Our hormones are primary determinants of everything from energy levels and emotional regulation to fertility and our general sense of wellbeing. While men have a 24-hour hormonal cycle ruled primarily by the sun, women have a lunar-ruled hormonal cycle of 28 days, corresponding to the time it takes for the moon to complete one full orbit around Earth.
Interestingly, the moon is also at least partially responsible for giving us seasons. According to LPI (The Lunar and Planetary Institute), the same giant impact that formed the moon may have tipped the Earth a little; this tilt is what gives us our seasons. Further, as they explain, “the very presence of the Moon helps to keep this tilt relatively stable” as the moon’s gravitational pull keeps the Earth’s axis pointed at a consistent angle, granting us reliable seasons.
This connection between the female hormonal cycle, the moon, and the seasons of the year offers an amazing opportunity to understand the cyclical nature of women’s bodies. Indeed, each phase of the menstrual cycle perfectly corresponds to a season of the year; to honor this cyclicality by observing each season can have great benefit for women’s health.
Currently, we are in the depths of the winter season, which corresponds to the menstrual phase of a woman’s hormonal cycle. The active bleeding time of the cycle, often referred to as a “period,” marks days 1-5 (approximately)* of the cycle and, like winter, represents a time of infertility, hibernation, and inward-moving energy. Hormonally, progesterone drops, causing the uterine lining to shed, and estrogen is low, meaning that energy is at its lowest point in the entire cycle. During this window of time, nourishment looks like: honoring the need to rest, eating and drinking warming foods to prevent blood and Qi stagnation, and prioritizing introspection over socialization (it has been traditionally recognized that inner wisdom is heightened during this time). A wonderful herbal ally for this phase is Rose, because it promotes the movement of Qi, thus relieving tension, harmonizing the blood and dispersing stasis for irregular or painful menstruation. Energetically, Rose can help in the setting of boundaries and the soothing of our emotions.
The follicular phase is akin to the spring season, as this is a time of renewal, rebirth, and reemergence. Landing on days 6-13 (approximately) of a woman’s cycle, this phase is similar to spring in that following a time of resting and releasing, life begins to blossom again; literally, the follicle stimulating hormone rises, initiating the development of egg-containing follicles. Estrogen also starts to increase, lending a significant boost to energy levels, mood, and cognitive strength. Nourishment during this phase looks like moving energy and potentiating the clarity found in winter – perhaps by starting a new project, taking time to brainstorm about a goal, or reconnecting to movement / exercise. As the skin naturally glows and confidence increases, there can be a greater desire to get out there and socialize. We love Schizandra for this phase, as it helps to nourish the kidneys following menstruation and really supports the natural process of bringing Yin and Yang back into balance.
The hot, apex energy of summer corresponds to ovulation, which is when seemingly everything peaks. Marked by days 14-20 of the menstrual cycle, this is the phase when estrogen surges, fertility heightens, energy explodes, and libido amplifies. On a physiological level, the body becomes prepared to have a baby as there is an increase in luteinizing hormone, causing a follicle to burst open and release its egg. Being the juiciest phase (also in terms of bodily fluids), this is a potent time for creation, expression, pleasure-seeking, and utilizing both the extra energy and sense of powerfulness for good. Without speaking to fertility enhancement as that desire is highly individual, cooling herbs are great companions during this phase to help bring balance to the body. Pearl is one such ovulatory ally, and since it’s a powerful Shen tonic, can also help relieve any uneasiness, nervousness, anxiety and tension that can occur with too much external output, fiery energy, or over-stimulation.
This season of descending energy has a strong connection to the luteal phase, characterized by major hormone fluctuations. Marked by days 21-28 of the menstrual cycle, this phase necessitates downregulation. Energy wanes as estrogen declines, but progesterone initially increases so that the uterine lining can thicken, which can also cause energy contractions. Nourishment during this phase entails wrapping things up and preparing for winter; this can include beginning to wind down in terms of engagements and obligations, switching to more gentle forms of movement like yoga or Qi Gong, and even beginning to prepare the home and refrigerator for the next phase of greater stillness. As an outward expression of big internal changes, the skin can tend to break out during this time; we can always look to our symptoms as clues regarding how best to support ourselves. Our Beauty Blend is very helpful for nourishing and balancing the Three Treasures: Jing, Qi, and Shen; supporting ourselves on all three of these fronts helps create a strong foundation to weather any storm come winter.
*Every woman can understand the unique timeline of her own phases by cycle tracking and/or becoming acquainted with the Fertility Awareness Method.