Lily was bursting with excitement when she returned for her second visit to my office. “Could those pills you gave me work really fast – I mean, like overnight?” she asked, only half-ready to believe my answer.
During Lily’s first appointment, she shared that since her first child was born, her PMS has been hellish. For a week before her period, her face, back, and chest breaks out in painful acne.
She braces herself for a 7-day migraine that forces her to miss work at least one or two days every month. The headaches are bad enough, but the breast tenderness and swelling make certain movements – like holding her daughter up close – very painful.
And then there’s the cramping.
These aren’t your ordinary ‘pass me the hot water bottle’ cramps you can wait out. We’re talking severe, put-me-out-of-my-misery muscle spasms. Over-the-counter pain medication barely takes the edge off, but Lily is afraid to take a dose large enough to make a difference.
It’s no wonder she was a little skeptical about the quick action from her herbal formulas. How can anything as gentle as a plant relieve such horrendous PMS?
Getting Comfortable with Natural Healing
Those gentle plants have been a reliable source of healing care for every culture that’s ever existed. Lily’s never seen the power of herbs growing up in her modern family. Today’s medicine is all she’s ever known.
Modern physiology, sprinkled with Chinese Medicine, explains how the Liver takes center stage in many PMS problems:
- Hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle are manufactured, regulated by, and excreted in the Liver
- At the same time, the Liver is very busy filtering out or metabolizing all the natural waste material circulating in the blood, including waste that comes in through food and fluids.
- The Chinese call your Liver ‘The General’ because of its commanding role in keeping blood (and hormones) moving in an orderly fashion.
- Anything that disrupts the smooth circulation of blood can interfere with menstrual cycles.
Your Liver is a fantastic, hard-working organ, but it can only take so much.
Pollutants in our air, water and food are a big source of strain on the Liver. So are heavy medication use, alcohol abuse, and fatty, fried foods, which disrupt the filtering mechanism, clogging up and slowing down the Liver’s waste removal functions.
Another Kind of Toxic
Lily has led a super clean life – no junk food, no drugs or alcohol, organic everything. She’s done a great job of protecting herself from outside stressors on the Liver. Strictly speaking, she’s a model client. So, what’s going on here?
At our first appointment, I asked Lily if she was in a nurturing and supportive relationship. Her answer helped us both understand the deep source of her pain.
For years, Lily has watched her husband’s gambling habit deplete their savings and nearly bankrupt them.
She’s ashamed of their situation, and keeps her worry, frustration and fear to herself. Whenever she tries to have a conversation about her concerns, she feels intimidated and manipulated by her spouse’s angry tone of voice. She feels trapped in this no-win situation.
Bottled Up Emotions
Just as pollutants, drugs and alcohol can impede the flow of blood through the Liver, unexpressed feelings take their own toll. The Liver holds the key to your creativity and free, healthy expression of emotions. What happens when you don’t speak your mind?
Anger. Frustration. Irritation. Depression.
Lily’s marriage to a gambling addict has given rise to a build-up of toxic emotions that have immobilized the free flow of energy through her body.
Without a free and easy flow of emotions, blood and Qi in the Liver become stagnant, leading to symptoms like:
- Painful and sharp or dull cramps
- Migraine headaches
- Depression and anxiety
- Clotted blood flow during periods
- Anger, frustration, and resentment
- Constipation and/or diarrhea
- Fibroids and cysts
- Skin eruptions like acne or rashes
- Breast tenderness and swelling or breast lumps
- The feeling of having a lump in the throat
- Erratic stools, bloating, and nausea
Notice how nearly all these symptoms describe something stuck – bloating, clots, constipation, swelling, cysts, stagnant emotions, intense pain?
Kiss Your Pain Good-bye
One answer to all this stuckness is to get moving. And one of the most enjoyable ways to keep the Liver energy moving is by having sex – but don’t take my word for it.
A neurologist at the University of Munster (Germany) published a study showing that sex relieves migraines in about two-thirds of sufferers. It’s a great example of how moving the pelvic organs decongests and breaks up congealed blood that causes pain.
Yoga, tai chi, and dance are other great ways to move stagnant blood, Qi and emotions, opening up your Liver’s energy flow for a more creative, happy life.
Find ways to communicate in difficult relationships by seeking counseling or reconnecting with activities you used to enjoy together. So much emotional pain can be avoided just by learning to speak your mind in a non-threatening way.
Roots and Shoots for Shooting Pain
Herbs like motherwort, dandelion root, cramp bark, lavender, white peony root, figwort, blue vervain (especially when there’s neck tension), and burdock root help smooth the flow of Qi through the Liver, activating movement of blood and fluid. Taking these and other herbs in the correct proportions can be tricky. An herbalist can assess which ones will offer you the safest short and long-term relief.
