As most women know, when it comes to our bodies and health there tend to be far more questions than answers. As a tea shop, we aren’t equipped to demystify the entirety of women’s health, but we can definitely teach you about tea for women’s health! And seeing as Mother’s Day is only a week away, I thought why not take today's blog to talk all things women, mothers, health and tea? Specifically...
- Tea and Phytoestrogens: What are phytoestrogens and their health impacts?
- Tea and Pregnancy: Is caffeine safe during pregnancy?
- Tea and Period Cramps: What teas will help you menstrual pains?
- Tea and Hormone Balance: How adaptogens can help with libido
So in honor of mothers and women everywhere, let’s get to it!
Phytoestrogens and their health impacts
When talking about women’s health, we need to start where teas have one of the greatest impacts, and that is on estrogen.
Nearly all plants contain compounds known as phytoestrogen and tea plants are no exception. These dietary compounds look to the body just like the primary female sex hormone 17-β-oestradiol. Because they’re so similar, our bodies are able to convert phytoestrogens into a form that can take the place of our own natural estrogen!
So what do these phytoestrogens do? And is it all good for you? The science of phytoestrogen effects can be a little contradictory.
Phytoestrogens compete with our natural estrogens for the receptors in our bodies, which can cause anti-estrogenic effects.
Think of it like this: There is one parking spot available and the phytoestrogen is a shopping cart that got left in the spot so the vehicle (oestradiol) can’t pull in. The weaker plant-estrogen (the shopping cart) has taken the place of the more biologically powerful human estrogen (the vehicle) which blocks its ability to take action in the body.
For conditions caused by too much estrogen, this is actually a really good thing because it reduces those levels. In some rare circumstances this is not ideal, but like using any plants used for medicinal reasons, the dose is the key.
Some studies have also found that phytoestrogens show anti-cancer activity. Including one which found that higher dietary phytoestrogens lowered post-menopausal breast cancer risk.
However, isolated phytoestrogens (such as isolated soy isoflavone) have demonstrated both anti-cancer and cancer-promoting effects. This is not fully understood, as the research in this area is still lacking.
What we do know is that higher dietary doses, similar to a traditional Japanese diet tend to have a greater protective effect than lower consumption. Teas tend to contain non-isolated phytoestrogens. So, like with most herbal medicines, it is usually best to choose teas and whole foods, as the isolated supplements are not fully understood and their action depends on numerous variables that have not been fully researched.
Learn more about phytoestrogens & tea:
Rooibos, Honeybush, Pregnancy, and Estrogen
Tea, Phytoestrogens & Osteoporosis
As we’ve discussed, phytoestrogens can have pro-estrogenic or anti-estrogenic effects, and despite how their names may sound these effects are neither all good or all bad.
They have anti-estrogenic effects when they have to compete with the human estrogens produced by the body (remember the parking spot illustration), or pro-estrogenic effects when there is an absence of human estrogen ( they help balance estrogen levels by acting in the place of the estrogen that the body isn’t producing). It is because of these pro-estrogen effects that herbs with phytoestrogens are great teas for menopause.
Low levels of estrogen in women, which comes as a result of menopause, can increase risk for osteoporosis because more bone is reabsorbed rather than formed. To put it simply, bone cells have estrogen receptors, and the lack of estrogen inhibits the bone reabsorption-bone reformation cycle leading to decreased bone density.
Estrogen treatment is used for this form of osteoporosis, since high calcium intake alone has been found to be insufficient.
Phytoestrogens have shown potential for treating post-menopausal osteoarthritis. In an animal study Moringa was found to increase calcium content of bones and reduce calcium excretion. Moringa also did not cause weight gain like estradiol treatment, yet the authors concluded that the osteoprotective effects of Moringa were comparable!
Sounds great, right? Try our Superior Organic Moringa Tea Powder
Or learn all about it in Moringa: The Energizing, Caffeine-Free Matcha Alternative
Researchers found that tea consumption improved bone density in women with post-menopausal osteoporosis. They were not able to find any association between tea consumption and osteoportic fracture.
More research is needed, which unfortunately may be a theme in this piece due to the lack of medical research specifically about women. But you shouldn’t have to listen to me rant about misogyny in medicine, so back to the blog!
If nothing else the research shows that teas, such as green tea, benefits women in menopause by helping to reduce bone loss.
Tea, Estrogen, & Your Genes
We are not yet done talking about the wonders of estrogen!
