Toward the end of 2019, I decided that I wanted to get pregnant. I was 34 years old at the time, but quickly approaching the mile-marker that would earn me the horrific (and outdated) label that all pregnant people receive after turning 35: “geriatric.” Suffice it to say, I was nervous about conception, so I took it upon myself to deep-dive into the science of fertility. What I unearthed made me seethe with rage. Not because the outlook was grim (quite the contrary), but because most of what I discovered I had never learned in school. Throughout all my health classes growing up, the breadth of hormonal health had been almost entirely encapsulated in a video of a live birth and a few tips on how to discreetly use a tampon. The audacity.
On the other side of my anger, however, was hope. And a renewed sense of awe for the human body. In my journey to get pregnant, I worked with a functional nutritionist to enhance my diet and stumbled upon fertility teas designed by Ariele Myers, a licensed herbalist, board certified acupuncturist, and fertility specialist who founded the company, Wisdom of the Womb. In that time, I experienced two shocking takeaways: 1. hormones affect so much more than fertility, and 2. tea works fast. I reached out to Myers for her take on how to embrace hormonal health and to answer all your (and my) burning questions about how tea can be used to heal hormones.
My experience with drinking tea for hormonal health
Before trying to conceive, the biggest step I’d taken for my hormonal health was to stop taking birth control after nearly 15 years of use. I worked with an acupuncturist and took Chinese herbs to help get my cycle back on track. It took almost two years to get my period back on a regular cycle. At that point, I assumed my body would regulate naturally on its own, but it didn’t. I also assumed that the heaviness and pain I experienced on my period was normal. It wasn’t until about three months into drinking Myers’ tea blends, when I noticed my PMS symptoms had practically vanished and my flow was far more manageable, that I realized how out of whack my hormones must’ve been.
My new pain-free cycle surprised me, but what shocked me more was how the rest of me felt: my energy was consistent, my metabolism seemed to be working on my side, my digestive issues were less noticeable—I felt like I’d unlocked a code to health nobody else was talking about.
Now, look, I know it would be easy to wonder if other lifestyle choices made an impact, and the reality is that, yes, all areas of our life can contribute to or detract from our hormonal health, but I can firmly say that I’ve been into nutrition and health my entire life and I’ve never experienced a cycle change from diet alone, at least not to this degree. Though I had been working with a nutritionist at the same time as drinking the teas, we were in the midst of gut testing and focusing on simple dietary changes like portion control and mindful eating. Though I was certainly not crafting a meticulously controlled experiment, the biggest change in my lifestyle at the time was the addition of Myers’ blend of herbal tea, so I had reason to believe it was the catalyst for the change I’d experienced.
Though my intention was to enhance fertility, I was actually just healing my hormones to create the optimum fertile environment in my body. Better periods were a sign that I was doing just that. So even if you’re not trying to conceive and are simply wanting better periods or overall healthier hormones, these herbal teas may help you too. Myers’ assessment asks about the quality of your monthly flow, and whether you’ve been diagnosed with fibroids, PCOS, or endometriosis, so the teas recommended for you could still support you wherever you’re at, regardless of whether you want to get pregnant. It’s worth noting that the assessment is targeted for people with uteruses—but Myers does offer a fertility tea for male bodies, to support sperm motility and count.
How does tea affect hormonal health?
The teas I am referring to are herbal in nature, which can be derived from a variety of dried herbs, spices, flowers, fruit, seeds, roots, or leaves of other plants. A multitude of herbs have been used for thousands of years in various cultures and practices like Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat all kinds of ailments, hormonal imbalance among them. “Specific herbs gently nudge our body in the direction of balance and encourage our body to get the rest of the way there, rather than just stifling symptoms,” Myers explained.
Each herb has its own healing properties that can affect the nervous system and endocrine system, which are deeply interconnected. For example, serotonin is a neurotransmitter that also acts as a hormone. Some studies suggest that the herb Rhodiola can influence serotonin by allowing it to pass more easily through the blood-brain barrier. Other herbs like Red Clover are rich in isoflavones, compounds that can directly affect the estrogen levels in your body.
Since the benefits come from the herbs, you technically can ingest the herbs in multiple different ways (from cooking them to taking them in pill form) but tea goes down easier and can become a habit without much resistance. Myers explained that she used to craft herbal formulas for patients who attended her fertility wellness center, but the formulas tasted horrible and patients never kept up with them. She also tried to put herbs into pill form, but they would need 9-12 capsules a day in order to get to the desired potency, so she found that tea was the easiest form for patients. Herbal teas are particularly easy for your body to absorb– specifically by the gut–which makes their healing properties especially potent.
