This is an issue that is near & dear to me personally, so I've done a lot of research, and tried lots of things. First, it helps to understand why the thyroid gets sluggish. Part of it IS just menopause, and for many of us it will correct itself if we can wait it out. An afternoon nap might be a good idea! Another factor may be the STRESS of the lives we lead -- our adrenal glands run on high for extended periods of time, get exhausted and call on the thyroid for backup, which eventually exhausts the thyroid. Another factor is environmental. We are bombarded with unnatural amounts of radioactive iodine from nuclear power plant emissions, nuclear accidents (TMI & Chernobyl) and nuclear test and bomb fallout. The trouble with taking Synthroid, or any other synthetic thyroid replacement drug, is that once you start, it is extremely difficult to stop. Long term use of these drugs has been tied to heart problems and loss of bone density. The dose your doctor is suggesting for you is very small, so I think you have a good chance of success with nourishing the thyroid.
So first, drink very little or no coffee. It puts stress on the adrenals. You can feel it, right? No white sugar or white flour. Use sea vegetables instead of salt. They are mineral rich, and contain good amounts of healthy iodine which protects your body from the radioactive stuff. Powdered kelp and Dulse flakes are my favorites. Dr. Ryan Drum, the herbalist who has done the most research into this issue, recommends Bladderwrack as the sea vegetable that is most effective in nourishing the thyroid & helping it to function properly. It has a pretty unpalatable taste, so I put the powdered herb into capsules. Dr. Drum recommends a combination of green, red & brown (kelp, Dulse and bladderwrack) sea vegetables as being the most effective way to nourish & protect your thyroid gland.
Don't eat raw cruciferous vegetables. This includes cabbage, brussel sprouts, broccoli, etc. Cook them. Don’t eat soy products unless they are fermented (miso, tamari). Use lemon balm and motherwort sparingly. These all have a tendency to depress thyroid function.
Drink deeply nourishing teas every day. Nettles, oatstraw and red clover is my favorite blend. Eat lots of cooked, dark green leafy vegetables -- chard, kale, collards, mustard greens. I like them sautéed until soft in olive oil with garlic & onions. When they are finished cooking I add some miso or tamari sauce -- Yum!
I have all of the herbs & sea vegetables that I've mentioned available on this website. Also, you might want to get a copy of Susun Weeds NEW Menopausal Years book, which has a chapter on thyroid issues in it. That's also available on my website.
Yes, there ARE herbs that can help us to increase our energy and stamina!
It is important to first determine the reasons for your tiredness or lack of energy. The herbs you might use to support your body will depend on the cause. A consulting herbalist or another holistic health practitioner can help you narrow down the options according to your needs.
Are you getting enough good quality sleep? Chamomile or Valerian might help with that. I make a tincture that I call Eez 2 Sleep, which has Valerian, Passionflower and Skullcap, and gentle & effective sleep aid, which doesn't leave you with any mental dullness upon awakening.
Deficiencies in vitamins or minerals can cause exhaustion, too. Nettles are high in iron and other minerals, as well as B & C vitamins. Floradix with Iron is an excellent liquid herbal vitamin & mineral supplement, which you can get at many health food stores.
We live in such a stressful cultural environment, and many of us simply don’t take time to nourish our souls and bodies. Our nervous systems can be exhausted, causing us to feel a lack of energy, or even depression. Herbs to nourish our nervous systems include oatstraw, lemon balm, red clover, calendula, raspberry leaf, nettle, gingko, gotu cola and peppermint.
Diet is another CAUSE of a lack of energy! Think of everything you eat and drink as the fuel your body must run on. Refined flours are incomplete foods and do not nourish us completely. I recommend eliminating them from your diet as much as possible. Eat whole grain and complex carbohydrates instead. Use sweeteners that are whole foods as well. Honey, molasses, and even fruits are more healthful alternatives and give our bodies some fuel to work with. If you use sugar occasionally, use a less-refined sugar such as turbinado, or date sugar. Many people have out-of-balance diets that consist of too many carbohydrates. A high carbohydrate diet leaves many people craving more “carbos” whenever they feel their energy level dropping, and it does seem to perk them up for a while, but it is actually a vicious cycle which we can break, and give ourselves a more steady, even energy. Spirulina and bee pollen are a couple of “super foods” that I use myself and often recommend.
