The other day I got to sit down with some of the folks from Alderleaf Wilderness College and talk about using medicinal herbs to care for your body. This post is basically a reiteration of that discussion for anyone who missed it, and for anyone who has questions/is confused about anything we talked about… I’ll make each section we talked about a separate post… so Vaginal Health, here we go…
1. UTI treatment– Many amazing plants that grow here in the Pacific northwest are great for treating urinary tract infections. Some of the signs you may have a UTI include, but are not limited to: pain/burning during urination, feeling like you have to urinate often but not much comes out when you do, your lower belly feeling tender, and cloudy urine. When you see those signs, reach for the following plants to help you:
Bearberry, aka Kinnikinnik, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi– this plant is a great urinary antiseptic, diuretic, and works to treat acid urine. Use the leaves in a tea or tincture. Uva-ursi kicks UTI’s in the butt! This plant, plus goldenrod and cranberry juice, are my go-to’s for UTI’s.
Juniper, Juniperus communis– another great urinary antiseptic, diuretic, uterine stimulant, and also good for clearing acid wastes. Use berries and leaves (although I use mostly berries), in a tea or tincture.
Shepard’s Purse, Capsella bursa-pastoris– a perfect example of common weeds being incredibly powerful medicinal plants– a nice urinary antiseptic and astringent! Use whole aerial portion of plant, in a tea or tincture.
Goldenrod, Solidago canadensis– a wonderful urinary antiseptic and anti-inflammatory. Use whole flowers and leaves, in a tea or tincture.
Motherwort, Leonurus cardiaca– a wonderful herb, and the only one listed here that is NOT a urinary antiseptic. The medicine of this plant acts, instead, as a uterine restorative and stimulant for vaginal infections. Basically it helps to restore vaginal/urinary health and makes all organs involved stronger and healthier. hooray! Use aerial portion of plant in a tea or tincture.
Cranberry Juice– a UTI miracle-worker.
2. Yeast Infection Treatment– Yeast infections are fungal infections, so we use anti-fungals to treat them! Yeast can build up for a variety of reasons. Vaginal health is maintained by a balance between the yeast and bacteria that are present, as well a balanced pH, and overall balanced environment. If for some reason there is an increase in pH, increased moisture and heat (like when people get yeast infections from staying in work-out pants too much), an increase in sugar, or a reduction in the number of bacteria that are normally present (like when people get yeast infections after being on a round of antibiotics), the yeast and grow and grow and turn into a yeast infection! Plants to use for treatment include:
Calendula aka Pot Marigold, Calendula officinalis – Not a wild plant, but can easily be grown in your garden or greenhouse. It is an amazing antifungal and astringent, and is incredibly healing and soothing! It’s curing abilities stretch far past yeast infections, and is used for many skin irritations/rashes, and menstrual regulation. Use the flowers in a tea, tincture, douche, or suppository.
Western Red Cedar, Thuja plicata– A very powerful antifungal. Very very powerful. Use the leaves. I would put it in a tincture. I have heard by quite a few of my herbal mentors that the volatile oils in cedar are so powerful that if you brew its tea for a minute too long, you can get an upset stomache– so I stay away from the tea, and stick to using it in a tincture, or in a very very weak and diluted douche or suppository.
Old Man’s Beard, aka Usnea– very useful for a number of fungal and bacterial infections. You can make it into a tincture or tea. This is one that I have never used in a douche or suppository, so I will not speak to that. I see no reason why that cannot work, and I will surely experiment with it one day, but as for now I cannot confirm that using it in a douche or suppository form is either safe or effective.
Herbal Douches: an herbal douche is simply a vaginal rinse! The liquid you rinse with is an herbal tea/infusion that you let cool. You can buy a douche at the drug store, OR, use my handy dandy plastic bag method! Take a sandwhich bag, put the infusion in it, prick a hole in the bottom corner of the bag, and squeeze! the liquid comes out of the little hole in a nice strong stream. Naturally, because it does not go as far into your vagina as an actual douche, the liquid can only go so far up, but i find it works just as well.
Herbal Suppositories: I use cocoa butter, and calendula oil. I measure out how much cocoa butter to use based on how many suppositories i plan on using. For each suppository i measure out about 1 to 2 square inches (i guess about a tablespoon?). And for each suppository i use about 10 drops of calendula. I melt all of the cocoa butter into a pan, and add the oil, swish the liquid in the pot around, then pour into a baking sheet to let it cool. I let it only harden part of the way, then i scoop it out onto some saranwrap. At this point it is not fully hard, but still ver malleable, like paste or something. I then roll it like a sushi wrap, nice and thin. let it finish hardening and then cut into inch-long suppositories. hooray.