Which tea is right for you?
Not all herbal teas are created equal, and not all teas are particularly beneficial for your hormonal health. You’ll want to focus on herbs that speak to your specific needs. This is why Myers is hesitant to prescribe a one-size-fits-all remedy for the masses. “It’s always a little tricky to say, ‘this one is good for everyone’ because every herb has energetic properties. On a very basic level, it may be cooling or warming, upward moving or downward moving, etc. So it’s important to have a sense of what’s going on in a woman’s body before she decides to take something.”
For example, Myers told me that Vitex is a popular supplement for fertility, but for some women, too much might actually warm their body too much. And while an herb like lemon balm might be a better fit for that person, if someone with hypothyroidism were to take it, it could exacerbate their condition. So if you’re feeling excited about using tea as a hormonal remedy, the best place to go is straight to an expert’s office. You can also visit Myers’ site to take her fertility assessment. This is what I did when I was trying to figure out which tea blend would be best for me. I ended up cycling between Myers’ B*tches Brew, Fertile Mama Tea, and the Detox blend, which I took at various stages in my cycle, as per the instructions on the bags.
But if you don’t want to get specific and are looking for a tea that is super gentle and generally hormone-friendly, Myers suggests reaching for an adaptogen. “If I had to choose a few very balanced herbs that support most women, I’d choose Ashwaganda and Rhodiola. Adaptogens are bimodal, meaning they can help you both sleep better and have better energy and help you function more optimally overall,” she said. “If there’s any anxiety or stress, Magnolia Bark is an amazing calmative that promotes overall health.” Remember, your nervous system and your endocrine system are deeply intertwined, so herbs that help relieve stress in the body are likely to benefit your hormonal functions.
Do you need to drink it hot or cold?
I asked this question on a whim, but was surprised to learn that when it comes to hormonal health, Myers suggests drinking hot tea over cold. “In terms of Chinese Medicine, we want to keep our womb warm, and because our digestive organs sit so closely to our reproductive organs, drinking or eating anything cold should be avoided.” As an iced tea fan living in a warm climate, this is a minor blow. But it makes sense the way Myers frames it: “Think about going out on a warm day versus going out on a cold day: my body and shoulders tense up as soon as I feel cold. The same thing happens to our insides when we introduce cold, so warm, warm, warm.”
If you’re wondering exactly how hot to take your hot tea for greatest therapeutic impact, Myers suggests pouring almost-boiling water over the blends and letting them steep for ideally 15 minutes. The warmth itself is so nourishing and healing, it can relax our reproductive systems.
Beware: All the tea rules change if you are or become pregnant
When I ended up getting pregnant while drinking Myers’ tea blends, I had to “discontinue use” (per the instructions printed on the bag) after a positive pregnancy test. It might seem strange that the same herbs that provide such an optimal environment for the womb preconception can be disruptive post-conception, but the body needs different remedies for different states of being. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misunderstandings around which herbs are gentle versus unsafe for pregnancy. “Something as mild-seeming as chamomile isn’t ideal for pregnancy and was actually used by many of our ancestors to avoid conception,” Myers told me.
And red raspberry leaf (which is hotly contested on pregnancy forums) is often feared as an herb that will lead to early labor contractions, but Myers claims that red raspberry leaf tea has been used for centuries during pregnancy to strengthen the uterus and actually maintain a pregnancy. “It doesn’t promote contractions, but can make them stronger once you’re in labor,” she explained. That said, if an herb ever makes you anxious, the best case scenario is to trust your gut. Anxiety is a major buzzkill for hormones, anyway.
The general rule of thumb, as Myers explained, is that, “Any herb that strongly invigorates the blood, like Black Cohosh or Dang Gui, should be avoided once pregnant, but they can actually help promote implantation. I usually say that up until a positive pregnancy test, there’s not much that will be detrimental to a healthy, viable pregnancy… it’s the long-term, extended use of large quantities of an herb that could be problematic.” If you are interested in using teas for hormonal balance (whether you plan to become pregnant or not), always consult an expert such as an herbalist or TCM practitioner and work with your doctor to make sure it fits in with your overall health plan. And if you are or plan to become pregnant, immediately discuss all supplements, teas, foods, and routines with your doctor to come up with a plan that’s best for you.
Please consult a doctor or a mental health professional before beginning any treatments. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical or mental health condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this article.