One of my favorite Chinese formulas for PMS is aptly named Free & Easy Wanderer [Xiao Yao San]. It unlocks the toxic emotions that become trapped when we feel unable to express ourselves. It releases pain and lifts mood, often relieving digestive stagnation along with trapped emotion.
Herbalism has so much to offer for all sorts of female concerns. You can get to the bottom of PMS pain with safe, natural, and effective relief – from Mother Nature herself.
Related Blog Posts in this Series:
Are You In Heavy Period Hell? 10 Herbs and 6 Foods for Relief
Is this you?
“My period is like clockwork – it comes every two weeks.”
“Seven days of hell, that’s what I call it.”
“It’s like a crime scene every time I go the bathroom.”
You don’t put up with horrible periods because you have some twisted relationship to pain and misery. You don’t know what else to do.
You’ve worked with your doctor, tried multiple combinations of hormones, maybe even put yourself through major or minor surgery looking for solutions.
The Queen of Period Problems
One of the most distressing and exhausting problems for women is heavy periods. What does heavy mean?
- Super absorbent tampons are a joke
- Backup pad protection is no guarantee you’ll contain the overflow, especially at night
- Embarrassing stains are so common that you never, EVER wear white pants
- You make frequent bathroom visits to check for leaks
Excessive bleeding can make it feel like the life is draining out of you, ounce-by-miserable-ounce. And often it comes with a crampy, dull, aching sensation, like your pelvic cavity is being turned inside out.
Now You See It, Now You Don’t
If you’re a client of mine, you’ve probably heard me talk about Qi [pronounced ‘chee’]. Qi is an elusive but vital energy source your body uses to support every breath, digestive function, and blood cell. It’s like wind – you can’t describe what it looks like, but you can see it’s effects.
You can see the effects of weak Qi in heavy bleeders. Strong body Qi keeps blood in the vessels. When blood is flooding out, and for that matter, when skin sags and the bladder or uterus prolapse, these are signs that your Qi isn’t doing its job of holding things in place.
Why does Qi Get Weak? It’s a bummer, but heavy blood loss, from childbirth or trauma, or even periods themselves, can deplete Qi. You end up in the proverbial vicious cycle. Blood loss takes Qi away, which weakens blood.
Number two, you pay a heavy price for long-term emotional and physical stress. Be honest with yourself – do you get regular exercise, uninterrupted sleep, healthy groceries? Have you dealt with the emotional issues behind the anti-depressant you’re taking? All this takes time, money, and commitment to self-care, and let’s face it – that’s a hard prescription to swallow. It’s easier to ask your doctor for a pill.
The Downside of Hormones
Hormone therapy can regulate monthly blood flow, but it doesn’t address what caused the problem. It’s symptomatic relief at best.
Tinkering with hormone levels, and procedures like ablation and hysterectomy, can and do halt heavy bleeding, usually for good. Months later, some women find that symptoms they ignored, like fatigue, insomnia, and weight gain, take the place of period problems. The symptom went away, but the nagging root cause is still there.
Here’s Where Herbs Do Their Magic
The herbal approach to hormone imbalances nudges your body’s built-in capacity to heal, without the risks associated with hormone replacement.
A classic Chinese formula for deficient Qi, Four Gentlemen, can relieve the most common side effect of excessive menstrual bleeding, fatigue. When you’re feeling bone tired, tonic herbs restore strength, improve digestion, and bring back your luster.
Blood loss starves the heart and mind of vital nutrition, robbing you of restful sleep and weakening your memory and focus. Blood tonics like the well-known Dang Qui, and lesser known rehmannia, white peony, and ligusticum, restore blood to a rich, nourishing fluid needed to keep your heart and mind sharp.
Relief from insomnia, poor memory, fatigue, and digestive weakness is a lot to ask from any hormone supplement or surgical procedure. Fortunately, this is where herbal and natural therapies do their best work.
Yes, Girl, Herbs Can Do That
While Chinese herbal formulas help rebuild Qi, herbs like yarrow, shepherd’s purse, raspberry leaf, eclipta, ladies mantle, tienchi ginseng, and even our kitchen friend, cinnamon, can lighten blood flow and tone the female organs. These herbs individually, or in combination, give you hour-by-hour relief from heavy bleeding.
Mineral rich herbs like nettle leaf and oatstraw gradually replace lost nutrients and freshen a sallow complexion. Yellow dock root releases stored iron into the blood, relieving mild anemia.
“Let Food Be Thy Medicine”
Naturally, food also helps to gently restore Qi and blood.
A nourishing diet of warm root vegetables including squash, beets, and sweet potato, fill your plate with color and your mouth with the mildly sweet flavor that strengthens Qi. Dark, leafy greens restore iron and other minerals to a weak, depleted blood supply. Beef and lamb are a protein power duo when you feel wiped out by your periods.
