Relieving Problems of the Reproductive System

Health problems related to the reproductive systems are the cause of much distress. Did I say systems? Yes, there are two: female and male! We will cover both.

Female reproductive system

The female reproductive system is more complex than the male reproductive system. Below we will consider menstrual and premenstrual problems, pregnancy related concerns and menopausal related symptoms.

Menstrual problems

Common menstrual problems include:

  • Dysmenorrhea (painful periods), characterized by cramps in the abdominal region cause by uterine cramps.
  • Menorrhagia (excessive menstrual flow) which is often associated with abdominal pain and may be so severe as to interfere with normal life.
  • Amenorrhea (scanty or absent periods) common in the pubescent and menopausal years but is also associated with weight loss, stress, nutritional deficiencies and hormonal imbalances.

What you can do to help

Vitamin B6 taken twice daily can help to prevent period pains. Also take one 50 mg vitamin B complex tablet daily.

Magnesium will help with period pains and should be taken at 200 mg daily.

Evening primrose oil and fish oils both at 500 mg per day can reduce period problems including heavy periods, pain and cramping.

Take iron at 5 mg daily (more if you tend to lose a lot of blood).

Take zinc at 15 mg to help in cases of heavy periods.

Take vitamin A (as beta-carotene) and vitamin B6 for heavy periods.

Bioflavonoids can help to balance the hormone levels and regulate the menstrual cycle. Take as part of a good vitamin C with bioflavonoids supplement.

Deficiencies of zinc and vitamin B6 can result in the absence of periods.

Herbal remedies for amenorrhea

The best herbs for this condition are:

  • blue cohosh,
  • chasteberry,
  • false unicorn root,
  • rue and
  • southernwood.

A useful mixture is as follows:

  • 2 parts chasteberry
  • 2 parts false unicorn root
  • 1 part blue cohosh
  • 1 part rue

Combine the ingredients. Take 1 teaspoon of the herb blend and place into a suitable sized saucepan and pour on one cup of boiling water. Allow this to stand for 10-15 minutes. Strain out the herbs. Drink a cup of this tea three times per day.

An excellent remedy for a delayed period is a tea of equal parts of pennyroyal and tansy which should be drunk three times per day until the period begins. Menstruation may be delayed because of pregnancy, check wether this is the case before using these herbs.

Herbal remedies for menorrhagia

The most applicable herbal mixture in this condition is as follows:

  • 1 part American cranesbill
  • 1 part beth root
  • 1 part periwinkle

Combine the ingredients. Take 1 teaspoon of the herb blend and place into a suitable sized saucepan and pour on one cup of boiling water. Allow this to stand for 10-15 minutes. Strain out the herbs. Drink a cup of this tea three times per day in the week leading up to the period and during the flow itself. If it is an ongoing problem the tea should be drunk once or twice a day throughout the cycle.

Herbal remedies for dysmenorrhea

The following herbal mixture would be useful in this situation:

  • 2 parts black haw bark
  • 2 parts cramp bark
  • 1 part pasque flower

Combine the ingredients. Take 1 teaspoon of the herb blend and place into a suitable sized saucepan and pour on one cup of boiling water. Allow this to stand for 10-15 minutes. Strain out the herbs. Drink a cup of this tea three times per day when needed.

If you experience menstrual cramps you can get relief by drinking a tea that is rich in borneol. Borneol is a muscle relaxing spasmolytic compound. Cardamon is one of the best sources and this is followed by sage, rosemary and mountain mint.

  • Use any combination of the following herbs:
    • cardamon
    • coriander
    • mountain mint
    • rosemary
    • sage savory
    • thyme
  • lemongrass
  • 1 cup of water

Combine the herbs of your choice and add the lemon grass for a lemony flavour.

Place 1 teaspoonful of your combined herbs into a cup of freshly boiled water. Allow this to stand for 10 minutes and then strain out the herbs.

Allow this to cool slightly and drink. You can use this up to three times per day.

