The 6 Best Herbs for Women’s Health

There are many natural herbs that are beneficial in managing the various conditions and complaints that impact the health of a woman. In this article, we will review some of …

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Medical Review by: Daniel Powers, MS
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There are many natural herbs that are beneficial in managing the various conditions and complaints that impact the health of a woman.

In this article, we will review some of the best herbs for women’s health.

herbs for female health

Women’s Health Overview:

Herbal medicine has been used for centuries to support women’s health at different phases of life. 

Female health is a broad category which focuses on a multitude of conditions and challenges that are unique to the female body. These include:

  • Menstruation
  • Fertility
  • Pregnancy
  • Postpartum
  • Menopause

Here we will discuss an array of specific women’s health conditions including gynecological and reproductive health. We will also review common issues such as stress, anxiety, and poor sleep, as these conditions are more prevalent among women and affect women differently compared to men due to their hormones.

Best Herbs for Women’s Health:

Below are some of the top research-backed herbs for female health.

vitex for menopausal symptoms

1. Vitex

Vitex (Chasteberry or Vitex agnus-castus) is a medicinal plant that was first used more than 2,000 years ago in Greece, Italy, and Egypt. It is commonly used to aid in a range of women’s health conditions.

Several studies have shown that vitex can be helpful for managing Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). It was found that vitex may help with reducing symptoms such as back pain, headaches, migraines, anxiety, crying spells, breast tenderness, fatigue, and insomnia.

Topical use of vitex essential oil has been shown to reduce hot flashes and night sweats, while also improving emotional well-being in perimenopause and postmenopause women.

Another study on postmenopausal women showed that vitex can reduce the number and severity of hot flashes.

Research has shown that vitex plays a role in balancing hormones and improving fertility in women.

Results of several studies indicate that vitex can be an effective method for relieving breast tenderness.

The German Commission E approves the use of vitex for PMS complaints, cyclical breast discomfort, and menstrual cycle irregularities.

Well-known herbalist and women’s health expert, Dr. Aviva Romm shares that vitex is a fitting herb for treating hormonal dysregulation, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), amenorrhea (the absence of menstruation), and cyclic breast pain.

Summary:

According to clinical research, vitex is thought to help manage symptoms of menstruation and menopause such as hot flashes, night sweats, breast pain, and more.
beneficial effects of ashwagandha for women

2. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha (or Withania somnifera) is an adaptogenic herb that has been used for centuries, as well as in Ayurvedic medicine. Ashwagandha can be a helpful herb for women in regulating sleep, stress, and sexual health.

A study has shown that ashwagandha can enhance sexual function and health in women by improving lubrication, pain, desire, and satisfaction. Further research shows that this herb can significantly improve sexual arousal, orgasm, and satisfaction.

Results from several studies have found that ashwagandha can help to notably reduce stress and anxiety levels, reduce sleeplessness and fatigue, and reduce cortisol levels (a stress hormone).

Research has shown that ashwagandha can support sleep quality by improving total sleep time and how long it takes to fall asleep, as well as a reduction in night-time wake ups.

Dr. Aviva Romm states that ashwagandha can be used to treat irritability, anxiety, insomnia, low libido, PMS, postpartum depression, and iron deficiency anemia. It can also be utilized as a gentle tonic for the nervous system, and to improve energy from exhaustion.

Summary:

Studies indicate that ashwagandha may benefit women by working to increase sleep quality, improve stress and energy, and support sexual function.
health benefits of rhodiola for women

3. Rhodiola

Rhodiola (or Rhodiola rosea) is another adaptogenic herb, native to Europe and Asia. It is primarily used for boosting brain function and improving energy levels. 

A study reported that rhodiola can decrease fatigue, increase mental performance and concentration, and decrease cortisol (a stress hormone) in those with burnout and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Rhodiola showed to improve fatigue, stress, and anxiety in a four-week treatment study.

Research has indicated that rhodiola can be effective in helping to manage menopausal symptoms, mainly due to its neuroprotective properties. Rhodiola was shown to improve memory, mental clarity, cognitive speed, energy, and mood, as well as libido and sexual function in menopausal and postmenopausal women.

