Did you know that it’s natural and normal for the uterus to move slightly during arousal and intercourse? This is because the vagina elongates during an aroused state, and due to the movement of the activity. Also, the uterine ligaments are meant to stretch for childbirth, of course. However, outside of these circumstances, the uterus should be aligned and centered. What happens if it’s not? A uterus that is slightly leaning or tilted upwards or backwards on a regular basis is pulling on ligaments and tissues and can contribute to different illnesses or problems. It may manifest as a general feeling of malaise, fatigue, or digestive issues.
In Mayan medicine, the practitioners look at the womb first when there are digestive problems present in. In fact, they always look at uterus placement when addressing women’s health. The Mayans believe that if the uterus is out of balance, the woman is out of balance, and that the womb will reflect if you are feeling well overall.
Causes of Uterine Misalignment
There are different factors that can have an impact on uterine placement. It could be constant tension or stress in muscles; the way in which a woman moves or her posture; lifting heavy items; being constipated and bearing down; and dehydration. Think about it–if you aren’t drinking enough water and your body is dehydrated you are losing out on the natural flow through your body and you become almost stagnant with constipation and other imbalances. And, as with most anything in the human body, there could be causes stemming from emotional stress as well.
How Uterine Massage Works
Uterine massage is the practice of massaging the abdomen, in the womb area, to help put the uterus and cervix back into place. This special technique ensures that it’s properly aligned and back in its centered space. I first learned about this fascinating and effective practices by reading about one of the most well-known Mayan Shamans in Belize, Don Elijio Panti. He recognized the benefit of uterine massage through the abdomen as helping to promote blood flow, moving blood through the lymph nodes and thus taking stagnation out of the area. It also may help with the cramping and bloating you might experience during your period, or similar symptoms during other times of your cycle.
Later, Dr. Rosita Arvigo studied under Elijio Panti and he taught her the Mayan massage technique. Dr. Arvigo embraced the practice and has taught workshops across the US and in Belize. The Arvigo® Techniques of Maya Abdominal Therapy is the course developed by Dr. Arvigo in which people can become certified to practice Mayan Abdominal Massage.
…If you are interested in Mayan medicine and traditions for healing, I would love for you to join me for my Global Herbalism Course beginning in September 2019. Check out the link for details!
There is spiritual and emotional healing involved in uterine massage as well. Women have benefited from it while working through trauma in their lives. We are known to move through different emotional states during abdominal massage and it is not uncommon for tears to flow freely and to feel a sense of release and relief during and after. You may even feel as if you are in a meditative state during the massage.
I believe that if a woman feels centered, confident, and able to step into her life and take charge, her womb will also reflect that. We as women are so often seeking balance in our very busy lives, and don’t always think about the different factors that play into our entire feminine well-being. I like to focus on specific aspects of womanhood and how we can help our bodies slow down, calm down, and be centered.
I hope that this gives you reason to think about how amazing massage can be, if you didn’t already love massages, this kind in particular can be beneficial in a whole new way for women’s health.
The month of May is the perfect time to discuss fertility and pregnancy. On May 1 parts of the world celebrated the Gaelic holiday, Beltane, known as May Day in the U.S. Traditional Beltane activities include jumping over a broom for increased fertility, braiding hair or putting ribbons in the hair, all in the name of readying the womb for life, literally in women, or metaphorically for the earth. Beltane is the special time halfway between spring and summer in which nature is making good on the promise it made in early spring when roots rejuvenated, and soil was moistened with spring snow. Plants are producing shoots and buds, trees are leafing out, bird eggs are being incubated, and the world is about to come to life. This is the time when fertility is abound in nature all around us and thoughts turn to the cycle of life and growth; relationships and sexuality. Here in Colorado of course, we are advised to wait until after Mother’s Day to plant most our crops and plants outside due to our climate and chance of snow, but we still experience the wonders of nature during this time before summer. This weekend I enjoyed planting some nettles, holy basil, spearmint, and spilanthes.