In a study that included both men and women, scientists looked at the effects of tea and coffee on DNA methylation. Wow, that’s a big science word! I’ll break it down for you:
DNA methylation is the process that determines gene expression, which is basically the instructions that tell cells what they’re supposed to do. Some of our genes can be turned “on” or “off” when faced with environmental risk factors. Drug use, and other variables can cause these “on” and “off” changes which can affect healing processes and how the body responds to disease.
The coffee and tea study found 5 cancer-related genes and 6 genes associated with estradiol showed a difference in DNA methylation in tea-drinking women. Tea consumption appears to lower estradiol levels and, by relation, breast cancer risk.
In short, drink your tea ladies - it has protective effects!
Tea and Pregnancy: Is caffeine safe during pregnancy?
Throughout my time at MA, I’ve found that some of the most frequently asked questions about drinking tea and our health are about pregnancy. And the one thing that seems to be on many women’s minds when thinking about pregnancy: to caf or not to caf?
So, how much caffeine is safe during pregnancy? In general, low to none is the preferred amount of caffeine during pregnancy, but the recommended amount varies a lot.
But does the source of caffeine matter? Is it okay to switch to caffeinated teas and drop the coffee?
Researchers wondered the same thing and found that caffeinated tea and coffee both were associated with poorer outcomes for the baby in a dose-dependent manner. Greater caffeine intake directly correlated with more adverse effects These occurred even at amounts less than those recommended by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (>200 mg/day) and the WHO (>300 mg/day).
If you’re pregnant and need that energy lift, consider an adaptogen like Moringa - it’s used as a nutritive for pregnant women but it also provides steady energy and alertness sans caffeine.
To learn more read What are Adaptogens?
Another frequently asked question on tea and pregnancy is: are there teas for fertility?
Spearmint can increase estradiol while decreasing testosterone and ovarian cysts. Red raspberry leaf has been used to enhance fertility through similar actions and nutrition.
Keep in mind that studies can only tell you so much. I can talk about all I want about the teas for pregnancy and fertility, but my advice should not trump that of your physician. So make sure to discuss any herbal remedies you want to try with them before diving in head first! There are also many other components to fertility than what tea you drink!
Tea & Period Cramps
I don’t know about you, but when my period comes around, I am willing to do just about anything to manage the discomfort. Down a whole bottle of advil? Sure. Surgically remove all of my organs? Also yes.
Fortunately, there are quite a few measures you can take to ease your symptoms before resorting to major surgery. Here are a few of our tea options for helping with period cramps:
- Ginger is an anti-inflammatory and research has found that there is a correlation between ginger use and easing painful menstruation. It is a strong anti-nausea herb with pain-relieving properties. Uterine prostaglandin production increases during the mense cycle which can cause uterine pain, and ginger has demonstrated inhibition of the formation of prostaglandins, which reduces pain and inflammation. Studies are few, but one concluded that ginger may be effective for cramps if taken at onset, or up to three days prior to menstruation.
- Chamomile is a carminative herb, which means that it contains natural oils that research has found can be helpful in combating gas pain, bloating and nausea. It’s also great for relaxation, so drink some chamomile before sleeping off your period pains! It may support the relief of minor cramps if due to emotional or psychological distress. In one study they found it was effective at relieving emotional symptoms but did not significantly alleviate physical symptoms. Combining it with Cramp Bark (see below) is a good approach.
- Peppermint is also a carminative herb and the same study found it useful for easing uterine pains. It is great for digestive upset and cramps, but a study found that these effects extend specifically to menstrual cramps. Peppermint resulted in significant decreases in nausea and vomiting, and ameliorated cramping.
- Hibiscus has been shown to be a great remedy for bloating and gas pains, which are often associated with menstruation
My favorite tea for severe period cramps is the aptly named “Cramp Bark”. With a long history of use by Native American tribes, it acts to stop smooth muscle spasms with an affinity for uterine cramps. This can also be helpful for pregnancies which self-terminate due to uterine contractions, as it has anti-abortifacient effects. Although controlled trials are lacking, research has isolated scopoletin- the compound likely responsible for its anti-spasm effects. Animal trials and studies with human uterine tissue demonstrate these uterine-relaxant effects!
- Lastly, green tea demonstrated period pain and cramp relief in a study. Authors believe it is due to the anti-inflammatory action of the catechins present.
Send your cramps packing with these teas...
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Tea, Hormone Balance & Libido
Before we finish up, we’re going to tackle one more thing: sex. I’m sure some of you probably understand just how little we as women are taught about sex and while I can’t fix the entire sex-ed curriculum in the US in one blog, I though I’d share some cool tea facts I’ve learned on addressing women’s hormone imbalance and libido:
Often the root cause of low libido is overlooked. In the case of adrenal fatigue (prolonged, excessive cortisol production) there are adaptogenic and complementary herbs that are known to help.
