Your Menstrual Cycle & Creating Balance with Herbal Medicine

In Root cause Chinese medicine, we approach balancing and regulating health and hormones by regulating and optimizing the entire menstrual cycle. We understand the menstrual cycle as four phases. This means on average, your 30 day cycle is split into 4 weeks, or four phases. By optimizing each phase, we optimize fertility, hormonal and overall health. 

What does a healthy cycle really look like? Ideally our cycle is between 27-32 days and it is without symptoms or discomfort. Day one begins with bleeding and a healthy period is ideally 4-6 days of red flow, with the onset and end of bleeding occurring without prolonged spotting. Day 12-16 is our ovulatory phase and we are in a creative, energized, easy to arousal, fertile energy. If we are tracking our cycles we may notice a rise in temperature from the daily 97’s during the follicular phase, into the 98’s during and after ovulation. If we are tracking ovulation this rise in temperature should coincide with a positive ovulation predictor strip - indicating LH surge. We do not produce progesterone without ovulating, so in order to maintain a healthy 14 day luteal phase (post ovulatory phase) we must ovulate. The week prior to bleeding is infamously referred to as the PMS window, however in a healthy cycle it is a time we can feel great. Yes, there are absolutely energy shifts and vastly different states of being during each phase, however in a state of health there is no time in the menstrual cycle in which it is normal to feel pain, low mood, or any other physical, emotional or energetic discomfort. 

PHASE 1: Cycle days 1-6 

Menstruation/ Blood Phase 

  • Endometrium, or the lining of the uterus, is released via bleeding. The pituitary begins making FSH and LH to stimulate growth of new follicles or eggs. In Chinese medicine this blood phase is when we focus on invigorating blood and qi to support the movement and flow blood.

  • Energetically: This is a time in the month when our energy naturally goes inward. The spiritual veil is thin, meaning we are connected to our inner beings and our truth, especially in our dreams, intuition and meditation. This is a time to slow endurance activity, turn inward, receive self care, rest and listen to the needs of your body.

  • Herbal support: blood moving and warming Chinese herbs will be prescribed, magnesium to soften and relax, flower essence to anchor the spirit, mineral rich western herbs to support blood loss - nettles, raspberry leaf, cramp bark. Warming nourishing foods.

PHASE 2: Cycle days 7-14 (depending on when you ovulate) 

Follicular Phase/ Yin Phase 

  • At this point there is a dominant follicle and it’s producing more and more estrogen. The uterine lining is thickening and the cervical fluid is increasing. In Chinese medicine this is the Yin phase. Yin is substance, blood, fluid, all required for healthy ovulation and creating a healthy uterine environment preparing for implantation.

  • Energetically: This is a time we feel more extroverted, sexy, playful, it’s a time to run more, be creative, start new projects, endurance activities are supported.

  • Herbal support: Yin nourishing herbs to be prescribed by your acupuncturist. Seeds, adaptogens such as maca, astragalus, shisandra, and holy basil. Leafy greens, healthy proteins, and remineralizing foods.

PHASE 3: Ovulation

Yang Phase 

  • Now you’ll have a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH), signaling the release of the dominant follicle. Your basal body temperature will rise in response. Your cervical mucus will be copious and should feel and look like egg whites. In Chinese medicine yin is at its peak and yang is beginning to rise. This is why in healthy cycles we see an immediate rise in basal body temperature (BBT), rather than a “slow to rise” as we often see in fertility patients BBT charts.

  • Energetically: we are at our peak creatively, sexually, verbally we are on point. It’s time to engage and connect. Endurance activities are still supported here.

  • Herbal support: Yang nourishing Chinese herbs will be used by your practitioner and you can support yourself by eating lighter, feel good, warming foods. Daily additions to your home elixirs or regiment can include shatavri, maca, fish oil, wheat germ oil.

PHASE 4: cycle days 14-21 (or post-ovulation)

Luteal Phase/ Qi Phase 

  • The corpus luteum, which was the shell of the dominant follicle that released an egg, begins to secrete progesterone which continues to support our temperature increase and supports the uterine lining to prepare for possible implantation. The egg, which was released during ovulation is currently traveling down the fallopian tube into the uterus where implantation would occur.

  • Energetics & Chinese medicine: Yang is at its peak here which is seen as the heighted temperature. The later part of the luteal phase is ruled by Qi, specifically liver qi. When the liver is stagnant (which we will discuss in our sessions) you will likely be feeling moody, agitated, irritable, bloated, stressed, etc. Consider this PMS. These symptoms are not normal, healthy or necessary and are easily treated with the proper herbs, acupuncture, supplements to regulate your individual hormonal imbalance. This is a time to exercise daily! The more out of balance you feel, the more I want you to go move your body. Yin yoga, walking or dancing if you’re feeling lower energy. Running, HIIT, etc if you’ve got energy or an attitude to shift. This is a time to have plenty of sacred sex to move that qi! Listen to your body’s needs. It will tell you exactly what is needed as you move towards the inward menstrual phase.

  • Herbal support: This is a time of the cycle when the imbalance can be caused by many underlying root imbalances. Your herbalist or acupuncturist will dose accordingly. If you’re feeling stagnant or know you need to support your liver, consider milk thistle, vitex, dandelion, high fiber diet, warming easy to digest foods, and continue with your supplements as you move toward the next blood phase.

To learn more about your cycle I recommend tracking daily in a journal or on a period tracking smartphone app. Your changing and often cyclical symptoms, moods, feels, rising and falling of wounds or insecurities, food sensitivities, pain and so much more is almost certainly related to your cycle. Come in for a women’s health focused session and we’ll unravel and understand the best plan for you.