I first became interested in fertility after taking a class by Dr. Jonathan Van Blerkom, an embryologist at CU Boulder, who specializes in fertility, virility, and mammalian development. It was in this class that I learned that many countries in the world are seeing declining fertility rates. Although there still are some populations that continue to grow quickly and have high fertility rates, it’s surprising how many do not. Even more surprising was to learn the rate of infertility in the U.S. is 10% after 1 year of a woman trying to get pregnant. It seems more people are experiencing infertility issues and/or issues keeping a baby through the first trimester. Is the prevalence of hormonal birth control a factor? Is it altering the hormonal cycles in our bodies?
As an herbalist, I suggest lifestyle changes to combat infertility and increase the fertility rate. In fact, when women consult a Naturopath or herbalist they are often successful in getting pregnant and this is a much less expensive option than traditional medicine. Over the last several years I have been learning about methods and botanicals that are known to increase fertility. This last year I decided to design an herbal kit around fertility for my clients.
Causes of Infertility
Despite what many people think, it’s important to understand that the average time to get pregnant is one year. Especially after a woman has been on hormonal birth control. The body needs to re-acclimate. Once a woman hits the one year mark of trying to get pregnant, has been taking her basal body temperature and tracking cycles, and having regular unprotected sex, it is then that the couple is considered infertile. And it is more common for women to be infertile than men. The fertility rate for women decreases quite a bit after the age 35, but with men it’s later and they can get women pregnant at older ages. Women are born with all of our eggs and those eggs have capillaries that surround them; tiny blood vessels that help to deliver oxygen to the eggs to keep them viable. But after time the capillaries die off and do not regenerate, or the eggs become compromised and are not as well oxygenated which decreases the viability of the egg. The most common possible causes of infertility in women include:
Irregular menstrual cycle and ovulation
Decreased egg viability
Physical problem with the fallopian tubes, uterus, and
Endometriosis, pelvic adhesions, and or PCOS
Environmental toxicity and exposure to endocrine disruptors
Diet, physical shape, smoking and alcohol consumption
For men, infertility is also caused by a variety of factors. Most common is impraired motility of the sperm. Additionally there are special enzymes contained within the head of the sperm that help it to enter the egg. If these are comprised the sperm may not be able to fertilize the egg. Men can have their sperm tested at a sperm lab to check for motility and other factors. Interestingly, only 1 in 25,000 sperm reach the fallopian tubes, and during that time, the sperm go through a variety of events all of which seem to be heavily dependent on extracellular calcium uptake (Rahman et al, 2014). In this blog, I will focus on the women’s side of the story.
Natural Ways to Boost Fertility
You can’t physically change an egg or sperm. As women however there are ways to impact fertility naturally. You can increase fertility with certain lifestyle practices and different plants to influence your hormones, your internal enviornment for optimal sperm maturation, and maintaining embryo implantation.
Adjusting After Birth Control
After ending your birth control your body may need up to one year to let your hormones synchronize or reset. Your body has been used to synthetic hormones, sometimes for 15 to 20 years, which is a long time and your body will need an adjustment period to return to its natural rythms. If you want to speed things up or have been trying for a year, you can look to botanicals to boost your fertility by through the support of bringing your hormones back into harmony.
Putting Herbs to Work for Your Fertility
Hormone Balancing: Dandelion leaves are also helpful for hormone balancing, while licorice root and peony flower have been shown to increase ovulation and improve your fertility. The most exciting however is Vitex (Vitex agnus-castus), also know as chasteberry, one of my favorite herbs to put to work for increasing fertility. The berries of the tree that are used. It is a major hormone balancer, especially after being on hormonal birth control, this is my favorite to use with clients, and has been used for thousands of years. Recently the scientific community has released multiple publications on it’s effectiveness. As is the case for any herb, just like a daily vitamin or diet change, if you want to see a result you have to be consistent and take it regularly (once or twice a day) for 2-3 months. Many people take Vitex regularly for simple hormone balancing for regulating periods or help with menopause, and it has been used for a variety of reproductive disorders (van Die, 2013).
Blood Sugar Levels: Another way to boost fertility is to balance your blood sugar since it influences the regulation of insulin, another hormone important in the dance of how your body funtions. You can do this includes exercising, avoiding sugar and alcohol, and drinking tea with burdock in it, or sautéeing the root, which you can buy in local health food stores.
