When it comes to herbs for women, that is to specifically address womens problems, there are three important medicinal herbs, each of which have a long track record of use and effectiveness.
Firstly there is Black Cohosh, cimicifugae racemosae commonly referred to as the menopause herb.
Interest in Black Cohosh and dietary supplements containing Black Cohosh has come from women seeking alternative treatments for symptoms associated with the menopausal transition, including hot flashes and night sweats, anxiety and depression, and vaginal dryness. This interest has been heightened by recent findings from the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), which pointed to a shift in the risk/benefit balance of hormone therapy due to the risks associated with cardiovascular events, stroke, breast cancer, blood clots, and other conditions.
Black Cohosh is used for a variety of other complaints, but has become best known in the Western World for its beneficial effect on hormone functioning due to its phyto-estrogenic properties. Herbalists also use Black Cohosh to prevent miscarriage in cases of women at high risk. Many women miscarry in the very early stages of pregnancy and may not even realize that they have been pregnant.
Historically, Black Cohosh has been also been used for a range of conditions. Native Americans and the early U.S. colonialists used it for a great variety if disorders including amenorrhea, bronchitis, chorea, dropsy, fever, hysteria, itch, lumbago, nervous disorders, snakebite, yellow fever, and disorders of the uterus.
Today, preparations of Black Cohosh consist of the fresh or dried rhizome with attached roots of cimicifuga racemosa.
Studies recently carried out in Germany have confirmed that cimicifuga is strongly estrogenic and that it is effective in relieving menopausal symptoms.
For the technically minded, its main constituents are triterpene glycosides, cinnamic acid derivatives, chromone, isoflavones, tannins and salicylic acid.
Black Cohosh is regarded as a relatively safe herb, there being no documented contraindications to it.
Side effects are also few, perhaps occasional gastric discomfort, and rare hepatic (liver) dysfunction.
It has been suggested by some authorities that medicinal quantities of Black Cohosh may possibly magnify the effects of synthetic hormones in susceptible women, such as women taking HRT or the contraceptive pill.
It has also been hypothesized in some circles that, because of its estrogen-like effects, it could promote metastasis of breast cancer tissue. (In an experiment done on mice, however, Black Cohosh increased metastasis of cancer to the lungs, but did not cause an increased incidence of breast cancer.)
It is not advisable to take Black Cohosh during pregnancy or lactation.
Otherwise there are no known interactions with other drugs
Wild Yam is another very popular herb for women and has been also used to relieve menstrual cramps or pain, menopausal symptoms, rheumatic conditions, and gallbladder complaints, bilious colic and nausea. It also has been proposed as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy but (as one might imagine) there is much debate about that.
Traditionally, Native Americans used Wild Yam for birth control, also for rheumatism, menstrual pain and complications during childbirth.
Studies have shown that wild yam contains steroidal saponins, mainly dioscin and diosgenin, which can be used to manufacture progesterone, and other steroid drugs used for contraception. Be aware, however, that the body does not convert dioscin to progesterone
Some authorities warn that the use of Wild Yam may be contraindicated for women taking progesterone and/or estrogen. Otherwise there are no consistent reports of adverse side effects.
In recent times Wild Yam has been strongly promoted as a female breast enhancer and as a sexual stimulant and is consequently an increasingly common ingredient in female herbal supplements.
Dong Quai (or Quoi), Angelica polymorpha.
Dong Quai has been used for many centuries in Asia to balance female hormones and as a treatment for the various discomforts associated with menopause.
It has also been traditionally used In Asia to treat arthritis.
Today, Dong Quai is recognized as being rich in iron, magnesium and niacin. The root of Dong Quai is still used to relieve menstrual problems or menopausal symptoms, to improve mental acuity and alleviate symptoms of daily stress.
It is used also to relieve muscle spasms, and is also used to treat PMS, vaginal dryness, and hot flashes.
Dong Quai should not be used during pregnancy or by people suffering from colds and flu. It should not be taken with Warfarin as it could lead to bruising and uncontrolled bleeding.
Today, many different herbs are used to address not only health disorders that are peculiar to women but to improve womens quality of life, their sexuality and general well being. Herbal remedies, however, should not be taken by people already taking pharmaceutical drugs without reference to a competent herbal medical practitioner.