Rhodiola can be used for treating various conditions such as benign breast disorder, cervical dysplasia, chronic pelvic pain, sexual dysfunction, depression, endometriosis, PCOS, PMS, and uterine fibroids, states Dr. Aviva Romm.

Summary:

Rhodiola is an herb considered to be beneficial for brain function and energy levels in women with menopause and postmenopause.
stinging nettle to benefit women's wellness

4. Stinging Nettle

Stinging nettle (or Urtica dioica) is a wild growing plant and has been used medicinally for over 2,000 years. This plant is known to be greatly nutritious due to its high content of vitamins and minerals.

Stinging nettle contains a wide variety of nutrients including:

Due to the plant’s nutritious profile, particularly its iron-rich content, it can be used for treating anemia, as well as hair loss. 

Stinging nettle has also been used during the postpartum period by nursing mothers as a tonic for anemia, fatigue, and as a galactagogue (supports breast milk production).

Furthermore, it has been reported that stinging nettle can help relieve PMS symptoms such as cramping, bloating, and excessive bleeding, and ease the menopausal transition.

A topical cream of nettle has shown to reduce the symptoms of vaginal atrophy such as vaginal dryness and burning, itching, and painful intercourse in postmenopausal women.

Dr. Aviva Romm notes that nettle can benefit acne, iron deficiency anemia, menstrual irregularities, osteoporosis prevention (high mineral content), pelvic congestion, and sugar or caffeine cravings.

Summary:

Stinging nettle may work to support overall well-being through high nutrient content and its ability to benefit menstrual and menopausal symptoms.
lemon balm health benefits for women

5. Lemon Balm

Lemon balm (or Melissa officinalis) is a medicinal herb, native to the Mediterranean region. It is considered to have uplifting and calming beneficial effects, and often used to treat many ailments related to female health.

Research has shown that lemon balm can improve sleep quality, and reduce stress and anxiety.

Results of a study reported that lemon balm can help reduce the incidence of postpartum blues in women post delivery.

The use of lemon balm can significantly reduce PMS symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and poor sleep in female adolescents.

A study compared lemon balm and a commonly prescribed drug (mefenamic acid) on women with moderate to severe dysmenorrhea (painful menstrual cycle cramps). Findings revealed that lemon balm is more effective in decreasing pain.

Dr. Aviva Romm explains that lemon balm can help treat anxiety, hot flashes, and hyperthyroidism, as well as herpes simplex virus, due to the plant’s anti-viral properties.

Summary:

Studies suggest that lemon balm may support women’s health by improving sleep, mood, and various symptoms such as hot flashes and menstrual cramps.
shatavari for healthy menstruation

6. Shatavari

Shatavari (or Asparagus racemosus) is an adaptogenic herb often used in Ayurvedic medicine and for supporting the health of women through hormone balance.

Research notes that shatavari may improve female reproductive health, specifically with hormonal balance, PCOS, and egg quality, and increase the body’s antioxidant levels.

Shatavari is considered a galactagogue and has been traditionally used as one. A study has proved that shatavari can increase prolactin levels (the breast milk production hormone) by more than three-fold.

A study on the plant’s saponins, the active compounds found in shatavari, found that it can support healthy aging by reducing free-radical skin damage in women. This effect can result in healthier skin with less wrinkles.

Dr. Aviva Romm states that shatavari can be used for low libido, depression, fatigue, fertility issues, inadequate breast milk supply, and irregular menstrual cycles.

Summary:

A combination of research and traditional herbalism indicates that shatavari may work to benefit hormonal imbalances and support skin health.

Conclusion:

Many women experience an array of conditions or symptoms throughout different phases of life. Along with diet and lifestyle, there are many well suitable medicinal herbs to help support women’s health.     

As always, it is recommended to consult with a qualified health care practitioner before adding any new herbal or dietary supplement into your regimen, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking any medications.

Romm, A. (2018). Botanical medicine for women’s health (2nd ed.). Elsevier, Inc: St. Louis, MO. 
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About Tara Bassi, MS, CNS, LDN

Tara is a Licensed Nutritionist and Clinical Herbalist, specializing in women’s health. She has a Master’s of Science in Clinical Nutrition and Herbal Medicine from Maryland University of Integrative Health and is a Board Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS®).