Nutrient Levels: Other plants that will increase nutrient levels in your body are nettles or red clover. Some women buy expensive prenatal vitamins, but tea can be just as helpful, is more cost effective, and tastes good. My Fertility Tea and Nourish Me Tea are perfect options to get the nutrients you need. The difference in these two teas is that the Fertility Tea has the hormone balancing herb Vitex in it. In general, you want to eat healthy, get lots of nutrients, avoid processed food, eat whole foods and plants; organic when possible. Think of it this way: you are building a nest and you want that nest to be the most hospitable environment possible for your egg to flourish. Women can sometimes get a fertilized egg, however it may not attatch to the uterine wall, called implantation, due to a lack of nutrient levels in the body or an environmtnet that the egg will not flourish in. Additionally, removing dairy from the diet helps to decrease inflammation because dairy can have hormones and environmental toxins in it, especially if commercially produced. Keep in mind that alcohol impacts estrogen, which you are trying to balance out, and if you are drinking a nutrative tea, alcohol counteracts it. Drinking two cups of tea a day and will serve to match what you would have been taking with prenatal vitamins.
Exercise for Oxygenation
Exercise is great for getting good blood flow to the uterus and your body in general. It will increase blood flow to the genitals and reproductive organs and also help you feel more pleasure. Remember those capillaries that are oxygenating the eggs? Healthy blow flow helps them out! Another way to increase blood flow to the uterus is through Mayan uterine massage, which we will feature in an upcoming blog this summer.
Work Alongside Nature
It is always recommended to do fertility charting as it will show you the window of time when you are most fertile (usually four days). Be aware of your cycle, and have sex on those days to increase your chances of pregnancy. Did you know the day of your cycle when you are most fertile is day 14 if you are on a 28-day cycle? You’ll be producing more cervical fluid, and potentially you’ll get excited more easily. It’s also recommended to take your basal temperature readings which will tell you when you are more fertile. The temperature will rise after ovulation has begun. Your body and mind will work together to make this clear to you. Listen to your body—it will be telling you to have sex! There are some great apps out there to help you with charting your cycle.
I know, what I’m asking may seem impossible to do if you are worried about getting pregnant, but you need to stress less! Constant worry and stress doesn’t help your womb environment. Relax and recognize that it will likely take some time to become pregnant. If you do your planning around your cycle, eat right, supplement with herbs, and aren’t spending money on expensive prenatal vitamins you may be more at ease just knowing you are giving your body natural help. Lastly, get on a good sleep cycle as this also helps to regulate the hormones. Check out this post about natural remedies for sleepless nights.
In summary, there are a TON of alternatives and very effective herbs to use when you are trying to get pregnant. Try lifestyle components first. Work with mother nature’s herbs and become more in sync with your hormone cycle. Of course, sometimes it is necessary to go the route of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), or other methods, which are wonderful medical marvels that we are lucky to have available. But if you can avoid that costly and sometimes risky route, all the better.
When you think about aphrodisiacs you might think of kooky witches stirring a cauldron and selling a bottled love potion to the villagers who are hoping to have someone fall in love with them. Even though the idea of aphrodisiacs may seem the stuff of fairy tales, there is actually science behind it–and I believe they do work! Since the middle ages, aphrodisiacs have been known and used in concoctions to boost libido and seduce others. This article by Vogue discusses a brief history of aphrodisiacs.
There is not a lot of clinical research on aphrodisiacs and no direct signaling mechanism at a cellular level that has shown and proven that they work. However, there is evidence of indirect mechanisms throughout the body as a result of taking aphrodisiacs. You see, with herbs it’s hard to track the mechanism of what is happening in the body. Lucky for us, you don’t have to actually point to a mechanism to feel a certain way.
You Can’t Be On All the Time
Let’s start by talking about arousal and physical response. Most of us aren’t constantly in the mood, and sometimes it takes longer to feel aroused, which is dependent on many factors. Daily life may be making you tired or stressed, and this gets in the way of arousal. One in ten people actually have Hypoactive Sexual Desire Disorder (HSDD) which is an underactive libido and is caused by fatigue, stress, depression, or hormone changes over time. In fact, 40% of women experience this at some point in life (source: medicalnewstoday.com). Men who are experiencing sexual dysfunction often turn to Viagra®, and there is a medicine for women who need more testosterone called Flibanserin by Addyi. All those conditions aside, some people may just feel that things are getting a tad stale with their partner and they wish to fan some oxygen onto the flame.
