How to use supplements and herbs to balance hormones


Not every hormone-related problem requires a prescription or over-the-counter medicine. Mary Bolster, Editor in Chief of Natural Health Magazine, explains that supplements and herbs that balance hormones in women can help.

How to use supplements and herbs to balance hormones

Women know, all too well, that hormones can play havoc with our bodies and our lives. However, you may not need to turn to pharmaceuticals for help. Dozens of studies have shown that managing your hormones with supplements and herbs can mitigate the effects of fluctuating hormones and provide symptomatic relief. Before starting on any new regimen, check with your doctor—especially if you are taking any prescription medicines as some prescription drugs may interfere with the effects of herbs and supplements.

Menstrual Cramps

  • 1,200 mg of calcium a day may mitigate your cramps as research has shown that cramps may be caused by a calcium deficiency.


  • Magnesium can help overcome the blahs and low feelings that frequently result from the breast tenderness and bloating that accompany PMS.

Heavy Flow

  • Chasteberry—made from the berries from the chaste tree—can help with heavy or irregular menstrual flow.

Mild Depression

  • St. John's Wort can help with the mild depression that is hormone-related. Note: It should not be used to treat clinical depression.

Hot Flashes

  • Black Cohosh can help even out the hormone fluctuations that cause hot flashes.

Regulating Estrogen Levels

  • Soy foods help keep estrogen levels constant and avoid the mood swings associated with low levels of estrogen.

Complementary medicine, including supplements and herbs that balance hormones in women, are different from the approaches used by conventional medicine. They should be used together with conventional medicine. If your symptoms don't go away after a month, or they get worse, you should stop taking the herb or supplement you've started, and see your physician.

Transcript STACEY: I’m Stacey Tisdale for howdini. Hormones can play havoc in a woman’s life we well all know. PMS, menopause, perimenopause, depression, but you may not need to turn to pharmaceuticals for help. That according to Mary Bolster, and she’s the editor in chief of Natural Health magazine. Mary, thank you so much for joining us.

MARY: Thanks Stacey. It’s nice to be here.

STACEY: Now can herbs really help with some of these things we’re discussing like PMS, menopause, depression?

MARY: It’s funny at Natural Health we call it the hormone express. And in an almost all-women office we are riding that thing all the time. But, yes, absolutely herbs can help mitigate the effects of fluctuating hormones.

STACEY: Now I know you say there’s some specific things we can do for specific conditions. First, what can we do for cramps?

MARY: You can take calcium. You can take about twelve hundred milligrams a day of calcium supplement and that will help mitigate your cramps. Um, researchers have found a connection between, um, cramps and a calcium deficiency.

STACEY: A lot of us feel kind of low and kind of blah when we have PMS. What are some things we can do?

MARY: Well I think a lot of people feel blah during their period because they have breast tenderness and they have bloating and those things can kind of make you feel like, what the heck’s wrong with me, and magnesium is something that can help you with that. So if you take magnesium supplements that can help kind of get you over that just horrible feeling that’s really been shown to reduce the, um, the instance of bloating and tenderness.

STACEY: Staying with menstruation, a lot of women are plagued by heavy flow. What can they do about that?

MARY: Regular periods, yeah, there’s something called a chasteberry which is the fruit of the chaste tree which I think is kind of funny. I don’t know why I see a connection between chaste and menstrual flow, but I do. Um, anyway, and the chasteberry has been proven to, um, help women with a regular period.

STACEY: You say there’s also things we can do for mild depression.

MARY: Yeah. Now this—St. John’s Wort is an herb that’s been used for a long time for depression. It’s not good for clinical depression. If you have that you really need—

STACEY: This is for moderate or mild depression.

MARY: Right. And it’s proven to be helpful for hormone related depression. So that’s a good one.

STACEY: A lot of women out there suffering from hot flashes. What are some things they can do?

MARY: Um, black cohosh is a really popular herb for hot flashes. Native American women have used it for a very long time to kind of even out their hormone fluctuations.

STACEY: And when they’re going through that they’re trying to regulate their estrogen levels. What are some things they can do to help that?

MARY: Well, soy foods can help to kind of keep your estrogen levels more constant because estrogen is low at different times of the cycle, and when your estrogen is high that sort of keeps you feeling better about yourself. When it dips low you start to get some of these symptoms, and soy foods can help with that.

STACEY: So, these supplements really work for these conditions?

MARY: There’s just dozens of studies, and more and more each time as women become more interested in complementary medicine. So all of these herbs have been tested and studied for a pretty long time now.

STACEY: Are they for everyone or are there really some people who shouldn’t take them?

MARY: Well we always tell everybody that you should check with your doctor first before starting any kind of supplement or herbal regime. And this would be the same. And there’s some medications, some prescription medications, that interfere with herbs. So if you already take herbs and your doctor wants to put you on a prescription medication you need to talk to your doctor about what herbs and supplements you’re taking before you start any prescription medications.

STACEY: Even though these supplements can be helpful, how do I know when it’s time to see a medical physician?

MARY: I think you want to wait about a month. See, you know, take whatever it is for a month. If the symptoms don’t go away or they get worse, you gotta take—you know stop taking them and see your doctor.

STACEY: Great advice Mary Bolster, editor in chief of Natural Health magazine. Thank you so much for joining us.
meet theexpert
  • Mary Bolster

    Mary Bolster Editor-in-Chief, Natural Health Currently editor-in-chief at Natural Health, Mary Bolster started her career at TravelAge West, a travel trade magazine in San Francisco. more about this expert »

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