Nutrition for Her

Female-friendly supplements and herbs
help boost a woman’s well-being.


October 2013

Sometimes the demands feel like they will never end. Your boss gives you a rush assignment just as your son texts you that soccer practice is over. And you haven’t even started to think about what to shop for, let alone make for, dinner—assuming you’re not working overtime again.

So when you read about a survey in which nearly a quarter of all American women report unexplained fatigue to the extent that it affects everything from their careers to their sex lives, you think, “Yep. Been there. Done that.”

You don’t have to spend your days feeling frazzled and exhausted. First, there’s the stuff you already know about, such as exercising, eating meals full of whole foods and releasing stress through meditation or similar practices on a consistent basis. But you can also focus on nutrients and herbs that work with a woman’s system to help balance hormones, gently encourage libido and address health issues, such as bone loss, that often affect women—in addition to promoting the kind of energy that makes life a joy. Here are some of the most useful.

 

sNutrient/Herb What It Is How It Helps Women
Amino Acids Protein building blocks that include arginine, cysteine and histidine Help build the body’s structural proteins, including those in skin and connective tissue; arginine boosts blood flow to encourage healthy sexual function (as does histidine); cysteine promotes antioxidant activity and detoxification
Calcium & Cofactors
Calcium is crucial to bone health along with its mineral partner, magnesium,
as well as vitamins D and K2
Calcium gives bones their strength, while the other nutrients work with calcium to make sure it is deposited in the skeleton and not in soft tissue; a supplement called KoACT provides calcium in a readily usable form
Cranberry
A fruit native to North America; long used by the native population not only for kitchen use but also a healing remedy and fabric dye Reduces the ability of bacteria to latch onto the lining of the urinary tract; has shown a similar activity in the mouth, which may reduce cavity formation; as an anti-inflammatory, it may support cardiovascular health
Damiana
Turnera diffusa, a shrub native to Central and South America Long valued in traditional medicine as an aphrodisiac, as well as a treatment for asthma and balance problems; modern herbalists use it to ease menstrual cramping and improve mood
Dong Quai
Angelica sinensis, an herb found in China, Japan and Korea Most commonly used in the US to ease hot flashes and sweating associated with menopause; contains substances that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, as well as liver- and nerve-protective, properties
Evening Primrose
Oenothera biennis, a plant native to North America; its flower opens in the evening, which explains the name The seeds yield an oil that is rich in essential fatty acids often used for breast pain and menopausal discomforts; promotes healthy growth of hair, nails and skin
Flax Lignans Substances found in flax seeds, which also yield an omega-3 fat called
alpha-linolenic acid
Promotes better hormone balance, which helps reduce menstrual discomfort; may play a role in preventing cancer, particularly breast cancer, and cardiovascular disease
Maca Lepidium meyenii, a turnip-like tuber native to the Peruvian highlands Acts on the pituitary gland to stimulate the production of female hormones; used to counteract menopausal symptoms, particularly loss of libido; helps the body cope with physical and mental stress
Muira Puama
A shrub found in the Amazonian rain forest Has a long history of use as an aphrodisiac (the name means “potency wood”) as well as a remedy for rheumatism, neuromuscular problems and other ailments; has been found to aid mental function and fight stress in studies
Pau d’Arco
Tabebuia impetiginosa, a tree used for landscaping purposes in Central and South America Helps fight fungal infections, including that caused by Candida albicans, as well as those caused by other types of microbes; has also shown anti-inflammatory properties as well as the ability to fight cancer in studies
Soy Extract Contains a number of active constituents, especially isoflavones Used to ease menopausal symptoms; has shown anti-cancer, cholesterol-lowering and bone-protective effects in studies; may promote detoxification
Wild Yam Dioscorea villosa or mexicana, a climbing vine native to Central and North America Traditionally used to fight gastrointestinal problems, rheumatic pains, and menstrual and menopausal discomforts; has shown an ability to promote bone growth and fight cardiovascular disease in studies

Acidophilus

A strain of probiotic bacteria, the good kind that inhabit a healthy digestive tract

Helps hold Candida albicans, a yeast that can cause vaginal infections and other problems, in check; helps maintain gastrointestinal well-being and supports a healthy immune response

Cacao Extract

Taken from the same plant that is used to make chocolate

Contains powerful antioxidants, which also allow it to fight inflammation; improves several indicators of cardiovascular health, including cholesterol; may help retard the aging process

Chasteberry

Vitex agnus-castus, an herb long used by herbalists in North America and Europe

Helps balance hormone production, making it useful for regulating menstrual cycles as well as easing the symptoms of PMS and mastalgia (breast pain)

Ginkgo

Ginkgo biloba, an herb that has been used by Asian healers for centuries

Best known for its effects on brain circulation, ginkgo promotes better blood flow throughout the body, which supports heart health as well as sexual response; has helped ease PMS in studies; may help lower the risk of ovarian cancer; has been used to improve skin appearance

Grape/Apple Polyphenols

Antioxidant compounds found in grapes, apples and other plants as well

Supports healthy cardiovascular function; has increased athletic performance in studies

MSM

Short for methyl-sulfonylmethane, an organic form of sulfur

Helps the body form collagen, a protein required for flexible, soft skin as well as thicker hair and harder nails; also helps ease joint pain

Valerian Root

Valeriana officinalis, an herb used medicinally for millennia in Asia and Europe

Traditionally used for its ability to promote sleep, which has been backed up by modern research; also used to ease anxiety and ease muscle spasms

Velvet Bean

A climbing vine found in Africa, India and the Caribbean

Traditionally used as an aphrodisiac and nerve restorative, and for the treatment of reproductive system disorders; has been found to support production of HGH and testosterone; has antioxidant properties; may help regulate blood sugar and fight symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease

NOTE: Always consult with your healthcare practitioner for help in designing a supplementation program, especially if you have a pre-existing condition.

 

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