Prescription medications can come with a long list of side effects, and I say if you can treat something with plants and herbs – try that first! Botanical aphrodisiacs offer a natural alternative.
Even if sex is not a big factor in your life, anytime it is shared with someone it helps to create a shared intimacy that will deepen your bond. Know that low or slow arousal is common and there is something you can do about it in a natural way.
The Psychological and Physiological Effects of Aphrodisiacs
In addition to physical response, your mind is also positively affected by aphrodisiacs. Your mind has a powerful effect on how you feel. Here are the four ways in which aphrodisiacs can benefit you:
popular around Valentine’s Day and is known as an aphrodisiac as it triggers the release of serotonin and contains trace amounts of phenylethylamine (PEA). PEA is already found in small amounts in our body. Is a neurotransmitter in our nervous system, and is one of the chemical components that plays a key role in our mood. Not only is PEA good for our mood, but it is also a stimulant that is associated with heightened states of euphoria and arousal due to its stimulation of endorphin release, as discussed by Chris Kilham, a Professor of Ethnobotany at the Univerersity of Massachusetts at Amherst. These are major players that ifluence our mood and are responsible for happiness.
A big part of arousal is getting good blood flow to the genitals. A food that stands out for this is chili peppers. They are vasodilators, which means they increase blood flow. In fact, any kind of chili pepper has the capsicum molecule which causes dilation of the blood vessels and allows for greater blood flow to the genital area.
There are several herbs that cause stimulation in us and stimulation is tied to arousal. Guarana (Paullinia cupana) is a climbing shrub native to the Amazon basin whose seeds are often used in energy drinks. But energy drinks can be very unhealthy. Stick with the pure forms, straight from the ground! Guarana contains twice the amount of caffeine than coffee so it is guaranteed to give you an energy boost. This is a great herb for people who feel too tired to have sex. The component in the seeds from the fruit on this shrub is called guaranine, which is the stimulant. It warms the body. Because of the combination of stimulation and warming, Brazilians are known to use it as an aphrodisiac. Buy guarana as a powder for consumption and take it during the day, or right after work, when you are looking for a pick-me-up for a sensual evening. It’s generally too stimulating to take close to bedtime.
The next stimulating herb is damiana–the queen of all aphrodisiacs in my mind! I studied damiana (Turnera diffusa) while in Mexico and absolutely love the floral flavor. I add it to my Frolic aphrodisiac bitters and Sexual Vitality Tea. Damiana has hormone balancing properties and is restorative when mixed with licorice root and rose. It is a native shrub in Mexico and both the leaves and flowers have been used for thousands of years by the Mayan people. Fun fact: this plant is named after St. Damian, the patron saint of pharmacists. Damiana is mildly irritating/stimulating to the genitourinary tract. This is an herb you use over time in order for it to be most effective, and it generally takes several weeks to start noticing a difference. But the effects pay off: it provides more sensation in the genitals, and boosts sexual potency in men and women. Read more about Damiana.
More stimulation comes from cnidium (Cnidium monnieri) seeds, which is a Chinese herb that also grows in Oregon. Cnidium seeds are known for rapidly increasing libido; in fact, it acts like a natural Viagra. The active component found in the seeds in it is called osthol, and it helps the penis tissue to become erect. Osthol impacts the nervous system involving muscles or tissue and this is why it helps with erectile dysfunction. It is a vasorelaxant, meaning it causes blood vessel relaxation and expansion in the tissue. It affects the corpus cavernosum (the two tubes inside the penis) and the erectile tissue in the penis. Additionally, it has been used in herbal Chinese medicine to improve sexual dysfunction in women by having the same effect on the clitoris (source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) You ingest this herb by chewing a teaspoon of the seeds, but only when you are ready for the effects to happen!
The last of our stimulating herbs is one I first came across it while traveling in Peru in 2006. It’s called maca (Lepidium meyeniia), which is a tuber root, like a potato. Maca is high in protein and has an effect on mood and testosterone, being commonly used for an energy and libido booster. Data has shown that maca hasn’t had any effect on hormone levels, however it is used by clinicians to boost testosterone in women when needed for low desire. And people do report feeling a difference when using maca (source: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov).