Many people find that drinking ginseng or ginger tea instead of coffee or black tea helps their energy levels, too.
Ah, poor baby! Eczema patches, which are not contagious, can be quite dry and itchy, with the skin sometimes cracking and weeping. There are many possible causes of eczema, so it’s important to treat the localized patches of irritated skin, as well as to look for the deeper cause of the eczema and address that.
First, let’s soothe the irritated skin. A salve containing Calendula and/or Saint John’s Wort will be immediately moistening and healing. Some herbalists recommend Evening Primrose Oil, too. I find that reapplying a healing massage oil or salve regularly is important, because these patches dry out quickly. A poultice can be made with Comfrey leaves and Chickweed, or Coltsfoot leaves. You can make a pot of tea from dried Red clover & Calendula flowers and pour the tea into the child’s bathwater. Another wonderful bath to moisten the dry skin & relieve itching is an Oatmeal bath. Cook a large pot of Oatmeal, using two or three times the usual amount of water, so that the Oatmeal is very runny. Strain the slippery concoction and add the liquid to the bathwater. You might want to switch to Oatmeal soap. You might want to reduce the frequency of bathing, too, since daily baths or showers can dry out the skin. Well-known herbalist, Rosemary Gladstar recommends a combination of Valerian, Echinacea and Burdock tinctures to promote relaxation and reduce itching.
There are several reasons your child might have eczema, including common food allergies or intolerances. Wheat, cow milk, eggs, tomatoes, peppers, and chocolate are some of the most common culprits, so you might try eliminating each of those foods for a few weeks and seeing if the skin irritation begins to clear up. Eczema is sometimes a sign of a nutritional deficiency. Be certain your child is getting a healthful diet of whole foods, lots of vegetables and high quality fats, including olive oil and butter. Highly nutritious herbs such as Nettles, Red Clover, Burdock and Kelp may also be very helpful. If the adrenal glands need some support, or your child also has trouble with constipation, you might try a little Licorice root glycerite. Avoid fried foods and sugary foods.
Eczema can also be caused by contact with various chemicals found in many cleaning products, laundry detergents and bubble bath products. Look for natural products to use instead. Some people are sensitive to synthetic fibers used in clothing. These same synthetic fibers can be found in bedding, carpets, and even your child’s stuffed animals! Even wool can cause irritated skin for some. You might want to use cotton products whenever possible. Eczema can be caused by dust mite allergy, or be an allergic reaction to animal dander. As you can see, the cause can be difficult to uncover! With a little persistence and help from a holistic healthcare provider, you should be able to solve the mystery. Good luck!
This is another case where our grandmothers really knew what they were talking about! Only a decade or two ago the foods available to us during the Winter were much different. Strawberries in Winter?? Unthinkable! For generation upon generation humans ate local foods available according to the seasons. In Summer we ate the widest variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. In Autumn, we ate the late-ripening foods - apples, pumpkins, squash, potatoes. In Winter, we ate foods that we had dried or preserved in some way - grains, nuts and lots of root vegetables. And in Spring, we were looking for the first tiny green shoots of the wild edible plants. This is the pattern that we are genetically programmed for.
As it turns out, those first green shoots are often highly nutritious, and stimulating to our digestive systems and our livers, which cleanse our blood and purify our systems of toxins. Foods to get us moving again after the long Winter!
Dandelion leaves are sweet and tender now, delicious lightly steamed or in a salad. Dandelion leaves are a digestive bitter, which means that they will stimulate your digestive system and support it in its work. Dandelion is also a blood and lymph purifier. High in protein, Vitamins C, B & A, calcium, iron, potassium, and other minerals.
