by: Gabrielle Jansen BNat
Our bodies reflect the shifting seasons, linking us
ever more closely with the natural world.
It would take more than a decade of study and practice before I began to appreciate how little I knew about how my body worked. Even then, it would be some years before I understood that having a cycle meant going around, like the seasons.
The menstrual cycle mirrors all other cycles in nature.
Just like the tide that rises and falls, the seasons that bloom and decay, the moon that waxes and wanes, our cycles embody the life-death-life cycles of nature.
The menstrual cycle can be broken into four seasons, that reflect our shifting fertility:
Winter – the menstrual phase, Spring – the pre-ovulatory phase, Summer – the ovulatory phase and Fall – the post-ovulatory phase.
Understanding the energetic seasons of the menstrual cycle gives us a language with which we can understand and explore our own fertility and physiology. Equipped with words, we begin to appreciate the menstrual cycle as a powerful teacher. One that constantly offers us insights into our health and well-being, and gives us the opportunity to develop a deep relationship with ourselves.
A new cycle begins on the first day of heavy menstrual bleeding and we call it Day One.
It is time for us to turn inward, to rest, to be still and silent as snowfall. It’s here in the dark that we return home to ourselves, shaking off the world outside, we land deeply in our bodies.
Here in the winter-time we are most connected to our needs, our path and intuitive self.
Without the distraction of the light, everything is clear.
Menstruation brings us deep clarity, if only we can sit still long enough to listen.
Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris, helps us to dream our visions, reconnect with our subconscious and move through the underworld, making this plant a wonderful ally to call upon during menstruation. Many of you will be familiar with Mugwort’s ability to ease cramping and bring on light or scanty flow. Mugwort also connects us with our dreams and deeper visioning and feels oh so aligned, to these inner-winter nights.
Note: Mugwort – Artemisia vulgaris is an emmenagogue – avoid in pregnancy.
A few days have passed and bleeding begins to slow. There is a distinct shift in our energy. We no longer feel cocooned to the inner world, but refreshed, renewed and restored. Awake once more from winter’s restful slumber.
The energy of spring, as all herbalists know, is exciting, inspiring and motivating. If left without direction, or grounding however, spring has the potential to become erratic, and before we know it we’ve planted a garden bigger than we can possibly tend.
It’s in our inner-spring, as estrogen rises, that we are fresh with new ideas, excitement and the motivation to get out there. We must remember, though, to thin the rows, focus our energy, lest our garden becomes overcrowded.
Nettles, Urtica dioca, pop up everywhere, and are here to tonify the blood and support the kidneys. A great mover of water, Nettles move fluid through the body, like the streams now running in the woods, that gently cleanse winter’s stagnation.
Around the middle of our cycle, Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) stimulate ovulation and an ‘egg’ or ovum is released from the ovary. We feel energised, empowered and capable. If menstruation pulls us inward, then ovulation sends us spiraling, radiant, into the outer world.
Ovulation is the power to create.
This is the fertile phase of our cycle and we now hold the capacity to create that which we wish to see manifest in our lives.
The beauty of the cycle is here, in it’s balance – during menstruation we turn inward, we find deep communion with self and truth. During ovulation we have the energy to bring that truth into the light.
While summer is a joyful season, it is also incredibly busy.
During the long hot days we can feel both uncentered and distracted, forgetting the important work we wished to complete. Who better to keep us aligned with our heart’s truth than Rose?
With the headiness of summer behind us, and the leaves shifting colors in the forest, it’s time to dig up roots and gather the last of the harvest.
Fall is both a joyful season of abundance, of harvest, and of celebration as it is a time of preparation, and looking ahead. If we did not achieve what we set out to do, there is a little time left before the winter comes to finish up the projects we have started.
This season is about re-drawing our boundaries, saying “no” to what’s un-important and focusing our energy on what we must. Towards the end of Fall, it’s time to prepare, rearrange our commitments and plan our slow days so that we can fully step into rest and silence, once winter arrives.
Dandelion roots, Taraxacum officinale, support the liver and assist estrogen clearance by encouraging bowel movements. Dandelion helps us to let go of the things that are not really important. Some of us find that high levels of progesterone in the post-ovulatory phase can be constipating, and so Dandelion is a beautifully poised ally for our inner-fall.
As the days grow darker, and the air gets colder, soon we welcome back the clarity of our winter nights and our cycle begins once more.