Across the spectrum from stimulation for desire is relaxation, and it is just as important for building arousal. The first herb that comes to mind is kava kava (Piper methysticum), which is a relaxant. This French Polynesia and Fijian plant’s root is used for a calming effect on the nervous system, which is the biggest area that you can address for your libido. When you are stressed, cortisol is produced in your body in larger amounts and it impedes one of the hormones that helps build desire. Kava Kava is a fantastic herb to help balance hormones.
What better named aphrodisiac is there besides passion flower (Passiflora)?! I like to say, passion flower for presence, passion and pleasure. It is also helpful for muscular tension and muscle cramps.
For an aide in stress reduction look to rhodiolia (Rhodiola rosea). It reduces cortisol and is an adaptogen. It’s a good daily tonic to help deal with stress. Look for an upcoming post that goes into depth about rhodiolia.
I discussed the main herbs that are known to be aphrodisiacs, but there are others such as ginseng and horny goat weed as well.
If you are interested in enjoying some of the herbs mentioned in this post, learn more about my Sexual Vitality Set which comes with teas, bitters, aromatherapy spritzers, and more.
Join the Women’s Sexual Health and Well-being Course
I just began hosting my Herbs for Women’s Sexual Health and Well-being course and we will discuss herbs in relation to sexual dysfunction and desire….soon to be virtual, so keep your eyes out in 2019!
There have been some stirrings in the media recently about yoni eggs and since I include these gemstone eggs in some of my Women’s Health Sets I wanted to address some of the issues and share my thoughts.
Let’s start with the history behind yoni eggs (pronounced ‘yo-knee’). They are first noted as being used in ancient Chinese practice, and the gemstone most commonly used was nephrite jade, which is a beautiful dark green version of the well-known stone. Nephrite jade was revered by the ancient Chinese and they believe it had mystical, grounding, and powerful properties. And they believed that jade contained properties that are especially helpful for women entering a new stage in their womanhood: menopause. So the concept of jade gemstones used for women’s health is not new and in fact has evolved over thousands of years.
Yoni Eggs and Women’s Sexual Health
The idea behind inserting gemstone eggs into the vagina centers around pelvic floor strengthening. They provide a natural way to exercise the pubococcygeus,or PC muscle. This name comes from where the muscle sits in our body–it stretches from the pubic bone to the coccyx (tail bone),
thus the combined words of pubic and coccyx. The PC muscle has a very important function that we take for granted! It’s like a nice supportive sports bra for our pelvic organs. The egg placed inside the vagina encourages the woman to squeeze, or exercise the PC muscle, and hold the egg in.
Strengthening the PC muscle has many benefits including exercising the vaginal muscles which can create stronger orgasmic contractions and therefore increase orgasmic pleasure. Yes, please! Having a strong and well-exercised PC muscle also helps with bladder control, and can be beneficial for labor and delivery. During labor, a strong PC muscle can help facilitate a faster delivery because the woman is stronger and can push harder. As an added bonus, she might have an easier time healing after having the baby because she started out with strong internal muscles. Basically, it could just help you get a leg up, and not just in the stirrups, on your healing after delivery.
Lastly, regular exercising of the PC muscle encourages blood flow to the area, which can increase immunity for your female reproductive organs and keep your tissues healthy.
Now, here’s where things can get controversial. You may be thinking, yes, I want to exercise and strengthen my PC muscle, but I why can’t I just use normal, metal, ben wa balls? You can, of course. However many people believe, myself included, that gemstones have properties that may affect the body and mind positively in addition to the major benefits of ben wa balls. Do I have scientific evidence of that? No. Do I feel it to be true and that gemstones benefit me? Wholeheartedly. The reasons I believe in the potential properties of gemstones are however based in science none the less.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this series in which I discuss the energy properties of stones and how quantum physics comes into play, how to use a yoni egg, and the types of gemstones that are commonly used.
Please share your questions, or experiences with yoni eggs in the comments!
Learn more about my Women’s Health Sets that include teas, tinctures, smudges, yoni eggs, and more.