This graph outlines the adaptogens response to stressors and stress protective effects. Sourced from research by Alexander Panossian and Georg Wikman
Adaptogens, like Tulsi and Moringa, are great for restoring balance to the body systems, regulating cortisol levels, and attenuating stress reactions. Adaptogens regulate body function and by default libido should improve.
If the adrenals are preoccupied producing stress hormones, they are producing fewer sex hormones. In adrenal fatigue, sex hormones are converted to cortisol since the adrenals are exhausted. There are herbs that act as aphrodisiacs for women. Unfortunately the majority of formal research is done in male populations (queue my misogyny in medicine rant).
Still curious about adaptogens? Read What Foods and Teas Contain Adaptogens?
And try our adaptogenic tea Deep Breath Rooibos Tulsi
A Note from the Herbalist...
The topic of women’s health and tea is expansive. Blended herbal teas can support pregnancy, labor, lactation, hormone balance, menstruation, and female fertility to name a few. Hopefully this blog was a good introduction to the massive topic of women’s health and tea. And hopefully there will be more research specifically on women’s health and tea in the coming years! I’ll be sure to report on it here. :-)
Questions? Thoughts? Let me know in the comments below or on our IG @MatchaAlternatives !
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Its tart flavor means it blends beautifully with red rooibos, and green tea for a tropical, fruity twist. Traditional uses include relieving hypertension, coughs, sore throats and fever
$8 for 1oz
Tulsi tea has a rich, warm, herbaceous flavor with a light spice and thick roundness (if that's a word!). The rooibos tempers this powerful fragrance with added sweetness and depth, and. The Tulsi energizes, and both the Tulsi and rooibos aid relaxation
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References & Further Reading on Tea for Women's Health
- Rietjens, I., Louisse, J., & Beekmann, K. (2017). The potential health effects of dietary phytoestrogens. British journal of pharmacology, 174(11), 1263–1280. https://doi.org/10.1111/bph.13622
- Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5429336/
- Goodman, M. T., Shvetsov, Y. B., Wilkens, L. R., Franke, A. A., Le Marchand, L., Kakazu, K. K., Nomura, A. M., Henderson, B. E., & Kolonel, L. N. (2009). Urinary phytoestrogen excretion and postmenopausal breast cancer risk: the multiethnic cohort study. Cancer prevention research (Philadelphia, Pa.), 2(10), 887–894. https://doi.org/10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-09-0039 Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2920130/
- Torrens-Mas, M., & Roca, P. (2020). Phytoestrogens for Cancer Prevention and Treatment. Biology, 9(12), 427. https://doi.org/10.3390/biology9120427 Retrieved from https://www.mdpi.com/2079-7737/9/12/427/pdf
- Glazier MG, Bowman MA. A Review of the Evidence for the Use of Phytoestrogens as a Replacement for Traditional Estrogen Replacement Therapy. Arch Intern Med. 2001;161(9):1161–1172. doi:10.1001/archinte.161.9.1161 Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/648139
- Moore, L. D., Le, T., & Fan, G. (2013). DNA methylation and its basic function. Neuropsychopharmacology : official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology, 38(1), 23–38. https://doi.org/10.1038/npp.2012.112 Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3521964/
- Ek, W. E., Tobi, E. W., Ahsan, M., Lampa, E., Ponzi, E., Kyrtopoulos, S. A., Georgiadis, P., Lumey, L. H., Heijmans, B. T., Botsivali, M., Bergdahl, I. A., Karlsson, T., Rask-Andersen, M., Palli, D., Ingelsson, E., Hedman, Å. K., Nilsson, L. M., Vineis, P., … Lind, L. (2017). Tea and coffee consumption in relation to DNA methylation in four European cohorts. Human Molecular Genetics, 26(16), 3221–3231. https://doi.org/10.1093/hmg/ddx194
- Ji, M. X., & Yu, Q. (2015). Primary osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. Chronic diseases and translational medicine, 1(1), 9–13. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cdtm.2015.02.006 Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5643776/
- Ettinger B. (1988). Prevention of osteoporosis: treatment of estradiol deficiency. Obstetrics and gynecology, 72(5 Suppl), 12S–17S. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/3173936/#:~:text=Long%2Dterm%20studies%20confirm%20that,at%20higher%20risk%20for%20osteoporosis.