Self-Care is NOT a Luxury
Rebuilding Qi takes some time and patience. In the meantime, light exercise, rest, extreme self-care, and major de-stressing maneuvers have to be moved to the top of the list.
Start with something as simple as letting those calls rollover to voicemail and taking a few moments for a power nap. Do you have a supportive family member who might alternate meal prep or shopping duties with you?
Can you fit in a 20-minute walk after dinner? Exercise, rest, and support are not luxuries when you’re exhausted and weak; they’re a prescription for recovery.
Qi deficiency by itself isn’t a life-threatening matter, but ignored long enough, it morphs into a depleted immune system and lower resistance to disease.
Today is always a good time to start new habits that support a long, healthy life. If you’re tired of heavy, draining periods every month, choose something safe, natural, and effective for long-term relief.
Call today for an appointment that could change the way you think about health care. Period.
Related Blog Posts in this Series:
Herbal Relief for PMS-related Acne, Cramps and Migraines
Something special happens in the first few minutes after I close my office door to talk privately with a client. Something very personal and comfortable is exchanged in those quiet conversations.
For centuries, women have been the family healers, applying herbs to aches and pains with only the knowledge passed down from mothers and grandmothers.
When I talked to a financial advisor a while ago, I expected it to be so straightforward. How much do you make? How much do you save? How much do you spend?
Instead, she asked me to write down what money meant to my family when I was growing up. And how I felt about it in my relationships, and now as a small business owner.
Talk about a hornet’s nest! I had no idea I carried around such ridiculous stress and self-judgement.
I was going through life with the notion that I didn’t deserve things unless I earned them. Including love and friendship.
My thinking went like this: the only way to deserve a new coat, or a night out with my friends, was to be someone better, someone skinnier, nicer, more productive, a better mom. Since there’s no way to quantify those ‘standards’, I rarely thought I deserved what I got. Regardless of where this self-defeating thinking started, it was still dogging me in my 50’s.
Every day, I meet someone who uses this same kind of thinking to deny themselves care that could improve not just their wardrobe or social life, but their whole health.
We tend to apply the same destructive, unhealthy thinking patterns in all areas of our lives. Our attitude of ‘not deserving’ leaks over into our relationships, our diet, even our connection to a higher power. Imagine the havoc that can play on a person’s life. It creates a scarcity scenario that holds us hostage.
Herbs are great, and I’ve seen them do wonders for women’s health. But, physical and emotional health are absolutely connected to how we think about money.
Talking to a professional, whose job it was to understand the ins and outs of money, lightened the load and transformed my attitude.
Become a healthier version of yourself. Ask for financial advice and watch your whole life take a new direction.
“You’re kidding me. It’s only been 2 months.” When my sister told me a benign nodule on her thyroid shrunk from the size of an egg to a peanut in two months, I did a little happy dance. For her and for herbal medicine.
You’d be surprised what women lump into the ‘hormone’ category of health problems. Pretty much anything and everything.
Girls, it’s time I said it loud and clear, because there is still a lot of confusion around this message:
Herbs reduce or completely eliminate peri-menopausal symptoms like night sweats, hot flashes, sleeplessness, hair loss, loss of libido, crazy periods, the whole deal.
Are you tired of losing sleep, waking up soaked? Herbalism has your back. It’s always been here, restoring women’s natural rhythms. Herbal teas, tinctures, baths, everything you need to feel like yourself again.
Week after week, I visit with women who share stories of soaking the bedsheets from wicked night sweats. Suffering weeks or months of exhausting insomnia. Tracking periods that run the gamut from every 2 or 3 months to every 2 or 3 weeks, with flooding and sometimes debilitating pain, migraines and too many other miseries to name here.
They call me days or weeks after starting their custom herb formulas to say thank you for the relief.
My clients find me through a girlfriend or sister who didn’t have luck with conventional medicine and tried something ‘sort of out there’, as one woman referred to my work. I’m not offended.
Women come to herbal and natural care for lots of reasons – dissatisfaction with traditional medicine, bad experiences with drug side effects, a reputation for safety, and a desire to explore options to surgery.
For me, it was fear. During chemo for breast cancer, I was afraid to lose my hair, so I visited a naturopathic physician my friend was seeing.
I still lost my hair, but the pills and capsules cleared up my lifelong digestion problems and most of my fibromyalgia pain – conditions I’d resigned myself to dealing with forever.
Even if fear or drug side effects point them to herbal solutions, it’s the results that keep my clients coming back and getting more involved in their own healthcare decisions. When they get results, they stop worrying about what their doctor, their mother, or their partner might think.
There’s a lot of mis-information in media to sort through. Working with a professionally trained herbalist to guide you through the quagmire can come in handy.
