One Woman’s Journey
by Dawn Combs
I have a special relationship with the herbs that are good for balancing women’s cycles. In 2005, I was diagnosed as “infertile”. Over the next few years we worked within the Western medicine model of fertility. At some point in early 2008, we sat across the desk from our doctor as he told us there was nothing more to be done for me. I was “broken.” Our only option was IVF and other invasive fertility procedures.
During this journey, I apprenticed with veteran herbalist Rosemary Gladstar. The use of plants in reproductive and endocrine health had always interested me the most. Shortly after leaving the medical establishment, I sat down and wrote a personal protocol to address what I believed was the root cause of my infertility. On June 12, 2009, my son was born in our home and my daughter came shortly after that on January 10, 2011.
Since that time, I have become a very passionate advocate of the need to discuss “balance” with women. I am living proof that it is possible to use whole plants and whole foods to allow our bodies to heal from any type of imbalance at any point in our lifecycle.
What does balance mean? In school we are taught about “normal.” It is normal in this model for women to have a 28-day cycle and to ovulate on day 14. The truth is that there are many variations to this theme. There is no such thing as “normal;” there is only balance for each individual. We are balanced when our cycles come in a regular rhythm, our bleeding is moderate (not too light and not too heavy), there is no brown in our flow and symptoms (headaches, bloating or mood swings) are minimal. Balance may come in a 28-day cycle but it may come in a 36-day cycle as well.
The luteal phase, the time between ovulation and the start of the next cycle, must remain constant. There are many things in our culture that can contribute to a defect in the luteal phase. I believe it is more common than a lack of ovulation when it comes to infertility. The luteal phase is ruled by progesterone. An impaired digestive system, high consumption of estrogenic and inflammatory foods, and a family predisposition to specific nutrient deficiencies can all depress the body’s production of progesterone. Herbs such as vitex (Vitex agnus-castus), wild yam (Dioscorea villosa), licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra) and many more may be used in formula to support a return to proper levels of this hormone.
As I worked to achieve balance in my body, I changed quite a bit about my lifestyle and eating habits. I gained an intimate awareness of what it felt like when my reproductive system was healthy. My husband was able to understand my cycles as well, making him feel less helpless and isolated. This intimate awareness of my body allows me to be aware each month when my diet or lifestyle has thrown me out of balance and allows me to regain equilibrium before anything more serious develops. What a gift this journey has been.
Dawn Combs has over 20 years of ethnobotanical experience, is a Certified Herbalist and has a B.A. in Botany and Humanities/Classics from OWU. Dawn is co-owner of Mockingbird Meadows, a local herbal health farm, where she consults with women and their partners on issues of hormonal balance, oversees the United Plant Savers (UpS) Botanical Sanctuary and operates the Eclectic Herbal Institute.
Read more about Dawn’s story in her new book, “Conceiving Healthy Babies, an Herbal Guide to Support Preconception, Pregnancy and Lactation,” due out September 9 from New Society Publishers and currently available for pre-sale on amazon.com.