An expert has revealed the different types of period women experience, and how to ease the symptoms using herbal remedies.
Bromley-based professional herbalist Natasha Richardson founded Forage Botanicals, a company that produces herbal remedies for all kind of period woes – from the well-known cramps to more obscure period migraines.
She has identified the different types of period problems that women experience – from serious conditions to easily fixable ones – and provided herbal remedies for each one.
Natasha Richardson, a professional herbologist from Bromley, offered advice and remedies on how to treat different types of periods, from heavy and long to light and short or irregular (pictured: a woman experiencing period cramps, stock picture)
1. No bleeding
The absence of a period could indicate pregnancy or menopause for women over 50, but in some cases, it can be down to a varied range of factors, Natasha explained.
Herbal remedies for lack of period
Nutritious tonics: Nettle, alfalfa, raspberry leaf
Relaxants: chamomille, skullcaps (mint family), lemonbalm
Circulation support: hawthorn, ginger or cinnamon
Liver support: dandelion root, yellow dock
She revealed that while some women do not get their periods because of serious health conditions such as thyroid imbalance or ovarian failure, it can also just be a one off, and that there were steps women can take to avoid skipping periods again.
When this situation occurrs, she advises women not to panic and to practice relaxation techniques or to book a massage to keep your stress levels down.
She also advises to avoid carbs and sugar, and to eat more fish.
According to Natasha, practicing moderate exercise rather than extreme sport can hnelp, as a lack of period can occur by working out too much.
‘I see a lack of period as often being a sign that the body feels there are more pressing things to be caring for than conception right now,’ Natasha said.
2. Heavy flow
Heavy periods, known as menorrhagia, can be a hassle to navigate for women who have to worry about it all day.
Herbal remedies for a heavy period
Relaxants: lime blossom or rose
Liver support: marigold, dandelion root
Anti-haemorrhage: raspberry leaf, shepherd’s purse or lady’s mantle
Blood tonics: alfalfa and nettle
Womb tonics: lady’s mantle and raspberry leaf
It can sometimes be linked to several conditions, such as blood disorders or endometriosis, but Natasha said to consult with a GP before worrying.
She added that 50 to 60 percent of women have never found a cause to their heavy period.
If the heavy periods are just a normal occurrence, it can be linked to stress as well as a lack of self-care – finding no time to unwind.
Natasha advised women with heavy periods to use iron supplements to make up for the large amount of blood they are losing every day.
She added that vitamin A could help endometrial growth and vitamin K could help with blood clotting.
Normal treatments for heavy period could include – but don’t apply to all people and are not limited to – insulin resistance medication, the contraceptive pill, thyroxine and dopamine agonists.
3. Long cycles
A normal period lasts about three to five days, but in some cases, they can drag on for a week or more.
Herbal remedies for long cycles
Relaxants: passion flower, lime blossom, lemon balm
Liver support: marigold, dandelion root
Support for the endocrine system: aswagandha, liquorice
Anti-inflammatory: marshmallow leaf, chamomile
Natasha explained that the ‘posh’ term for a long period is oligomenorrhea, and applies to women whose cycles have been longer than 32 days for three months in a row.
While this phenomenon is completely normal for some, it is still worth tracking, and Natasha recommends charting your cycle’s length and the duration of your period.
She also advised to adopt a GI diet – a diet that consists of eating foods that are less likely to cause large increases in blood sugar, like green vegetables, most fruits, raw carrots, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils and bran breakfast cereals.
Sometimes, people who suffer from thyroid imbalance are prone to experience longer cycles, coeliac’s disease or endometriosis.
Natasha added that consulting with a GP on this matter is wise, but that herbal treatment can work if the issue does not stem from a serious condition.
The pill can be used as a way to treat long cycles, and some other medications can be used when the cycle’s length stems from a serious condition such as endometriosis.
4. Short cycles
On the other end of the cycle, a short cycle make it seem like we’re constantly on our period, and can catch us by surprise, Natasha said.