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Premenstrual syndrome

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) relates to a range of physical and emotional symptoms and signs that occur between ovulation and menstruation. The physical symptoms include:

  • fluid retention,
  • tender breasts,
  • poor skin, and
  • headaches.

The emotional symptoms and signs can include being weepy, depressed, irritable, having mood swings and craving for sweets. PMS is thought to be primarily caused by hormonal imbalances and is often also associated with stress.

What you can do to help

Evening primrose oil has been effective in alleviating premenstrual breast tenderness, edema and skin problems. Take six to eight 500 mg capsules per day for at least four months. It is best to combine this with a multivitamin and mineral supplement.

Vitamin B complex will help with stress and nervous tension and should be taken at 50 to 100 mg per day.

Take vitamin C 500-1000 mg or more daily.

Magnesium taken twice per day at 500 mg will help with insomnia, palpitations and period pains.

Zinc should be taken at 15 mg daily throughout your cycle.

Chromium will help if the symptoms are related to blood sugar levels.

Limit the intake of sugar, salt, red meat and alcohol.

Eat fish, chicken, whole grains and legumes as the main source of protein.

If you smoke try to quit. (see.. for tips)

Reduce the intake of fats, particularly animal fats, fried foods, and hydrogenated margarines.

Increase your intake of fiber in the form of fresh fruit and vegetables (particularly leafy green vegetables).

If you experience sugar or food craving, eat small amounts regularly, with high quality protein snacks, such as nuts, seeds, peas and beans, as well as animal protein, such as, eggs and fish.

Take regular outdoor exercise such as walking and swimming.

Work on managing your stress levels.

Herbal remedies for premenstrual tension

This revolves around using herbs to restore the hormone balance. These herbs can include any of the following:

  • chaste tree,
  • false unicorn root,
  • vitex berries,
  • wild yam and
  • black haw.

In addition to the hormonal balancers the following herbs con be used to treat specific symptoms.

For tension, anxiety or depression:

  • skullcap,
  • wild oats,
  • vervain,
  • chamomile,
  • woodbetony.

For extreme tension:

  • valerian,
  • passionflower.

To lift the spirits:

  • rosemary,
  • cinnamon
  • oats,
  • St John's wort,
  • ginger,
  • lemon balm.

For fluid retention, bloating or breast tenderness:

  • corn silk,
  • burdock,
  • dandelion leaf.

For breast swelling:

  • cleavers,
  • poke root,
  • calendula.

All PMS treatments should include remedies to stimulate the liver so that it will function most efficiently. Herbs for this include:

  • burdock,
  • dandelion root,
  • yellowdock,
  • rosemary,
  • calendula.

Herbal mixture

The following mixture may be of assistance.

  • 1 teaspoon vitex berries
  • 1 teaspoon dandelion root
  • 1 teaspoon burdock root
  • 1 teaspoon lavender flowers
  • 1 teaspoon prickly ash bark
  • 4 cup water

Place the water into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Place the rest of the ingredients into the boiling water. Remove from the heat and allow to stand for 15-20 minutes. Strain and drink 1-3 cups of the mixture a day, before meals. Refrigerate any left overs for later use.

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Pregnancy related problems

Many women experience a variety of problems during pregnancy. These discomforts are largely related to hormonal changes in the body or because the body is under additional strain during pregnancy. Common complaints and findings include:

  • anemia,
  • constipation,
  • cramps,
  • varicose veins,
  • vaginal thrush,
  • stretch marks, and
  • nausea and vomiting.

What you can do to help

Ensure that you get plenty of iron to prevent and treat anemia (see your health professional for dosages). Take vitamin C (500 mg per day) with the iron to aid absorption.

Folic acid (at lest 400 mcg per day) is necessary during pregnancy for the healthy development of the fetus.

Increase your fiber intake to help prevent constipation.

Eat plenty of foods rich in calcium and magnesium to help prevent cramps.

Vitamin A is linked to growth and it is now recommended that all pregnant and breast feeding women take supplements of vitamin A (as beta-carotene) (no more than 10,000 IUs per day) as well as vitamins D and C.

