Botanical medicine, also known as herbal medicine, has been around for centuries in Eastern cultures as a natural approach to treating many health issues.
However, within the past 30 years or so, botanical medicine has made its way into Western medicine. Many doctors are now using herbal medicine to treat a variety of health aliments.
How is herbal medicine used to heal?
Herbal medicine is used to treat a variety of conditions, including eczema, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), arthritis, menopause, menstrual cramps and sickness, and cancer.
What are the top three overall herbs recommended for women?
- Lemon balm
Aviva Romm shares the powerful healing benefits of herbal medicine and her three favorite herbs specifically for women to enhance overall health.
RadioMD Presents:HER Radio | Original Air Date: March 26, 2015
Hosts: Michelle King Robson and Pam Peeke, MD
It's all about her. Her body. Her mind. Her wellness. Her sex. Her relationships. Her aging. Her beauty. It's HER Radio starring acclaimed entrepreneur and women's advocate, Michelle King Robson and leading women's health expert, the doc who walks the talk, Dr. Pam Peeke.
DR PAM: Hi, here. I'm Dr. Pam Peeke. Michelle's off today.
You know, I'm always on the search for great natural medicinals that boost women's health. I'm talking about herbal medicine.
We have Dr. Aviva Romm with us today who's going to be helping us understand, "Is there a role for herbal medicine in women's health?" She is the author of Botanical Medicine for Women's Health. She's a Yale trained physician, board certified in family medicine with obstetrics and completed the integrative medicine residency through the University of Arizona with one of my colleagues, Dr. Low Dog out there.
So, Dr. Romm, let's look at this issue of botanicals. First, what's the role of botanicals in women's health?
DR AVIVA: You know, often we jump to medications really quickly for common symptoms or even sometimes more chronic symptoms that we have in our life and medications, while they can be very effective, often have unwanted side effects that come along with the package. So, for example, if we think about anti-depressant medications, they can be really helpful, although studies show that sometimes they're really only about 50% effective, but they can cause things like feeling your emotions kind of be a little bit dull.
They can dull your sex life, dull your thinking. So, you may feel a little less depressed, but you're paying the price in other ways; whereas, numerous studies have shown that many herbs can be as beneficial, sometimes more, than pharmaceutical drugs, almost always with significantly fewer side effects. So, a comparison would be like an herb like St. John's Wart which, by many, many studies has been shown to be just as effective as many of the anti-depressants, but with none of those side effects that I mentioned.
DR PAM: I love it. So, that brings us to, what are your top "go to" herbs that you recommend for women? It must be one of those common things that just keeps coming up again and again. I'm thinking about women who are menopausal looking for natural ways to be able to manage the hormonal firestorm that happens during peri-menopausal. You mentioned depression. So, what are your top herbs that you find yourself constantly talking about and recommending?
DR AVIVA: Yes, it's a great question. It's like one of those things when somebody asks you what your favorite song is and you think about 50 thousand different ones.
DR PAM: Oh, at least. Of course.
DR AVIVA: So, when I practice with botanicals, which is most of my practice, they really are very individually directed to that individual patient's needs, but there are some that do come up over and over and I'll tell you three of those. One is called turmeric, which a lot of people are already familiar with. Turmeric is just a cooking spice, but when it's concentrated, especially in its form called "curcumin", it is a brilliant anti-inflammatory herb.
The root of so many chronic conditions that we're facing, whether that's a little bit of joint pain, surprisingly even things like depression and brain fog, have their root in inflammation. Also, we hear a lot about things like leaky gut and digestive problems being associated with more chronic problems in our health and turmeric gets to the heart of that. So, I often recommend 500mg of curcumin extract. It can be in a liquid extract or a powder, two times a day and you can even go up to 1000mg two times a day. It's also generally safe for most people although with any botanicals or any supplements, it's good to check with your doctor and also make sure there are no specific drug interactions.
DR PAM: Oh, I love it and I just love curcumin. I think it's a fantastic idea and really cancer, heart disease and diabetes are all inflammatory diseases.
DR AVIVA: Yes.