Chickweed is another of the greens that can be included in salads, or used as a garnish or added to your morning smoothie. It’s really too tender to cook for more than a couple of minutes, so maybe you could toss some into your soup or stir-fry just before serving. High in Vitamin C, it was long important in avoiding scurvy, because it grows all year except during the coldest part of the Winter, and is therefore one of the first plants to begin growing in Spring. Also high in trace minerals, this little plant is deeply nourishing to the glandular and lymph systems, especially the thyroid. It is soothing to the lungs, digestive and urinary system. Chickweed helps the body to absorb nutrients from other foods. Chickweed is often suggested in weight-loss diets, paired with Cleavers. It’s the saponins in chickweed that dissolve fat!
Nettle greens are possibly the most nutritious plant food on our planet! You’ll have to wear gloves when collecting the tender young tops, and avoid touching them at all until they are cooked to avoid being stung, but they are delicious steamed, or in an omelet or soup. Nettles are rich in Vitamins C and A, Calcium, Magnesium, all sorts of trace minerals, and chlorophyll. Nourishing and healing to the adrenals, kidneys, lungs and intestines.
Violet leaves and flowers support and heal the nervous system, lungs, immune system, and the reproductive system, with a special affinity for the breasts. And, fresh, they are a beautiful addition to your salads! Violets are nourishing to the digestive and urinary systems, the liver and gall bladder. They are used around the world in cancer treatment because of their high salicylic acid content.
Many of our grandparents ate the tiny leaves of the Poke plant, though you should really know what you are doing before adding Poke to your diet, as the roots and berries can be quite poisonous. Read about it in the classic Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Ewell Gibbons, or Wild Foods for Every Table, compiled by my friend Tina Sams.
I was amazed to learn that more than 50 million adults in the US have the Herpes Simplex virus! For such a common ailment, it certainly is a well-kept secret. The only difference between Herpes Simplex I and Herpes Simplex II is location. One occurs orally (cold sores) and the other occurs in the genital area. I know from clients that oral herpes can be transmitted to the genitals and that genital herpes can be transmitted to the mouth. I’m sure you already know that stress can trigger an “outbreak”.
I think that there are two issues you can deal with herbally. The first is to lessen how often the sores occur, and the second is to heal the sore as quickly as possible when it does happen.
Lessening the frequency of “outbreaks” can be managed by reducing stress and strengthening the immune system. Astragalus Root is an herb from Traditional Chinese Medicine which is a wonderful tonic for the immune system. Burdock Root is another herb I often recommend with Astragalus, to support liver function. A diet of organic vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, fish, meats & dairy products is important to maintaining health and a strong immune system. Highly processed foods are stressful to our systems, requiring our bodies to work hard for minimal nutrition, so try to avoid them as much as possible.
When an “outbreak” does occur, there are a number of herbs that may be helpful. Echinacea will give your system an extra boost to fight the infection. Many people report that Tea Tree Oil, applied to the site as soon as the pre-sore tingling begins may shorten the duration of the outbreak. Lemon Balm is another herb that has shown good results, but I’ve been told that the alcohol in the tincture burns. So, I make a lemon balm glycerite which can be applied directly to the site (and it doesn’t burn!), as well as taken internally. Chickweed, and Violet Root are two other commonly used herbs for Herpes outbreaks. You can make a tea to drink, use the tea as a wash, or purchase a salve that contains a variety of these ingredients. I include several of them in the salve I make for Herpes outbreaks, Simplex Salve 1-2-3, and I have received glowing reports from clients who have used it. One woman even called me and said, “Wow! I never had a sore go in reverse before!” You can purchase the salve, as well as most of the herbs & tinctures, on the Products page of this website.
Indeed, there are many herbal alternatives. Herbs will support your body as it makes the natural hormonal adjustments that every woman's body makes. Because the hormonal fluctuations during peri-menopause manifest in many different ways, it is a good idea to consult with a practitioner to find the best herb or combination of herbs for you. That being said, here's a little information about a few herbs that I often recommend.
SAGE helps to alleviate night sweats, eliminates headaches, improves digestion, relieves cramps and flooding. It also supports the adrenals as they take on more responsibility for production of estrogens as the ovaries slow down. Many women have exhausted adrenals from the hectic lifestyles we lead, so they can use all of the support they can get! Have a cup of sage tea and a little relaxation every afternoon!
