Emmenagogues are substances which have the ability to provoke menstruation. They can work in a variety of ways, but the end result is menstruation. Its action can be mild or strong depending on the herb.
Most abortifacient herbs have been classified as emmenagogues since the 1400’s by authors who for whatever reason did not want to be direct when describing the herbs abilities. Most often this was to avoid persecution during the witch hunts, when possessing such knowledge could be fatal.
While most abortifacient herbs are classified as emmenagogues. Not all emmenagogues will cause abortion. These two categories of herbs are difficult to separate because in truth they do overlap. An emmenagogue is an herb which encourages menstrual bleeding, and abortifacient herbs do this as well, but when dealing with pregnancy many emmenagogues are not strong enough to cause the pregnancy to abort, they can however in individuals with a weak constitution, or where the fertilized egg is not healthy and likely to abort on its own. When menstruation is delayed for reasons other than pregnancy, often mild emmenagogues are enough to get the flow going again.
I will attempt to classify these herbs as they should be. These categories are by no means set in stone, and others may disagree with me. There are a few herbs listed here which I have not included any information about on the site as of yet, this may be because they have been used historically, but are currently not in use. At some point I will add information about them, for now the most commonly used herbs are covered.
These include Parsley, Ginger, Yarrow, Feverfew, Rosemary and Sage. For more information on these herbs
Strong Emmenagogues Include: Several of these herbs are also listed as abortifacients. which I have given a page of its own. You can find more information about these herbs there.
Pennyroyal, Angelica, Savin, Rue, Tansy, Asafetida, Blue Cohosh. and Vitamin C. celery seed, birthwort.
Uterine Contracting Herbs Include:
Herbs with Oxytocic properties — these herbs induce uterine contractions by stimulating oxytocin.
Blue Cohosh, Cotton Seed/Root, Angelica and Marijuana
Herbs containing Thujone Thujone is a volatile oil found in several plants known to be a uterine stimulant. Anyone with a tendency toward epileptic seizures should not use herbs containing thujone.
Tansy, Mugwort, Juniper berries, Chamomile.
Misc Uterine Contracting Herbs These herbs have unique properties which cause uterine contractions:
Angelica Root, Blue Cohosh, Ginger, Parsley, Pennyroyal, and Rosemary
Herbs which Stimulate the Uterus This is desirable to aid in dislodging the fertilized egg.
Angelica, Black Cohosh, Ginger, Horseradish, Queen Anne’s Lace Seeds/Root
Herbs which contain Estrogenic Properties These herbs can cause estrogen-like side effects including abnormal blood clotting, liver problems and aggravate estrogen-dependent tumors
Black Cohosh. Blue Cohosh, QAL. Pomegranate seeds
Antispasmodic Herbs The abortive properties are believed to possibly result from the relaxant action on the uterus, causing inhibition of movement to such an extent that an abortion occurs.
Implantation Inhibiting Herbs These herb interfere with the implantation of a fertilized egg, they are generally used after fertilizing intercourse until menstruation is due. For more information Herbal Contraceptives & Implantation Inhibitors
Cotton Root, Juniper Root, Queen Anne’s Lace Seeds, Vitamin C, Rue/Rutin.
Why include a list like this you might wonder, well what I’ve done here is separate herbs by their actions or the effects they have on the body. As you can see there are several herbs that have many different actions. There are several reasons for doing this, if for example someone has estrogen dependent tumors, they would want to avoid the herbs which have estrogenic effects which may aggravate their condition. Another reason is to allow you to choose herbs based on their properties, their actions in the body, and determine what is best for you. If you needed an herb for emergency contraception you could choose one from the list of Implantation inhibitors.
Fresh, dried or tinctured herbs can be used. Some forms are more effective for certain purposes than others. One example would be Angelica. a strong uterine contractor. The most researched member of this family is a relative from China, Dong Quai, whose non-volatile components stimulate the uterus encouraging it to contract, a decoction or tincture captures these properties and can be used to make the uterus contract, Dong Quai strengthens and coordinates uterine contractions making them more effective. It is said to be effective in some cases in which menstruation is two weeks overdue. Decoctions have been used by midwives to release a retained placenta. While the volatile oils in Dong Quai and Angelica exert a relaxing effect on the uterus, making it useful for painful menstruation.
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