DR PAM: So, this is definitely an herb that can help? What's another herb?
DR AVIVA: So, another one that I love is called ashwagandha and it's actually in a class of herbs called adaptogens so ashwagandha is one of the poster girls of this, but other ones in that same category are rhodiola, holy basil, American ginseng, nocca, and what these herbs do is that they help reset the adrenal stress system. Now, like inflammation, the adrenal stress system is also at the heart of a lot of issues that women see. Having food cravings, especially for sugar; being tired at 4:00 in the afternoon and needing some kind of caffeine or sugar pick-me-up; tired and wired just before bed and then also it's anti-inflammatory, so it can help with your joints as well. So, ashwagandha is one of those and that's one of my favorites, but any of the ones I mentioned in that class can be used interchangeably.
DR PAM: Awesome.
DR AVIVA: And, they each have their own little flavor. Rhodiola's a little more for anxiety. Ashwagandha is a little bit more for that "tired and wired" and ashwagandha can be taken before bed which is nice because women who have some peri-menopausal symptoms and who aren't sleeping quite as well, ashwagandha is beautiful for that.
DR PAM: You know, that's actually a great idea. I didn't even think about that. Because of the rocking and rolling sleeping you have all night long during the fluctuations in sex hormones during peri-menopause. Alright. What's one more herb? This is just fabulous. So informative.
DR AVIVA: Great.
DR PAM: What's another one?
DR AVIVA: So, another that I love for so many things across different life cycles is lemon balm. It's such a simple herb. It can be taken as a tea or in a liquid extract or in capsules and in the sort of ancient tradition of herbal medicine, it used to be called the "gladdening" herb because it made people gladder and happier and really, it does. It uplifts the mood, but it doesn't cause any...
DR PAM: Oh, gosh. Can I take a shower in this stuff? Can you just sort of spray paint me with this? You know? I mean, I just love it.
DR AVIVA: Speaking of taking a shower in it, one of the really nice things is it's such a gentle herb. You don't really have to worry about side effects or drug interactions. It doesn't make you sleepy, but it calms the nerves. It can help you going to sleep and for women in the peri-menopausal years, really nice research is coming out that it's helped reduce hot flashes. So, if you're thinking about something like hormone replacement therapy which can be really helpful, but has side effects with the hormones, or potential side effects, for something as gentle and benign as lemon balm which doesn't do anything to the hormones, it supports the mood, it helps you sleep, it calms you down, makes you feel a little happier and it helps with hot flashes.
DR PAM: Oh, I love it. I love it. I mean, it's like a checklist. Boom, boom, boom. I use it in tea. I just absolutely love it. No wonder I'm such a glad person. Heck, I didn't even know.
DR AVIVA: You sound like it.
DR PAM: Well, listen, all of these things are wonderful. I just want to make sure people understand out there that this is tough one. You know, I was the first senior scientist in the Office of Alternative Medicine, Senior Science Fellow at the National Institutes of Health in Alternative Medicine and one of the biggest issues we had was safety because, you know, you go into a place like GNC. It's like wall to wall who knows what and none of this is regulated by the FDA. So, you sit back and you say, "Gosh, how do I know about safety and efficacy?" Now, I know the NIH has the Office of Supplements.
DR AVIVA: Yes, there are supplements.
DR PAM: So, I would use that as a "go to" place. I would also, quite frankly, everyone out there run to Aviva Romm's book, Botanical Medicine for Women's Health because I know she addresses this issue of safety in the book and also go to her website which is AvivaRomm.com to be able to get a good understanding of some of the benefits, and simple benefits, of integrating herbals into your life. They come in so many different forms. I think Dr. Romm has done an excellent job of summarizing and giving us a little bit of a tease of how easy it is to do this, but you've got to have the appropriate mentor and guide and everyone, Dr. Aviva Romm's the one. Botanical Medicine for Women's Health.
Dr. Romm, thank you for being on HER Radio. We thank you for your wit and your wisdom.
I'm Dr. Pam Peeke with Michelle King Robson. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. And you'd better stay well, too.