9 Hormone-Balancing Herbs

Consider growing these herbs in your garden to support balanced hormones every day.


| March/April 2015



Burdock

Boost liver health with burdock, but be sure you're harvesting burdock root and not the poisonous belladonna.


Photo by Fotolia

Our bodies rely on a delicate ballet of hormonal interplay. Every day, hundreds of chemical exchanges occur, involving a number of hormones within our bodies. These exchanges are required in order for us to digest food; process thoughts; eliminate waste; manage our heartbeats and blood flow; and more. Yet, despite their involvement in almost every function of our bodies, we often consider hormones only in regard to the reproductive organs, and focus on estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.

Many of our most common degenerative diseases have been linked to hormonal imbalance. For example, diabetes is a disruption in the hormone insulin. Other disorders such as Parkinson’s disease and addiction (and possibly ADHD and fibromyalgia) are related in part to a disruption of the hormone dopamine. And of course, there are better-known hormonal disorders including infertility, endometriosis and impotence.

While hormonal problems often are complex, the solutions can be simple: By eating well; avoiding chemicals and other additives in our foods; managing stress; and getting adequate sleep and exercise, we can help our bodies maintain hormonal balance. We can also turn to herbs we grow in own backyards to help support our hormone health. The plants in this article are easy to grow—some may already be growing wild in your yard. As always, consult your physician prior to altering your health-care practices. Some herbal supplements and remedies can interact poorly or interfere with other remedies or medications, and many should be avoided while nursing or pregnant.

Digestion

A good place to start for hormonal balance is digestion. In my experience as an herbalist, whole food that’s organically raised and traditionally prepared is the best digestive medicine. The Slow Food movement has it right—meals are best eaten slowly while sitting down with friends. Eating well means taking our time; not eating on the run; not drinking large amounts of liquid with our food (large amounts of liquid dilute the digestive juices needed to break down food properly); and not eating for emotional reasons. To support hormone balance, we can help maintain steady blood sugar levels by eating at regular intervals and eating complete meals. Eating for balance means more than simply following the food pyramid. One of the best ways we can help our hormonal systems is by feeding the bitter receptors of the tongue. Bitter tastes stimulate and tone our gallbladder and liver, producing the digestive juices needed to help completely break down our food. Stimulate bitter receptors of the tongue with the following herbal preparations, or simply by eating or sipping on bitter foods and herbs along with meals.

Dandelion Root: This “weed” can be planted purposefully or just allowed to remain where it volunteers in your garden. (Make sure you don’t harvest dandelion that has been treated with pesticides.) Gather the root in spring or fall and eat it fresh or dry it. It tastes great in winter soups and broths. You can also eat the tender young greens in salads or sautéed in garlic and lemon juice.

Hops: The useful, beautiful green flowers of hops form on fast-growing vines. They’re easy to grow from seed or plant starts. Incorporate them into teas or tinctures and take around mealtimes. You may even choose to add them to homemade brews.





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