Western MA Women Share Folk Remedies for PMS

PMS (Menstrual Discomforts)

"I’ve been told by people who’ve tried it that Evening Primrose Oil can clear up all symptoms of premenstrual moodiness, anxiety and breast tenderness." - Cathy Whitely (community herbalist)

“The dark moon is upon us once again, the dark part of any cycle is the transition between death of old and birth of new. I sit here in circle with my sisters as I bleed. It is day one of my cycle. Tonight we share stories of our first blood. We laugh, we gasp, we cry, we empathize. I feel blessed, I know I am blessed. The word “blessing” originates from “bloedswean” an Old English word meaning to bleed. When was the blessing taken away from us, I wonder. . . sometimes I see myself as a pirate determined to plunder and smuggle back all which has been taken from us and reversed.” – Tony(a) Lemos, community herbalist (Ashfield, MA)

“For many many years I have been growing a beautiful plant called Chaste Tree. Vitex agnus-castus is the latin name. It is a beautiful plant that doesn’t do real well up here unless you put it in a very sunny spot. It has beautiful purple flowers and in the third and fourth year it starts to have berries. You can harvest the berries and make a tea or a tincture out of them. I recommend making tincture as the tea tastes god awful. It has been used for centuries as an aid for women from puberty through menopause. It’s great for PMS, mood swings, terrible cramping, or really poor periods. In treating symptoms of menopause it can be used to ease night sweats, hot flashes, or emotional mood swings. You need to take a dropperful twice a day. It is safe to use long term, you will know within two months whether it is the herb for you. It feels pretty amazing.” – Carol Joyce, White Buffallo Herbs (Warrick, MA)

“Lady Moon Tea: A female tonic to be used especially before and during the moon time. Steep at least 20 minutes, make 3 cups for the day and keep it warm in a thermos.
1 part Nettles
1 part Rasberry Leaf
3/4 part Chocolate Mint (or Peppermint)
1/2 part Oatstraw
1/2 part Horsetail
1/4 part Hibiscus
1/8 part Cinnamon
1/8 part Ginger Root
1/8 part Licorice Root
Can add small amount of the following to add up to 1/2 part mixture of: Crampbark (for cramps), Valerian (for nerves), Yellow Dock (for iron), Vitex and Wild Yam (for hormonal balancing), and Rose Petals (for mood lifting).”
Lauren Mills, Illustrator of children’s books (Faery Wings, The Rag Coat) and founder of Woodkin Hollow, a small herbal business. (Williamsburg, MA) (Editors note: though Yellow Dock itself contains no iron it aids the absorption of iron.)

“For menstrual cramps, I heat a home made relaxation bag (made with flax seeds, dried lavender flowers & lavender essential oil) and place on my lower belly until the bag cools and then I do a warm & loving belly massage!” – Rachel Tartaglia NP

Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)

Horsetail (Equisetum arvense). Rich in silica, Horsetail is part of Lauren Mill's Lady Moon Tea recipe.

“Bad menstrual cramps can be relieved by orgasm.” – Becky Loveland

“I’ve been told by people who’ve tried it that Evening Primrose Oil can clear up all symptoms of premenstrual moodiness, anxiety and breast tenderness.” – Cathy Whitely (community herbalist)

“As women, we have all experienced some sort of PMS. Do you ever wonder if indigenous matrilineal cultures experience PMS? I don’t think they experience it, at least not in the way women of westernized cultures do. In Native American cultures, like the Seneca nation of New York, women went into a sacred space called the Moon lodge when they menstruated. They went there for three full days, to pray, vision, dream, bleed, sing, pass down the women’s mysteries, tell stories, and just be together in women’s space. It was in the moon lodge that women received visions for the well being of the entire tribe. When the women emerged from the moon lodge with guidance for the tribe, the men listened and acted according to their visions because they respected the women’s power. How different our “periods” would be if we were honored in this way. I used to have horrible cramps, moodiness, and anger before and during my bleeding time. When I began to shift my diet into a whole foods diet and started to drink nourishing herbal infusions of Comfrey, Nettles, Red Clover, and Oatstraw everyday I found that I rarely got cramps. When I do get cramps I take 9 drops up to a full dropperful of Motherwort (Leonorus cardiaca) tincture and my cramps go away within 15 minutes. If not, I keep taking the Motherwort until they do. I also take one day a month for me, my moon day. I do anything I want to on this day; stay in bed and read, swim in a river, meditate in the woods, give massages and tarot readings to friends, dance, and sing. By taking a moon day I find that I am not angry because I am getting what I need, and I am not moody because I don’t have to do what I don’t want to. I still cry and get emotional, because I am a woman and I feel the pain of the Earth Mother, and also the love of the Earth mother, as we all do. Blessed bleeding sister moons.” – Shauna Dillard, Wise Woman Herbalist

“I know my blood is coming a week before it arrives, for as long as I can remember i have had severe premenstrual breast pain. it hurts to walk, a simple hug can cause an unexpected shriek, and climbing steps is unbearable unless I make my hands into a supportive bra and cup them. though I have not found the right remedy to totally alleviate the pain, I find a simple raw cabbage poultice helpful. It encourages circulation, relieves stagnation, congestion of lymph and reduces inflammation. there are two ways you can make a cabbage poultice. The easiest way is to peel off a big green cabbage leaf and use your bra to hold the cabbage leaf in place. Otherwise you can finely chop an amount of green cabbage sufficient for the area to be treated. Place the chopped cabbage in a blender with just enough water to make a thick paste. Spread the cabbage paste over a clean tea towel. Place cabbage side onto the skin, over the area to be treated. Cover with a clean, dry cloth then wrap the whole area in a thick towel or wool flannel cloth. Leave the cabbage poultice on for 15 to 30 minutes. This can be repeated two or three times daily, using fresh cabbage each time. Cabbage can also draw out infections which makes it useful in the treatment of arthritis, chest infections, laryngitis, tonsillitis, mastitis, tumours, and gangrene.” – Tony(a) Lemos, community herbalist (Ashfield, MA)

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Tony(a) LemosTony(a) Lemos

Tony(a) is the director of Blazing Star Herbal School in Ashfield, MA, she also maintains an herbal medicine practice in Western Mass. She is a graduate of Natural Therapy at Raworth College in England and has apprenticed with many influential herbalist, including Susun Weed. She has taught at conferences and festivals all over New England, including Green Nations Gathering, Falcon Ridge Folk Fest and the Women’s Herbal Conference.  Tony(a) is presently working on her next community supported project, a collection of the spirit and wisdom of the valley’s women offerring alternative remedies and support for those dealing with Post Partum Depression and related condition.  A call for submissions will follow. A Cure for What Ails appears on the second Tuesday of every month.

(Photo credits: (ccl) Ken-ichi Ueda, (c) Tony(a) Lemos)

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