfa
leaf, oatstraw, rosehips. Herbs to help calm the baby's gut and prevent
colic include chamomile blossoms, fennel seed, and catnip leaf. These
plants can be combined as desired to support your intention. Enjoy these
EW Reader: Is there an herbal
tea that I can make (preferable) or buy that would increase my milk supply?
I am currently nursing my 7-month-old. Also, what would be a good way
to head off tummy troubles such as pain, bloating and gas (probably due
to a gallbladder problem) after eating? Again, I would prefer a tea that
I could make myself. Are there any herbs that are known to be poisonous
to a child?
Carol: For the question about nursing, please see
my previous response. As to abdominal distress after eating, we would
need to rule out any physical obstruction to the bile duct itself. Barring
that, there are herbs that may be of benefit that are also safe to use
during lactation: Liquid extracts of dandelion root alone or in combination
with milk thistle seed, yellow dock root, and/or Oregon grape root can
be ingested in a little water 15-20 minutes before each meal to encourage
sufficient secretion of digestive juices. These bitters need to be tasted
to do their job. Alternately, a cup of rosemary tea before each meal,
especially before those containing fats or oils, is lovely.
Yes, there are certainly
plants that are poisonous to a child [or adult, for that matter], including
some common houseplants and landscape foliage. Clearly, poisons in the
natural world are simply a part of life and they have particular functions
to serve. Children must be taught at an early age, I believe, only to
eat leaves, berries, fruits or flowers that have been given to them by
their trusted adults. It is wise to keep in the medicine chest the phone
number of Poison Control, as well as activated charcoal capsules [to absorb
toxins in the gut], milk thistle seed extract [helps detoxify harmful
chemicals such as amanita poison], ipecac [where regurgitation is appropriate].
Any herb, no matter
how benign, can cause problems if taken in excessive doses. In addition,
there are herbs that we would not use with children under almost any circumstances.
All herbal medicines, nutritional supplements, and essential oils should
be stored well out of a child's reach. Rather than list plants to avoid,
let me suggest that in thinking about herbal medicine and children, you
invest in one or two high quality books on herbal healing and children.
You will refer to them often over the years and having more than one voice
to reference is an added benefit. Check out The
Encyclopedia of Natural Healing for Children and Infants by Mary
Bove, ND and Kids,
Herbs and Health by Linda White, MD and Sunny Mavor, herbalist.
other wonderful books are no longer in print-such as The Herbal for
Mother and Child by Anne McIntyre and Natural Childcare by
Maribeth Riggs. Look for them in used bookstores and snap them up if you
find them. Each practitioner/writer has their own precious jewels of wisdom