Taking a problem like night sweats to a professional herbalist might not have been your first thought. It’s not the sort of health solution you see splashed across billboards on Main Street. Without drug company profit margins, those billboards and expensive advertising campaigns are pretty much out of the question for herbalists.
We rely on word-of-mouth, and let me tell you, women talk. Good results are the main reason my clients are telling their sisters, moms, daughters, and co-workers to go see ‘that herb lady’ when they’re a hot mess of hormones.
Take your time and think it over. I’m not going anywhere. I’ll be here when you’re ready to explore your options. You’ll get the truth if I think herbalism is a less effective choice for your very personal situation.
So, come sit in a comfortable chair and let’s talk this thing through. No judgement, no obligation. Just one woman to another. That’s the most natural thing I can offer.
A funny thing happened when I hit the ‘Send’ button one morning. I accidentally told my mom, and about 12 other women friends, that I was glad she didn’t embarrass me in front of them at a mother-daughter event.
And you know what she said in her email reply? “I’m glad I didn’t embarrass you. The thought had crossed my mind.” My mom is a total good sport, but I almost never give her credit for it. I wonder if it occurred to her that I might embarrass HER?
I have a not-so-loving relationship with my mother. It’s not her fault. People always tell me how charming and funny and lovely she is. How much they enjoy having her around. But all I see through my judging eyes is someone who struggled with bipolar disease and didn’t pay enough attention to me.
I never stop to remember that she gave birth to 5 children in 7 years, moving with her military husband to at least 5 different bases, with no ‘I’m too tired to cook’ processed food dinners on the days when everyone was sick or crying or snowed in.
It rarely occurs to me that she was an inspiration for my holistic-style career. She insisted on whole wheat bread and a ‘no sugary snacks’ household, when Wonder Bread and Super Sugar Crisp were standard fare in 70’s suburban homes.
I always forget that she was the one who told my sister and I (I guess she assumed it was a given for my brothers) that we could do anything we wanted with our lives, and proved it by doing exactly that. As soon as we kids were all in school, she put her Chemistry and Physics degrees to work in a series of jobs that landed her in a professional engineering career.
That’s the kind of life that would make a grown kid proud of their parent. Even if I stopped right there, it would be plenty of reason to kick myself for missing opportunities to tell her.
We’ve seen Mom flirt with death at least 3 times. None of us kids thought she would live to see 2020.
Instead of sending accidental emails about how embarrassing my mom is, I hope to be a good sport and take the high road with her a little more often. That’s how I’ll honor Mom on Mother’s Day.
That little email has me wondering, now, if my own kids feel this way about me. I guess what goes around, comes around.
Healthy cleansing can be the push you need to better health
Today’s guest blog that started as an enthusiastic email from my friend Carolyn, who was tired of being ‘stuck’ in her old patterns. She found a way to break through after a couple weeks of seasonal cleansing. With some light editing of exclamation points, I’ll let her tell the story…
I was recently guided to attend one of Mo’s classes – a Spring cleanse. What a good idea, I thought. Get a little healthier, feel a little better, you know…the usual. Little did I know that this 2-week cleanse would completely change my life – healing my unhealthy patterns at a very deep level – and giving me a renewed sense of self.
The class turned out to be a cooking class, meant to prepare us for this 2-week, nearly vegan life-style. Mo, by showing us the actual “to-dos”, empowered us to go find the healthiest foods we could, and re-engage with our kitchens. And her enthusiasm and commitment to each of us was contagious.
It was tough, but because I’m married to an amazing man who also loves to cook (and who realized quickly that life was simply going to be easier by getting on board with this one). We made our collective way through it. I won’t give the details of everything this diet pushed us through in this blog (but perhaps over a healthy lunch??) but on the other side of 2 weeks….here’s what we are experiencing: my diarrhea (my companion for the last 20 or so years) is completely gone. We’re both sleeping through the night (rare!). My husband’s snoring….gone. He’s lost 13 pounds, I’ve lost 7, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Seriously, the energy that we are experiencing and the way our new bodies feel has changed us. We can never go back to drinking wine nearly every single night. Miracle of miracles, the desire is gone! Who knew? And who wants a huge chunk of beef in their stomachs now? Not us. Of course, we’re enjoying these things again, but in moderation as opposed to gluttony. We’re the “all in” types….enough said. The way our bodies feel now has actually become our dietary compass, and it’s joyful!
Last but certainly not least, because I’m getting a full night’s sleep, I’m getting up earlier, finding time for breakfast again, and have gotten back into a morning meditation practice – something I haven’t had in my life for years.
We are changed…
Seasonal cleansing is a gentle and safe way to bring about subtle (or in Carolyn’s case, not-so-subtle) change when you’re feeling stuck or stagnant. It could turn out to be just the nudge you needed to break a bad habit and start some new ones. Take cleansing to a holistic new healthy level – schedule a personal visit with me (text 402.965.0097). Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.