Zinc deficiencies during pregnancy are related to low birth weight babies and it is recommended that you take 15 mg per day.

Vitamins C and E and bioflavonoids, zinc and brewer's yeast will help to heal damaged vessels causing varicose veins.

Take acidophilus for thrush or eat plenty of fresh natural yoghurt.

Vitamins E, C and the minerals zinc and silica will help to prevent stretch marks.

Nausea and vomiting during pregnancy will usually respond to iron (5 mg daily), zinc (10 mg daily), magnesium (100 mg daily) and folic acid (200 mcg daily).

Herbal remedies for morning sickness

Whilst it is best to avoid any medication during pregnancy there are some specific and safe remedies that can be used as needed. Some of these include black horehound, Irish moss, meadowsweet chamomile, hops and peppermint.

A useful mixture is as follows:

  • 2 parts meadowsweet
  • 1 part black horehound
  • 1 part chamomile

Combine the ingredients. Take 1 teaspoon of the herb blend and place into a suitable sized saucepan and pour on one cup of boiling water. Allow this to stand for 10-15 minutes. Strain out the herbs. Drink a cup of this tea three times per day when needed.

Herbal remedies to support milk production

You might find it difficult to either commence milk production or to maintain a high enough level of production when breast feeding. For this the following herbs are useful:

  • aniseed,
  • blessed thistle,
  • caraway seeds
  • fennel seeds,
  • fenugreek seeds,
  • goat's rue (this is the most powerful)
  • vervain.

A pleasant tea is made of the following:

  • 2 parts caraway seeds
  • 1 part fennel seeds
  • 1 part aniseed

or

  • 2 parts fenugreek seeds
  • 1 part aniseed

To make either of these teas combine the crushed seeds. Take 2 teaspoon of the blended seeds and place into a suitable sized saucepan and pour on one cup of water, bring it to the simmer and then remove it from the heat. Allow this to stand for 10 minutes with a cover over it. Strain out the herbs. Drink a cup of this tea three times per day when needed.

If for some reason the milk flow needs to be stopped the most effective herb is red sage or if this is not available then golden sage. Make this into a tea and drink it three times per day until the desired results are obtained.

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Menopause problems

The menopause marks the end of a woman's reproductive years and may be accompanied by many uncomfortable emotional and physical symptoms. Hormonal changes (a decrease in estrogen and progesterone) primarily cause the symptoms and signs which include:

  • hot flushes,
  • headaches,
  • skin problems,
  • difficulty sleeping,
  • night sweats,
  • heavy periods,
  • constipation,
  • lack of energy and fatigue,
  • tender and lumpy breasts,
  • irritability and mood swings, and
  • pain during intercourse (mostly due to vaginal dryness).

What you can do to help

Evening primrose oil, linseed oil and vitamin B complex (50 mg daily) and zinc (15 mg daily) will assist with skin problems.

Magnesium is helpful for insomnia and other sleep problems. Take 200 mg daily.

Take magnesium and vitamin B complex for anxiety and irritability.

Vitamin E, linseed oil, acidophilus and vitamin B complex will help with lumpy and tender breasts.

Vitamin C 500 to 1,000 mg per day can be useful for constipation.

Coenzyme Q10 will be useful for the lack of energy and fatigue (check that you are not anemic if you are lacking in energy).

Vitamins C and E will assist with headaches and migraines associated with menopause.

Vitamin C will help regulate heavy periods, when combined with bioflavonoids. Vitamin A (about 1,000 IUs) zinc, iron and vitamin B complex will also help with heavy menstrual bleeding.

Selenium, as part of a good antioxidant, may help to reduce the hot flushes and night sweats, as will vitamin C which is more effective than HRT (hormone replacement therapy) in dealing with these symptoms.

Zinc, vitamin C (500 g per day) vitamin E (200 IUs per day) and magnesium will help with painful menstrual periods.