- Guo, M., Qu, H., Xu, L., & Shi, D. (2017). Tea consumption may decrease the risk of osteoporosis: an updated meta-analysis of observational studies. Nutrition Research, 42, 1–10. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nutres.2017.02.010 Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S027153171630561
- Burali, S.C., Patil, S.L., & Mandal, M. (2010). The Beneficial Effect of Ethanolic Extract of Moringa oleifera on Osteoporosis. Retrieved from https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/THE-BENEFICIAL-EFFECT-OF-ETHANOLIC-EXTRACT-OF-ON-Burali-Patil/73091b9ad6f9622d521445a368a78e202e36f7ed
- Al-Anazi, A. F., Qureshi, V. F., Javaid, K., & Qureshi, S. (2011). Preventive effects of phytoestrogens against postmenopausal osteoporosis as compared to the available therapeutic choices: An overview. Journal of natural science, biology, and medicine, 2(2), 154–163. https://doi.org/10.4103/0976-9668.92322 Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3276006/
- Arab, L., Biggs, M. L., O'Meara, E. S., Longstreth, W. T., Crane, P. K., & Fitzpatrick, A. L. (2011). Gender differences in tea, coffee, and cognitive decline in the elderly: the Cardiovascular Health Study. Journal of Alzheimer's disease : JAD, 27(3), 553–566. https://doi.org/10.3233/JAD-2011-110431 Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3577072/
- Chen, L.-W., Fitzgerald, R., Murrin, C. M., Mehegan, J., Kelleher, C. C., & Phillips, C. M. (2018). Associations of maternal caffeine intake with birth outcomes: results from the Lifeways Cross Generation Cohort Study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 108(6), 1301–1308. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqy219
- Muhammed, R. E., El-Desouky, M. A., Abo-Seda, S. B., Nahas, A. A., Elhakim, H. K. A., & Alkhalaf, M. I. (2020). The protecting role of Moringa oleifera in cypermethrin-induced mitochondrial dysfunction and apoptotic events in rats brain. Journal of King Saud University - Science, 32(6), 2717–2722. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jksus.2020.06.006 Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1018364720301993
- Panossian, A., & Wikman, G. (2010). Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress-Protective Activity. Pharmaceuticals (Basel, Switzerland), 3(1), 188–224. https://doi.org/10.3390/ph3010188 Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3991026/
- Shin, B. C., Lee, M. S., Yang, E. J., Lim, H. S., & Ernst, E. (2010). Maca (L. meyenii) for improving sexual function: a systematic review. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 10, 44. https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-10-44Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20691074/
- Akdoğan, M., Tamer, M. N., Cüre, E., Cüre, M. C., Köroğlu, B. K., & Delibaş, N. (2007). Effect of spearmint (Mentha spicata Labiatae) teas on androgen levels in women with hirsutism. Phytotherapy research : PTR, 21(5), 444–447. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.2074 Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17310494/
- Grant P. (2010). Spearmint herbal tea has significant anti-androgen effects in polycystic ovarian syndrome. A randomized controlled trial. Phytotherapy research : PTR, 24(2), 186–188. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.2900 Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19585478/
- Fu, Z., Wei, Z., & Miao, M. (2018). Effects of total flavonoids of raspberry on perimenopausal model in mice. Saudi journal of biological sciences, 25(3), 487–492. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sjbs.2017.08.009 Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5910651/
- Mills, S., & Bone, K. (2005). Essential guide to herbal medicine safety (1st ed.). Edinburgh: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone.
- Shen, C.-L., Yeh, J. K., Cao, J. J., & Wang, J.-S. (2009). Green tea and bone metabolism. Nutrition Research, 29(7), 437–456. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nutres.2009.06.008 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0271531709001110?via%3Dihub
- Heidary, M., Yazdanpanahi, Z., Dabbaghmanesh, M. H., Parsanezhad, M. E., Emamghoreishi, M., & Akbarzadeh, M. (2018). Effect of chamomile capsule on lipid- and hormonal-related parameters among women of reproductive age with polycystic ovary syndrome. Journal of research in medical sciences : the official journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, 23, 33. https://doi.org/10.4103/jrms.JRMS_90_17 Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5961291/
- Rahnama, Parvin et al. “Effect of Zingiber officinale R. rhizomes (ginger) on pain relief in primary dysmenorrhea: a placebo randomized trial.” BMC complementary and alternative medicine vol. 12 92. 10 Jul. 2012, doi:10.1186/1472-6882-12-92
- Vejdani, R., Shalmani, H.R.M., Mir-Fattahi, M. et al. The Efficacy of an Herbal Medicine, Carmint, on the Relief of Abdominal Pain and Bloating in Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Pilot Study. Dig Dis Sci 51, 1501–1507 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10620-006-9079-3
Wow! I’ve never heard of cramp bark before!