Updated: Jun 1, 2022
I’ve been menstruating for about over 20 years so it’s time to write a post about that, right?! Most of my menstruating years were filled with shame and frustration. It wasn’t until I began studying herbalism in my early 20s that I learned how to really respect my body for its intelligence, beauty, and strength. I hope this post supports women, any one who menstruates regardless of identity, and even our elders who now hold their blood (wisdom), to love their bodies as they are with their natural ebbs and flows.
My teenage years were full of worry, humiliation, shame, and dreading that time of the month. Am I alone in this? Doubt it! I found ways to pretend it wasn’t happening by using tampons, taking IBuprofen, and complaining to my friends about this annoying monthly occurrence. The only time I was grateful for bleeding was when I got to tell my gym teacher I would not be coming to swimming class today. Obviously, I could swim with my period as long as I wore a tampon, but the other young women were using this as an excuse to participate in the embarrassing act of wearing a speedo swimsuit in front of all the boys. So, I played along, too.
Fortunately, my mother was very knowledgeable, and willing to share her wisdom. She gave me pads, tampons, whatever I needed to be comfortable and explained how to use each one. The shame did not come from my family, or my community, it was societal, which I internalized and began to believe was my fault. That is the worst! When women begin believing they are yucky, dirty, or shameful, we have a serious problem.
In reality, anyone with a womb or who has had it removed, regardless of age is super powerful and beautiful. Their strength is how we all got here! I bow to the mothers of the world and all who have experienced the release of the uterine lining.
The experience of menstrual bleeding is actually quite remarkable. It is a moment when blood is beautiful, natural, and not to be seen as ugly. Of course when a pregnancy is released which the mother would rather have kept, it is sad. The blood of a woman’s womb is powerful, not disgusting. This blood is what made all our lives possible. “We all come from a woman,” wrote an 18 year old man during the first Women’s March in 2017 on DC. I felt like crying when I saw the sign he had made for the march.
What are ways to honor your blood?
First, if you like to read, get these two amazing books: “Her Blood is Gold” by Lara Owen and “Sacred Retreat” by Pia Orleane.
If you are experiencing pain, PMS, or irregular cycles, do some self inquiry and/or meet with a natural medicine professional like an herbalist because pain and PMS is not required.
If you are regular, mark your calendar for future bleeds so you can know how to prepare and take time off to rest if possible.
Get a Moon Calendar to chart your cycles - Maggie Ranen makes beautiful ones which we sell in the shop and at farmers markets.
Use herbs to ease pain and bloating to wean away from over the counter pain meds.
Let the blood flow: use cloth pads or period panties to absorb your blood rather than blocking its natural flow with tampons and diva cups
Always use organic cotton sanitary pads/tampons to prevent bleach, fragrances, an chemicals from being near your vagina, which will absorb this nasty stuff
If you experience PMS, Pain, or Mood Swings around your period, try to reduce stress and anxiety, eat a healthy diet, and get plenty of exercise.
Seek support with other women and small groups like Moon Circles that honor our natural cycles. Being with other people who bleed is empowering and creates a sense of not being alone.
If you collect your blood in a diva cup or pads, wash it into a vessel (without soap) to be given back to the Earth. Or, dilute your blood and water houseplants - it makes amazing fertilizer! This action seems small and odd at first, but links you back to the Great Mother Earth, where we all come from and where we all return.
Journal or tune into your cycles, rhythms, birth, death, letting go, calling in, and the ways your cycle connects you to nature. Notice what phase the the moon is in while bleeding.
Hot water bottles, baths, and putting your feet up are ways to show yourself you are allowed to rest and slow down.
Self massage especially on the legs relieves pain and bloating. Gently massage the meridians on the inner legs (Spleen meridian) where that seam from your pants is, and outer legs near your IT band (Stomach meridian).
Speak with your herbalist about what plants can support you whether for nourishing your blood, moving blood, reducing bloating and cramping. My Menstrual Pain Relief formula has cramp bark, dong quai, licorice root, wild lettuce, yarrow, wild yam, ginger, Jamaica dogwood. Hormone balancing herbs may also assist periods such as black cohosh, licorice, wild yam.
Drink nourishing tea blends such as our Restoration Tea which has: nettles, red raspberry leaf, goji berry, dandelion leaf, red clover, alfalfa, spearmint, milky oats
We also make a Menstrual Kit with this tea, tincture, and chocolate ghee.
I highly recommend, if possible, to spend the first 24 hours (or longer) of your period in retreat mode. Pre-cook your meals or better yet have someone else do the cooking! Listen to your body, what does it need? How can you rest and replenish while your womb is doing a lot to release its blood? This can be hard especially in our work-addicted culture. Even just laying down for 5 minutes to feel what comes up when you rest is enough. There is no right or wrong way to bleed. Trust your body. Watch the mind :)
Transitioning into a yin mode from an excessively yang dominated culture is not easy. I know when I began the journey to rest during my period, a lot of nasty gunk and self-shaming thoughts arose. I cried and apologized to my body for not listening for so many years. I felt anger at men, at capitalism, at my work for not being set up for menstruating people.
Let the gunk show its head and let it go! It’s OK to be a mess. Actually, it’s part of the process of moving into a self-loving place. You are brave and strong, you got this. Now, find that fierce love for yourself when you are in yin, restful, inward mode. It does get easier each month with practice.