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Expert tips: Herbal remedies for hormonal health

Our subscribers put their questions on hormonal health and wellness to Pukka Herbs Resident Medical Herbalist, Katie Pande. Here are Katie’s expert tips, from herbs that restore balance to controlling sugar cravings!

Hormones play a huge role in how we feel day to day. Not just when you’re on your period. Changes in your lifestyle, diet, or stress levels can all impact your hormonal health.  Katie Pande has shared her expert tips, based on real concerns* from our subscribers:

What is the best all round herb to take for hormone balance throughout the month (including post-period)?

“Shatavari is a traditional Ayurvedic remedy for all round hormonal health support and female health. It naturally balances levels of oestrogen and progesterone in the body whilst also supporting the stress response. It is suitable throughout the female cycle from adolescence right the way through to post-menopause. Shatavari is also an adaptogen and balances the stress response. This helps us cope with the emotional and physical ups and downs that can be experienced during menstruation.”

Are there any herbal remedies that can be used to control sugar cravings?

“When a person is experiencing regular sugar cravings, then it is worth investigating what the root cause of this is. It can be related to the digestion, but also hormonal balance. There are a number of herbs that work specifically to balance blood sugar levels. These include cinnamon, liquorice and turmeric. All of these are delicious in tea and in cooking.

Try a cup of cinnamon tea at a time of day where you might normally need a sugary pick-me-up and it should nip that craving in the bud.”

A blood test showed I had high SHBG levels (192) but my doctor didn’t follow up with how to bring it down to normal. I think it could be contributing to spots on my face, jawline and shoulders. Could this be true and what can I do about it? I stopped taking the pill about 5/6 months ago, but I thought my hormones would have balanced out by now…

“It can take time for hormonal medications to clear the system and for hormonal balance to be restored. It is possible that the body could still be cleansing. However, an imbalance of SHBG is closely linked to stress levels. There is often a clear link between those who have experienced prolonged exposure to stress, both physical and/or mental and an imbalance of SHBG. It can also be influenced by higher levels of testosterone.

There are a couple of ways to approach this. One key factor is to look at the impact of stress on the system and take measures to reduce stress exposure. Another is to focus on hormonal balance using herbs such as shatavari.

All hormones are processed in the liver, so it can also be very beneficial to support this organ through gentle cleansing and detoxing practices.”

I recently got my weight taken on those machines at the doctors & the gym. My body fat percentage and body fat mass are low. Could that contribute to my poor health the week before my period comes?

“The issue is more likely to be related to nutrition rather than body fat and mass percentages specifically. There are links between diet, nourishment and hormonal health.

If the body is malnourished in any way, or there are issues with bioavailability in the gut then the body may struggle to produce the energy it needs to menstruate on a monthly basis. This will result in you feeling very fatigued, weak, dizzy or nauseous. In this instance, it may be worth taking another look at the diet or speaking to a dietician.”

The week before my period I get really bad mental health**, how can I help that?

“A change in the balance of progesterone and oestrogen which occurs the week before a woman’s period begins can significantly impact upon mental health. It can leave women feeling anxious, depressed, teary or even hyperactive and panicked.

The key is to support hormonal balance throughout the month, which can be achieved with the help of herbs and/or through diet. Foods that support oestrogen balance such as cruciferous and green leafy vegetables, as well as foods such as lentils, will help ‘mop-up’ any excess hormones.

Reducing the level of strain on the liver, where all our hormones are processed can help. Try cutting down on the intake of caffeine and alcohol the week before your period starts. Herbs such as ashwagandha and holy basil are specific for supporting mental health and the stress response, whilst also contributing towards hormonal balance. Simple daily practices such as meditation or yoga can also be very helpful.”

Is it possible for urine to change due to hormonal changes? I have noticed that smell and colour is stronger nearer and during my period?

“The change in hormones before a woman’s period can put our liver under a higher level of pressure. Our body may ‘detox’ out a higher level of hormones as a result.

When our body is detoxing, it can leave the body through a number of different means. But, the most common is through urine output or sweating. “

I am 47 (almost 48) and have been suffering from hypothyroidism for some years. As it is subclinical, it is not treated with Eutirox yet (except in the period I was pregnant with my second kid and my thyroid levels fluctuated to a more definite hypothyroidism). But it gives me some health problems, such as a faster heart rate (which is weird, as that would rather be a hyperthyroidism symptom), hair loss, extreme tiredness and poor concentration. I believe that I am also pre-menopausal. I am actually taking a beta-blocker to slower my heart rate, agnus castus to regulate my periods, and a multi-vitamin complex. Is there some herb which might help me keep my problem under control?

“An ideal herb for this scenario would be ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is a traditional Ayurvedic remedy that can be translated to mean ‘strength of a stallion’. It has a specific action on the thyroid gland, helping to re-balance hormone levels. It is also a very valuable adaptogenic herb that strengthens the adrenal glands and the stress response. This supports the body and mind in being more resilient to emotional and physical stressors.