VITEX , also called Chaste Berry, helps to support the whole body in normalizing fluctuating hormones, and supports the whole endocrine system. Vitex can be safely used for months, even years. It can eliminate flooding and spotting. It can re-establish a period that has stopped prematurely. It helps with headaches, the emotional roller coaster, and vaginal dryness. It has even been used successfully to treat endometriosis and uterine fibroids. Vitex works best on an empty stomach, so I usually recommend taking the tincture before breakfast.
BLACK COHOSH is probably the best known of the menopause herbs. This plant can relieve hot flashes, headache, joint pain, water retention, and that "black cloud" feeling. It has been used to prevent and correct prolapses. Relieves menstrual pain and irregularity. Helps to eliminate incontinence. Strengthens the heart and lowers blood pressure.
MOTHERWORT has been my personal herbal ally as I made the menopausal journey myself. It will stop heart palpitations in a matter of seconds. This herb relieves insomnia and menopausal nightmares. It has a calming effect. Helps to tonify the uterus, heart, liver & thyroid. Used for shortness of breath that sometimes comes with hot flashes. Motherwort restores thickness & elasticity to vaginal walls. Not to be used by women who have menstrual flooding.
LADY'S MANTLE is used to control flooding. It is used in the treatment of fibroids. As a strong tea, it will get rid of that itchy feeling that sometimes follows a hot flash. Helps to relieve menopausal headaches. Tonifies the uterus. Gives the feeling of being wrapped on the cloak of the Goddess.
Another issue that is important to consider is whether you have a good source of positive estrogens in your diet. We all need to have sufficient positive estrogens in our diets so that plastic & pesticide estrogen-mimics (hormone disrupters) don't take up residence in the receptor sites in our cells. This is important for women at all ages (actually men, too!), but especially for menopausal women, since our bodies are not producing as much estrogen on their own now.
Here is a list of good phyto-estrogen rich foods to include in your diet regularly. Yams, beets, carrots, burdock, parsnips, garlic, onion, chives, leeks, dandelion, pomegranate seeds, fermented soy, red clover, seaweeds, fruits & berries, whole grains (rye, buckwheat, millet, oats, wheat, corn), sesame seeds, flax seeds, rice, all beans and lentils, leafy greens, olive oil.
First, try to avoid being coughed on by someone who is already sick! Wash your hands often, but don't use those anti-bacterial soaps, which just make the problem worse in the long run. Get fresh air every day, both by going outside and by getting some fresh air into your home and workspace. If possible, limit the number of people you come into contact with who are sick -- encourage your friends not to visit when they have a cold. Do some sort of exercise that strengthens your lungs -- walking, jogging, swimming, yoga. Get enough rest and eat well. Cook with onions and garlic often during the winter months. Eat lots of dark green, leafy vegetables like kale and collards.
Astragalus is a wonderful herb, and acts as a tonic to strengthen and build the immune system. In my house, we take a tincture daily from Autumn until Spring. I also add a few pieces of Astragalus root to each pot of soup I make. I also love the herb Ashwaganda, which can be made into a chai-like beverage. Tibetan herbalists say that if you drink Ashwaganda tea every day for a year, you'll have the strength of a horse for the rest of your life!
If you do feel yourself coming down with a cold or know that you've been exposed, Echinacea at the first sign may help to ward it off. And, if you do end up with a cold, Elderberry syrup can go a long way to relieving the symptoms, and it has anti-viral properties that fight the virus as well. I've recently been experimenting with Usnea, a lichen, which also has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. It seems to have a good effect in fighting colds.
I find that Goldenseal is quite amazing in dealing with sinus infections, which can be difficult to treat since there is very little blood flow to the sinus cavity. However, Goldenseal is an rare plant, difficult to cultivate, and should only be used when absolutely necessary.
Risks of Talcum Powder
Q. What is talc?
A. Talc is a mineral, produced by the mining of talc rocks and then processed by crushing, drying and milling. Processing eliminates a number of trace minerals from the talc, but does not separate minute fibers which are very similar to asbestos.
