Dr. Marisa Marciano
What is the best herb to take for regulating your menstrual cycle?
The answer is Yarrow (Achillea millefolium).
When considering herbal helpers for regulating an erratic or uncomfortable menstrual cycle, there are some obvious ‘big guns’ that pop to mind. Herbs like Vitex, Black Cohosh, and Raspberry leaf are all powerful female hormone balancers & reproductive tonics that can modulate the endocrine system, tonify the reproductive organs (e.g. the uterus & ovaries) and help effectively manage a variety of PMS symptoms and menstrual irregularities.
Many of these herbs contain phytoestrogenic compounds or plant-based hormonal precursors which can effect endogenous levels of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone etc. depending on timing and dosages given throughout the course of one’s monthly cycle. However, there are other herbs whose pharmacological effects are not quite so mechanistically clear, and the wisdom of folk medicine reminds us that their therapeutic benefits may at least for now, remain outside our current model of human comprehension.
Yarrow’s (Achillea millefolium)
Yarrow’s (Achillea millefolium) beneficial effects upon the female reproductive tract are a perfect example of just this fact. A wildflower that enjoys growing in open fields throughout the Northern hemisphere, Yarrow is probably best known for it’s ability to staunch bleeding in cases of internal & external hemorrhage, and it’sstrong affinity for the blood makes it an important herb to consider when desiring to regulate one’s menstrual flow. It exerts its influence primarily on the uterus and it’s circulation rather than acting directly on the endocrine system, and has been a mainstay in the literature and in my practice for aiding a woman’s monthly complaints no matter their age.
Yarrow is considered an emmenagogue, an herbal action generally considered to “bring on one’s menstrual flow”, however this is a much-simplified version of its actual effects upon a woman’s body. Yarrow clears pelvic congestion, reduces excessive bleeding, and breaks up stagnant blood by toning the mucous membranes of the female reproductive tract. Though the concept of blood stagnation is not well known outside of Chinese & Native American medicine, the idea is that blood which should be expelled at every period is instead retained, causing pain, cramping, inflammation, fixed masses (such as fibroids & cysts), and irregular and/or heavy menstrual flow.
Yarrow’s is a powerful herb considered by some to have high spiritual potency and does have the potential to be toxic, especially during pregnancy. It best taken as a tea, where 1 Tbsp of the dried flower is infused in 1 cup of nearly boiling water and is let to steep covered for 10-15 minutes. Drinking one cup of Yarrow daily can act as a preventative measure to help with regulation of one’s menstrual flow. It should be noted that Yarrow is also quite a bitter tasting herb, and so if compliance is an issue I will often add Peppermint or Chamomile to improve its palatability.
Dr. Marisa Marciano is a licensed ND in private practice at Evoke Integrative Medicine in downtown Vancouver BC where she focuses on the use of custom herbal formulations alongside dietary & lifestyle counselling to achieve meaningful results for her patients. Also an academic & clinical faculty member at BINM, Dr. Marciano is a passionate educator for the power of plant medicine and is creator of the popular online resource ‘TheNaturopathicHerbalist.com’, which integrates traditional herbal wisdom with contemporary medical research, and empowers others to achieve health by reconnecting with ancient & effective “ecological healing” techniques that are inherently in tune with Nature.