ATH thanks Theresa for asking: “What is the best herb for a 24 year old female for amenorrhea due to low body weight, low body fat, with very poor eating habits?” “Amenorrhea” is a fancy word for a woman (of childbearing age) not having her period over at least several months. As noted in the question, sometimes low body weight/fat can cause this condition because resources are being conserved. Still, there are many other potential causes of amenorrhea, and Dr. Aviva Romm reminds us in her excellent book that it is a symptom of an imbalance and not a disease in itself. From an herbal medicine perspective, to select an appropriate strategy one must do a little detective work to uncover potential causes. For the purpose of the rest of this discussion, I will assume that pregnancy and/or a serious medical problem is NOT the cause of amenorrhea and focus on low body weight. If a serious medical issue is suspected, please seek assistance from a trusted medical professional. I appreciated the note in the question about ‘poor eating habits’, because it provides an opportunity for the young woman to be empowered to take personal action toward improving her condition. Unfortunately, there is no herb to compensate for ‘poor eating habits’, so my first recommendation would be to review the diet and perhaps work with a certified nutritionist or dietician for an appropriate food plan. In conjunction with reviewing the diet I would explore why this woman has low body weight/body fat. Is stress, anxiety, or depression involved? Is she an athlete? Is there suspected (reproductive) hormonal imbalance? An eating disorder? Some other medical condition such as hyperthyroidism? The latter two possibilities require assistance from a medical practitioner to diagnose the cause, but the remainder can be explored with an herbalist directly. If stress is a possibility, refer to this ATH post by my friend and excellent herbalist Renata that provides plenty of diet, lifestyle, and herbal strategies to balance mood. For an ‘undernourished’ scenario, in conjunction with a robust diet strategy, there are some particularly nutritive herbs that can build vitality and strengthen the body as a whole. Burdock root (Arctium lappa) – contains polysaccharides and inulin which are nutritious energy sources. Burdock is also known as a ‘blood cleanser’ that can help remove toxins as well as support digestion and absorption of fats Milky oats spikelets (Avena sativa) – also rich in polysaccharides, oats is known as an overall body tonic as well as for general or nervous exhaustion (I like to call it a “hug in a cup”) Stinging nettles herb (Urtica dioica) – high in several essential minerals, including magnesium, calcium, potassium, iron, and manganese Yarrow herb (Achillea millefolium) – another body tonic, with an affinity to balance blood in the body (either over or underproduction) All of these herbs would be lovely in a tea format, so steep up and drink up! Finally, if other disorders can be ruled out or the above diet, lifestyle, and nourishing herbs are insufficient, there are several herbs that are known to encourage reproductive hormone-balancing to assist in recommencing menses. Please note that this is not where I would start, as a whole body solution will be most effective in restoring balance in the long term. Black cohosh root (Actaea racemosa) – a traditional hormone modulator used to relieve symptoms of menopause. Aviva Romm indicates that while black cohosh is NOT an estrogen, it does appear to exhibit estrogenic activity. This may be useful in normalizing the menstrual cycle. Chaste tree berry (Vitex agnus-castus) – another traditionally-used hormone modulator which is shown to influence prolactin as well as progesterone production over time. Dong quai root (Angelica chinensis) – used extensively in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), dong quai is indicated for conditions of ‘blood stasis’ (deficiency) and has been clinically noted to increase blood flow during menses. Reference: Romm, A. (2010), Botanical Medicine for Women’s Health, Churchill Livingstone. BIO: Donna Koczaja, M.S., RH(AHG) graduated from Maryland University of Integrative Health (formerly Tai Sophia Institute) with a Master of Science in Therapeutic Herbalism and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Clinical Herbalism. She earned Registered Herbalist status from the American Herbalists’ Guild in 2018. Originally educated as a mechanical engineer, she combines the rigor of her original scientific training with the traditional healing art of herbal medicine to partner with her clients to uncover the root cause of their underlying health issues. Also a Master Gardener since 2008, her primary interest is in inspiring others to improve their health and sense of wellbeing through the joys of gardening and the power of natural medicine. Donna currently practices at the MUIH Natural Care Center in Laurel, Maryland and also does virtual consultations. Read more about her, what she does, and why she does it at www.greenhavenherbalist.com, or contact her directly at email@example.com or 240-353-8754.
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