Q. What kinds of consumer products contain talc?
A. Talc is found in a wide variety of consumer products ranging from home and garden pesticides to antacids. However, the products most widely used and that pose the most serious health risks are body powders Talc is the main ingredient in baby powder, medicated powders, perfumed powders and designer perfumed body powders. Because talc is resistant to moisture, it is also used by the pharmaceutical industry to manufacture medications and is a listed ingredient of some antacids. Talc is the principal ingredient home and garden pesticides and flea and tick powders. Talc is used in smaller quantities in deodorants, chalk, crayons, textiles, soap, insulating materials, paints, asphalt filler, paper, and in food processing.
Q. Why is talc harmful?
A. Talc is closely related to the potent carcinogen asbestos. Talc particles have been shown to cause tumors in the ovaries and lungs of cancer victims. For the last 30 years, scientists have closely scrutinized talc particles and found dangerous similarities to asbestos. Responding to this evidence in 1973, the FDA drafted a resolution that would limit the amount of asbestos-like fibers in cosmetic grade talc. However, no ruling has ever been made and today, cosmetic grade talc remains non-regulated by the federal government. This inaction ignores a 1993 National Toxicology Program report which found that cosmetic grade talc, without any asbestos-like fibers, caused tumors in animal subjects.1 Clearly with or without asbestos-like fibers, cosmetic grade talcum powder is a carcinogen.
Q. What kind of exposure is dangerous?
A. Talc is toxic. Talc particles cause tumors in human ovaries and lungs. Numerous studies have shown a strong link between frequent use of talc in the female genital area and ovarian cancer. Talc particles are able to move through the reproductive system and become imbedded in the lining of the ovary. Researchers have found talc particles in ovarian tumors and have found that women with ovarian cancer have used talcum powder in their genital area more frequently than healthy women.2
Talc poses a health risk when exposed to the lungs. Talc miners have shown higher rates of lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses from exposure to industrial grade talc, which contains dangerous silica and asbestos. The common household hazard posed by talc is inhalation of baby powder by infants. Since the early 1980s, records show that several thousand infants each year have died or become seriously ill following accidental inhalation of baby powder.3
Q. What about infants?
A. Talc is used on babies because it absorbs unpleasant moisture. Clearly, dusting with talcum powder endangers an infant's lungs at the prospect of inhalation. Exposing children to this carcinogen is unnecessary and dangerous.
ACTIONS YOU CAN TAKE:
1. Do not buy or use products containing talc. It is especially important that women not apply talc to underwear or sanitary pads.
2. Contact your pediatrician and/or local hospital and find out if they have a policy regarding talc use and infants.
3. Write to the FDA and express your concern that a proven carcinogen has remained unregulated while millions of people are unknowingly exposed.
1.National Toxicology Program. "Toxicology and carcinogenesis studies of talc (GAS No 14807-96-6) in F344/N rats and B6C3F, mice (Inhalation studies)." Technical Report Series No. 421. September 1993.
2. Harlow BL, Cramer DW, Bell DA, Welch WR. "Perineal exposure to talc and ovarian cancer risk." Obstetrics & Gynecology, 80: 19-26, 1992.
3. Hollinger MA. "Pulmonary toxicity of inhaled and intravenous talc." Toxicology Letters, 52:121-127, 1990.
Cancer Prevention Coalition
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School of Public Health, M/C 922
2121 West Taylor Street
Chicago, IL 60612
Tel: (312) 996-2297
I know that there are some First Nations elders who do not approve of the sale of sacred plants, but there are also many who approve, so long as every step of the process is handled in a respectful and sacred manner. I procure several herbs for smudge, tea and smoking from Native peoples, and feel quite sure that the harvesting and bundling is done with pure heart and appropriate prayers. I continue to handle the herbs in a sacred manner. For me, "selling" is a form of energy exchange. It's the easiest one for most people to use, but it certainly isn't the only possibility. And I think that it is important for the exchange of energy to move in both directions, just like breath. Inhale, exhale. Give, receive.