Following menstruation, women naturally cycle through a significant point of transformation as Yang energy begins to rebuild once again. While this recalibration process is extremely natural, most women will benefit from supporting the follicular phase of their hormonal cycle, which corresponds to the season of Spring, marked by themes of renewal, rebirth, and reemergence.
Landing on days 6-13 (approximately) of a woman’s cycle, this phase can be likened to the season of Spring in that following a time of rest and release, life begins to blossom anew – quite literally. The follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) rises, initiating the development of egg-containing follicles. Estrogen production also starts to increase, supporting the regrowth of the uterine lining, additionally offering a significant boost to energy levels, mood, and cognitive strength.
In TCM, the follicular phase is a time to focus on tonifying Yin and Blood, which are intimately connected, as menstruation can be depleting to both. When it comes to women’s hormones, estrogen is the epitome of Yin, often associated with the feminine and darkness. It is the substance of life – corresponding to Blood and fluids, including that of the cervix. We can support estrogen, Yin, and the Blood with protein-rich foods that are deeply replenishing, as well as specific herbs like He Shou Wu, a Yin and Blood tonic that additionally helps modulate estrogen levels.
Women who experience menorrhagia (heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding) can be especially prone to injured Blood and Yin. These women will generally feel depleted, tired, or lackluster after menstruation, which are telltale signs that one requires extra support to achieve the sense of restoration that otherwise characterizes the follicular phase. Remineralizing is another important way to support a woman’s internal Spring, with zinc and selenium being of special significance. These minerals are found in Pine Pollen and Pearl. Food sources of zinc, especially supportive of hormonal balance, include beef, egg yolks, and cacao. Food sources of selenium, important for fertility, include seafood and Brazil nuts.
The importance of nutrient density to hormonal health cannot be overstated, as the very production and functioning of hormones requires vitamins and minerals that can be challenging to obtain due to nutrient deficiency in the soil or digestive issues. This highlights another pillar of tonic herbalism – most of these herbs are essentially foods that fill our nutritional gaps and nourish us intracellularly in a bioavailable manner. Our Nurture blend, formulated specifically for the postpartum period, features many of the primary herbs to support a woman throughout her various reproductive phases, offering comprehensive nourishment to mitigate Blood and Qi deficiencies that can contribute to post-menstrual and postpartum depletion.
The follicular phase is also governed by the Kidneys, one of most important organ-meridian channels when it comes to women’s reproductive physiology and pathology, being the root of all Yin and Yang energies in the body. The Kidneys also store the highest concentration of Jing (essence) – intimately connected to the hormones of both the reproductive and adrenal glands. It is utilized to maintain all bodily functions and can therefore be depleted (including substantially during menstruation and childbirth), but it can also be cultivated. Schizandra is another wonderful herb for the follicular phase, as it tonifies the Kidneys, modulates estrogen, and nourishes the adrenals, supporting balanced Yin and Yang on a hormonal level.
As the season of Spring approaches, remember that women move through our own internal expression of the seasons with the cycles of the moon. By attuning to and supporting these fluctuations, we can cultivate a sense of harmony that positively impacts every aspect of our lives.