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About That "Time of the Month"


Okay, I'll admit it right from the start.  I am a man.  So, I probably have no business writing about problems with periods, since I'm never going to have any personal experience with them.  Maybe I should have let a woman write this article.


On the other hand, I see a lot of women advising men about men's issues when there's no way any woman is ever going to possibly understand what it's like to be a man.  So, I guess it's all right for a man to be advising women about women's issues.    Also, while I may not have directly experienced PMS or menstrual problems, I have indirectly experienced the effects of these problems on men! We can just blame it on hormones, or can we?  If hormones are completely to blame, then there are some male behaviors I'd like to justify on the grounds that “I can't help it, it's just my hormones!” 



It's something we can all kid about (hopefully), but PMS can really be a serious problem for a woman.  Fortunately, there are natural ways to help PMS without resorting to drugs, divorce, or murder. (Relax, it's just a joke.)



Seriously, research continues to demonstrate that hormones do influence our moods and the way we view the world.  Furthermore, women have a monthly hormonal cycle during which levels of various hormones rise and fall.  This hormonal “tide” also creates a fluctuation in emotional states at various times of the month that is perfectly natural and normal. 



Throughout a woman's cycle, levels of estrogen, progesterone, follicle stimulating hormone, and luteinizing hormone are going to cause shifts in mood and perceptions.  So, a part of what takes place in the monthly cycle is something men just need to accept, even if they don't understand it. I also believe that testosterone influences those of us in the male sex in ways that women need to just accept, even if they don't understand it, either.



That's where the first problem comes in.  In modern society,  we seem to have lost touch with the fact that part of these mood and behavioral cycles people experience are perfectly normal and natural.  We're just “under the influence” of powerful natural chemicals.   Understanding this automatically allows for greater tolerance and respect.



I think traditional people understood these things.  Living closer to the natural cycles of the earth, they understood the natural cycles of the body better.  As a result they were more accepting of natural differences between men and women, and normal biological processes.  As a result, they made cultural allowance for these differences and used them as opportunities for both teaching and celebration.



For instance, when the time for their periods drew nigh, Native American women would retire to the moon lodge, where they would talk and interact with each other apart from the men (and the children).  They could do this because their menstrual cycles were regular and all occurred roughly together at the same phase of the moon, hence “moon lodge.”  (Moon, month and menses are all derived from the same Lain roots because a healthy woman's cycles work in harmony with the phases of the moon.)



The men wisely withdrew and left the women alone during the time of their period.  This was not because women were considered “unclean” (as they were in Hebrew culture).  Quite the contrary.  This was thought to be the time of a woman's greatest power.  The men left the women alone during this time because it was a sacred and powerful time that men needed to respect.  I don't know of too many women who would complain if they got to be free of their responsibilities as wives, mothers, etc. for 4-5 days each month while the men took care of the home and kids.  I think that alone would make women look forward to their period, don't you?



We need to get back to respecting the body we've been given.  This includes recognizing that a woman's monthly cycle is a natural, and even sacred thing.  The period is not something for either men or women to be ashamed of, embarrassed about, or worse yet, disgusted by.   In many traditional cultures, the tribe held a celebration when a girl had her first period.  If we returned to the custom of celebrating when a girl had her first period, and honoring the time of a woman's period as special, women would automatically have less PMS problems because their mental attitude about the process would be more positive and healthy.



I know some women who have started holding “coming of age” parties for their daughters. I think this is a wonderful practice and I wish my daughters could have had such an experience.  However, it is women who need to do this for women.



Before I get into a discussion about herbs that can help women with “that time of the month,” I want to talk about a flower essence that can help women heal from feelings of guilt and shame associated with their periods.  In Seven Herbs: Plants as Teachers, Matthew Wood discusses using Easter Lily as a remedy for cleansing the female reproductive organs.  It helps women resolve feelings of uncleanliness about sexuality or their reproductive organs.  He has seen this remedy help with physical health problems such as cysts and fibroids, as well as the emotional issues that may be contributing to them.