Ayurveda, the world’s oldest preventive health care system, recognizes that women have some unique health problems that require a specialized and sympathetic approach. Ayurvedic Physicians in India- especially in Kerala, a lush green state in South India, are renowned for the natural remedies that they have formulated to deal with the common problems that affect most women. These problems include discomfort during menopause, PMS, painful periods, heavy periods as well as periodic swelling and bloating. Pregnancy, pre-natal and post natal care are also dealt with exhaustively in the classical texts of this 5000 year old system of healing. Charaka Samhita, the most comprehensive resource of Ayurveda, lists various categories of herbs and remedies for improving feminine health. Some of these are simple home remedies, while others have to be prepared with care and under the supervision of an expert.
Foremost amongst the medicinal plants used for the treatment of feminine health problems are the Indian gooseberry or Amla, Ashoka, Shatavari and Shankupushpam. Dried Amla, prepared as a decoction and taken on a regular basis is useful in menorrhagia and leucorrhoea -a condition in which there is a white discharge from the vagina. It is also an excellent post-partum restorative. The fresh juice of Amla taken with ghee and honey is a ‘vajikarana rasayana’ or aphrodisiac. Similarly, a decoction of the bark of the Ashoka tree mixed with cold milk is an excellent remedy for irregular menstrual cycles and other bleeding disorders. The greatest use of the shatavari plant is for menopausal women with low estrogen levels. The symptoms which include hot flushes, insomnia and night sweats can be effectively managed by phyto-estrogens present in Shatavari. Shatavari in combination with shankha pusphpa – the conch flower plant- is very helpful in reducing stress, hot flushes, insomnia, pain and irritability associated with PMS. Granules prepared out of purified root powder of shatavari taken with one teaspoon with hot milk increases secretion of milk in lactating mothers
Woman Friendly Remedies
Ayurveda’s medicine chest has many other woman-friendly remedies. Cyperus is a special Ayurvedic herb that is very effective for relieving menstrual cramping pain and is useful in dysmenorrhea. Asafoetida is known to increase the secretion of progesterone, one of the female hormones. If you are taking Asafoetida for menstrual problems fry it in ghee and mix it with goat’s milk and a spoonful of honey. Henna is another herb with cooling effect, while Aloe Vera and Valerian are both herbs that stimulate the uterus and are given for painful menstruation. Ginger mixed with sugar is effective for women with menstrual problems who live in cold climates. Ashwagandha and liquorice are also recommended for those troubled by heavy bleeding.
In the case of pregnancy, Ayurveda identifies nine conditions. They include nausea, anorexia, vomiting, dryness of mouth, fever, edema, anemia, diarrhea and retention of urine. However, Ayurvedic physicians recommend that medication should be avoided during the first three months of pregnancy if possible. Symptomatic treatment with very mild herbs and a suitable diet should be tried instead. Most pregnant women have morning sickness during the first three months of pregnancy. Some useful herbs for ayurvedic treatment of morning sickness are Ginger, Lemon and Mint. Supplementing the diet with Shatavari and folic acid during the first trimester and Ashwagandha during the second trimester is also recommended. Oil massages with special medicated oils during pregnancy can help in preventing stretch marks, while oil massages after delivery help to strengthen and rejuvenate the skin and to rebalance hormones.
There is no doubt that Ayurvedic home remedies along with a healthy lifestyle and good food habits can help women of all ages deal with the problems of feminine health… but there is also no doubt that in the case of persistent problems, the help of an experienced vaidya must be sought.