In menopause, ashwagandha can help the body adapt to a new and different way of functioning. So it’s a good all-rounder!”

What causes cystic blemishes on the skin? Chin and upper lip particularly and is there anything you recommend…

“Cystic blemishes can be caused by a number of different factors. In women, it is often hormone related. But, they can also be caused by bacterial skin infections.

The liver is the primary organ for processing all our body’s hormones. It can become stressed during periods of hormonal change when levels of hormones are higher than usual. For example, during menstruation, pregnancy or menopause. The key here is to keep our liver healthy and happy. This can be achieved by daily practices that support natural cleansing and detoxing. Even something as simple as a cup of herbal tea containing natural ‘detoxers’ such as dandelion, nettle, aloe vera or turmeric can help.

The other avenue of treatment is to support female hormonal balance with herbs such as Shatavari or vitex agnus castus. If the skin becomes infected, you can try neat neem oil on the affected areas.”

I suffer from PCOS and have painful, cystic acne as a result. Are there any herbal remedies you recommend to help alleviate my acne?

“PCOS alters our natural hormonal balance which can cause the onset of issues such as acne or hair growth. The way to tackle this is to support the body in regaining a sense of balance.

Herbs that naturally help reduce high levels of testosterone and support a healthy level of oestrogen, such as Shatavari, liquorice and green tea can be very helpful.

It’s also important to support the liver, where all these hormones are processed. Natural, anti-inflammatory herbs such as turmeric are ideal as they support the liver but also help reduce skin inflammation. If the skin becomes infected, you can try neat neem oil on affected areas.”

How can I keep ‘balanced’ emotionally? It always feels like a roller coaster ride of emotions for me, happy, sad, tearful, irritable and angry then happy again.

“The rollercoaster of feelings that are experienced during the menstrual cycle is due to changes in levels of oestrogen and progesterone. There is a very clear link between stress and the onset of PMT symptoms. For example, progesterone is used to make stress hormones: So, if we are more stressed than usual, then our sex hormone balance is altered and can influence the onset of symptoms such as anxiety.

In these instances, it can be worthwhile supporting the adrenals and stress response by using adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha or holy basil (tulsi). Both will help to soothe symptoms of PMT.” Daily practices such as meditation, mindfulness and yoga can also be very supportive and help bring a sense of calm in chaos.”

I am 40 years old and chose to live a single celibate life around 10 years ago after a couple of difficult relationships & a passionate one. Once I gave up sexual relations my hormonal health seemed to fall out of balance. It was like my body would feel like it would go ‘on heat’ once a month. Within a year I started getting cysts in my breasts. Then endometriosis and Vitiligo. Plus, hot sweats. This ‘on heat’ sensation would still cause me difficulties every month and now I suffer terrible pelvic pain/stiffness that limits my physical ability when bad. I believe this has all been triggered in the first place by a hormonal imbalance. Going from being highly sexually active in a relationship, to controlling urges to give me freedom from relationships to know myself. Have you known this before? Is there something I can do that will support my hormonal health?

“It does sound as if there is an underlying issue with hormonal balance in this instance, but also potentially with the liver. The liver is where all our hormones are processed, and a common sign of liver stress can be heat and the onset of skin conditions. I would suggest a two-pronged strategy here by firstly targeting hormonal balance with herbs such as Shatavari, black cohosh or vitex agnus castus.

Secondly, I would look to providing daily support for the liver with strong anti-inflammatory and rejuvenate herbs such as turmeric and ginger. These can also help with the pain. It may also be worth addressing the diet and looking at a combination of foods that support oestrogen balance and reduce digestive inflammation.”

When you become peri-menopausal, what can help your fertility?

“The key to supporting fertility during peri-menopause is to support a sense of balance and regularity in the menstrual cycle. Stress is also a key factor, as there is often a sense of urgency attached to the want to conceive. Looking for herbs that support both hormonal balance, the stress response and strength are ideal.

Shatavari is an excellent fertility tonic and is also an adaptogenic herb which supports a healthy stress response.  Herbs such as ginseng and maca are excellent for encouraging libido, stamina and strength and helping us to feel positive and resilient. Maca also helps to regulate ovulation, which can be affected as women head towards menopause.”

Thanks to Katie Pande for these expert insights and to the team from Pukka Herbs! For more tips on hormonal balance from a nutritional perspective, check out this post from Nutritional Therapist Angelique Panagos! Or follow us on Instagram for weekly inspo.

*This blog has been designed to be informative and educational. Remember, everyone’s health needs and restrictions are unique to the individual. You are ultimately responsible for all decisions pertaining to your health. These tips are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Always consult a GP, or dietician before making any changes to your diet, and consider dietary/allergy restrictions at all times. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professionals.

**If you have any concerns about mental health or if this is impacting your daily life always consult a GP or Health Practitioner.  This blog is not a substitute for professional assistance and always consult a medical professional before taking supplements or herbal remedies.

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