Herbal remedies for short cycles
Liver support: Dandelion root, burdock root or very strong brew of chamomille tea
Tonics: nettle leaf, hawthorn and raspberry
Adrenal support: ashwagandha and liquorice
Charting and getting to know your menstrual cycle is a good way to see a period coming, she added. A short period can occur when the first half of the menstrual cycle, known as the follicular phase, or the second part, known as the luteal phase is shortened.
N atasha says that learning which one it is will help you understand what hormone you’re lacking.
A doctor can help you establish how your period works and perform several exams such as a blood test or ultrasounds.
Natasha wrote: ‘In the meantime, concentrate on eating a wholefood diet of unprocessed foods and concentrate on adding relaxing habits into your life.’
A short cycle will generally not be treated unless it goes on for a long time, though some professionals will prescribe the contraceptive pill to ‘balance’ the hormones.
5. Irregular cycles
Never knowing when your period is due can be a strain on your adult life. During a woman’s early menstrual cycles, there’s a chance they’ll be irregular for some time.
Herbal remedies for irregular cycles
Relaxants: chamomile, lime blossom or passion flower
Anti-inflammatory: marshmallow leaf or chamomile
Support for the endocrine system: ashwagandha
Tonics: nettle, alfalfa or hawthorn
Natural causes such as menopause or breastfeeding can change a period. If you’re less than 40 years old and childless, you can rule these out.
Stress and being underweight or overexercising can also strain your period and are far more common than other conditions.
Irregular periods can be investigated by ultrasound, blood testing or, in cases of endometriosis, laparoscopy.
Normal treatments include taking the contraceptive pill, anti-inflammatories and steroids for people will coeliac’s disease, and surgery (in some cases of endometriosis.
6. Menstrual migraines
This type of migraine occurs during the menstrual cycle and is usually more severe than your everyday headache, often accompanied by tunnel vision and light sensitivity, nausea or vomiting.
They are often made worse by the peak of oestrogen that occurs before our periods, Natasha said.
Thankfully, they can be improved with changes in your diet and better management of your stress levels.
Natasha said no herbal remedy could get rid of period pain completely, but recommended crampbark and chamomile to relax the body and feverfew to relieve muscle spasms. Pictured: a woman experiencing period pain, stock picture
Natasha advises to eat essential fatty acids, avoid dairy, caffeine and alcohol and to adopt a low GI diet.
She also said to try to keep your muscles relaxed and to balance your blood sugar.
Helpful herbs are lavender, peppermint and feverfew.
7. Menstrual pain
This painful condition affects 90 percent of women on their period. It occurs when the uterus contracts and produces chemicals to push endometrial tissues out of the uterus.
Herbal remedies for menstrual pain
Relaxants: chamomile and crampbark
Muscle spasm relief: Willow bark, meadowsweet
Anti-inflammatory: marshmallow leaf or chamomile
Cramps can be painful enough to push some women to take time off, but on the bright side, Natasha said that women who experience very painful preiod cramps will find childbirth ‘a doddle.’
Natasha said she did not find a herbal remedy that made the pain go away completely, but that several plants could help.
These include crampbark and chamomile to relax the body, feverfew to relieve muscle spasms and willow bark or meadowsweet to reduce the effects of chemical released by the uterus and other inflammatory processes.
Your Period Handbook: Natural solutions for stress-free menstruation, by Natasha Richardson, is published by Aeon Books.
Bleeding between cycles
You should not ignore these light episodes of bleeding between your cycles.
It can be a normal side effect of a small issues, or in some cases an indication of cancer and should be taken seriously.
It can also be caused by malnutrition or a low Body Mass Index (BMI).
It can be checked by ultrasound or a physical exam.
Treatment includes the contraceptive pill, IUD, progestogen (a natural or synthetic steroid hormone, such as progesterone, that maintains pregnancy and prevents further ovulation during pregnancy)
When cancer or other issues have been ruled out, herbal treatments can be of some help.
- Relaxants: chamomile, lime blossom or passion flower
- Blood tonics: nettle and alfalfa
- Support the endocrine system: ashwagandha
- Womb tonics: raspberry leaf