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Botanical Medicine in Holistic Hormone Health

adaptogens adrenal health botanical medicine herbal medicine holistic health menopause thyroid health tonics Oct 29, 2021

While I have many wonderful tools for naturally helping people feel well, one of my absolute favorites is using botanical medicines.  I have a deep lifelong love for being in wild places, and being among wild plants. Using botanical medicines in my practice allows me to bring the wilderness to my patients. I custom formulate individualized herbal medicines for most of my patients to meet their specific needs. 

My Experience Using Botanical Medicines 

 Plant medicines have been a part of my life since I was a child. My father is an herbalist and I grew up in Boulder, Colorado near the Rocky Mountain School of Botanical Medicine.  When I was in high school, we would accompany the school on their trips around the Southwest to visit plants in their native habitat and listen to the local herbalists talk about how to use them as medicine.

After graduating college and before naturopathic medical school I attended the Southwest School of Botanical Medicine in Bisbee Arizona in 1999. In this part of my education we learned the full spectrum of using plants as medicine: from identifying and harvesting to preparing them as medicine to using them to improve human health.  In Naturopathic medical school, we dug in to the research and mechanisms of action of the plants from a biochemical perspective. This gave me a well-rounded understanding of both the traditional and scientific sides of western botanical medicine.

Why Use Botanical Medicines to Improve Hormone Health?

As a doctor, I have found the use of botanical medicines to be absolutely critical for improving hormone health. Many of our plant medicines are excellent tonics to the different organ systems. A tonic is something that gradually improves the health of a part of the body over time.  These plants have low potential for toxicity and are nutritive, meaning they build and improve function. 

For many of us our hormones become out of balance gradually, or in response to a major stress.  We can use herbs to support the brain centers that control the production of hormones as well as the glands that make our hormones.  These herbs improve the overall ability to produce hormones efficiently and appropriately.

Particularly during menopause, there are many symptoms that may arise in response to an imbalance in your reproductive hormones.  I love to use botanicals because they work so well without having to use synthetic hormones that have a higher risk for serious side effects.

Herbs for Specific Hormones:

  • Adrenal Glands: our adrenal glands produce many hormones, particularly our stress hormones.  Herbs that support the adrenal glands are called Adaptogens. The beauty of adaptogens is that we can tailor specific plants to the situation.  For instance, if the adrenals are exhausted and not producing hormones very efficiently, we will be exhausted, so we can use a stimulating adaptogen like pan ginseng.  If the adrenals are overstimulated from too much stress we might feel anxious and have insomnia--we can then use a relaxing adaptogen like Ashwagandha
  • Thyroid: Similarly to the adrenals, we can tailor our plant medicines to the specific issue being experienced by the thyroid.  If the thyroid is too high (hyperthyroid) we can use herbs like lycopus to calm the thyroid, if it is too low (hypothyroid) we can use supportive herbs like bladderwrack, and if there is an autoimmune thyroid issue, we can use anti-inflammatory herbs like nigella sativa.
  • Menopause: During menopause, all of the hormone systems may need support, but depending on your individual hormone balance, we can use herbs like  Angelica sinensis and Vitex to help support hormone function without using extra synthetic hormone.  We have a lot of good options for controlling symptoms like hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, and insomnia. 

Feel free to contact me with questions!

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