Herbal remedies for menopause

A useful herbal mixture which will help the body to adapt to the changes, reducing the severity of hot flushes and their frequency is as follows:

  • 2 parts chasteberry
  • 2 parts wild yam
  • 1 part black cohosh
  • 1 part golden seal
  • 1 part life root
  • 1 part oats
  • 1 part St John's wort.

Use meadowsweet in the place of St John's wort if heart palpitations, high blood pressure or tension are present.

In cases of associated anxiety or depression, skullcap or valerian may also be added to the mixture described.

Combine the ingredients. Take 1 teaspoon of the herb blend and place into a suitable sized saucepan and pour on one cup of boiling water. Allow this to stand for 10-15 minutes. Strain out the herbs. Drink a cup of this tea three times per day.

The following tea has several phytoestrogen rich ingredients that can also help to control hot flushes in menopausal women.

  • 1 part fenugreek seeds
  • 2 parts powdered licorice root
  • 2 parts powdered fava bean
  • 1 part powdered soybeans
  • 1 part kudzu root
  • 1 part red clover flowers
  • Anise
  • fennel
  • 1 quart water
  • lemon
  • stevia (to sweeten)

In a small bowl add the fenugreek, licorice, fava beans, soybeans, kudzu and red clover. Add anise and fennel to taste. Add the water and bring to the boil then turn down the heat and simmer for 10-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain out the herbs and add lemon and stevia as desired. Allow the tea to cool and then drink up to three cups per day.

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Male reproductive system

We will keep this section simple and concentrate on the most significant area of concern for many men.

Prostate enlargement and prostatitis

The prostate is the small sex gland that surrounds the urethra, the tube that carries urine expelled from the bladder. The prostate gland makes some of the fluid in semen. Benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH or BPE) or enlarged prostate is a non-cancerous growth that causes the flow of urine to be obstructed.

Prostatitis is the inflammation of the prostate gland and commonly occurs after a urinary tract infection has spread to the prostate gland. The symptoms include:

  • a frequent urge to urinate,
  • difficulty in urinating, and
  • pain around the base of the penis.

What you can do to help

Correct some of the commonest nutritional causes of prostate conditions, which include:

  • deficiencies of essential fatty acids,
  • a toxic overload, and
  • a zinc deficiency.

A decrease in zinc is implicated in prostatic abnormalities. It is recommended that you take zinc at 15 mg per day and selenium as a part of a good antioxidant supplement. This will assist in the reduction of cadmium levels which have been found to be high in many cases of prostate abnormalities.

Take 500 mg of fish oil and 500mg of evening primrose oil per day for prostate enlargement.

Herbal remedies for prostate gland

The herb saw palmetto has been shown to inhibit the process that encourages the enlargement of the prostate.

For prostatitis the following herbal mixture should be considered. The herb saw palmetto should be added to the mix if there is any prostate enlargement.

  • 1 part bearberry
  • 1 part couchgrass
  • 1 part echinacea
  • 1 part horsetail
  • 1 part hydrangea

Combine the ingredients. Take 1 teaspoon of the herb blend and place into a suitable sized saucepan and pour on one cup of boiling water. Allow this to stand for 10-15 minutes. Strain out the herbs. Drink a cup of this tea three times per day.

Be sure to have prostate problems investigated by your doctor and have regular examinations after age 50 to help detect any early signs of developing prostate cancer, which is far too common.

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References

Duke, J. A. 2000, Anti-aging Prescriptions. Rodale.

Hoffmann, D. 2000, The New Holistic Herbal. Element Pub.

McIntyre, A. 1995, The Complete Women's Herbal. Henry Holt Reference Books

Mills, S. Y. 1989, The A-Z of Modern Herbalism: A Comprehensive Guide to Practical Herbal Therapy. Thorson.

Shaw, N. 2002, Herbalism. Element

Tyler, Y. E. 1993, The Honest Herbal: A Sensible Guide to the Use of Herbs and Related Remedies. Haworth.

Woodward, P. 2003, Grow Your Own Herbal Remedies. Hyland House.

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