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It’s All About the Herbs

Are you confused as hell by our herbs? Still don’t get the hype about hormone balance? That’s ok. This week, we’re trying to translate Traditional Chinese Medicine terminology into a language that is more accessible from a Western perspective: the language of vitamins! And bioactives! And chemical constituents! Ok, this is getting confusing again. Stay tuned.

Cassidy: To My Herbaceous Handmaiden,

This week, I encountered a unique Chica critic. A young woman from Norway was curious about the efficacy of our formula, but she had 0/10 patience for the Traditional Chinese Medicine terminology I used to describe our herbs and how they work holistically to promote menstrual health. Her confusion about Chinese medicine is completely understandable, but what struck me is that she actually refused to listen to my explanation unless it included language that made sense to her.

Initially, I was frustrated–both with her, and with myself for being unable to communicate clearly–but ultimately, I have to respect her ask. If we can’t speak about Chica with fluency across multiple medicinal disciplines, how are we going to address the needs of customers that don’t already “get” Chinese medicine?

The traditional Chinese emphasis of describing herb functions in a purely phenomenological way is problematic within the more analytical, experimental approach of current Western pharmacy. (Bensky, Dan, Andrew Gamble, and Ted J. Kaptchuk. Chinese herbal medicine: materia medica. Eastland Press, 1993). According to TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), our formula regulates menstruation by dispersing depressed qi and strengthening the liver and spleen in order to nourish the blood. Essentially, our herbs work holistically to help your body manage the flow of hormones like estrogen and progesterone, and this supports better overall health. The problem with this methodology is that it is difficult to scrutinize through a Western pharmaceutical lens, because dissecting a formula and inspecting its individual chemical compounds does not fully account for the overall effects–thusly robbing the formula of its power (BioMedCentral).

But it’s not the plants’ fault. While contemporary Western and traditional Chinese disciplines interpret how the herbs work differently, there is some level of consensus that they do, in fact, work. I mean, approximately 80% of the world population still relies on herbal medicines for their health care, so something has to be working there (BioMedCentral). We can see this phenomenon most clearly with ingredients like angelica root, licorice, mint, and ginger, which are commonly recommended across platforms due to their health benefits.

Let’s start with angelica root, otherwise known as dang gui or “the female ginseng.” If you wanna talk vitamins, angelica root boats a cast of vitamin B12, zinc, thiamine, sucrose, riboflavin, potassium, magnesium, iron, fructose, glucose, and many other trace minerals (Alternative Nature). If you wanna get more scientific with it, the main chemical constituents of Angelica root are ferulic acid, Z-ligustilide, angelicide, brefeldin A, butylidenephthalide, butyphthalide, succinic acid, nicotinic acid, uracil and adenine (BioMedCentral). If I’m being completely honest, these sound kind of scary, but they are important because they contribute to angelica root’s antispasmodic and vasodilator properties (Healthy Focus). Said properties help relieve painful cramps and allow blood to flow more freely.

Licorice offers a wide range of beneficial nutrients and flavonoids. It is a good source of vitamin B1 (thiamine), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B5 (pantothenic acid) and vitamin E(tocopherol).  It also provides minerals such as phosphorous, calcium, choline, iron, magnesium, potassium, selenium, silicon and zinc. It is a storehouse of essential phytonutrients, including beta-carotene, glycyrrhizin, glabridin, isoliquiritigenin, thymol, phenol, ferulic acid, and quercetin (Organic Facts). These compounds help stabilize the liver and maintain hormone balance.

Mint contains antioxidants, potassium, and some vitamin B, and it is also rich in nutrients and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, folate, copper, and manganese (Healthy Focus). Its primary chemical constituents are menthol, menthone, menthyl acetate, camphene, limonene, isomenthone, pinene, menthenone, rosmarinic acid, d-neo-menthol, ethyl-n-amylketone, piperitone, pulegone (Bensky). These compounds contribute to mint’s antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting properties.

Ginger is really “in” right now, so it happily occupies an intersection of traditional and contemporary medicine. Ginger brings vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc folate, riboflavin, and niacin to the party (Bensky), and constituents such as gingerol, gingerdiol, and gingerdione, beta-carotene, capsaicin, caffeic acid and curcumin (BioMedCentral). These antispasmodic properties can directly affect pain pathways as well as help relieve inflammation, which may be an underlying cause of discomfort (Healthy Focus). The effects of ginger on dysmenorrhea (painful cramping) have been found statistically significant in double blind, placebo-controlled and parallel-group studies with balanced randomization (BioMedCentral).

What’s interesting to me is that, while it is coded in different terminology, Western pharmacy is saying essentially the same thing about our herbs: that the properties of our formula support healthy blood flow, stable emotion, and less distracting cycles. So, even though they approach herbal medicine differently, contemporary and traditional disciplines are evidently still compatible. There just has to be careful, interdisciplinary research, and a little bit of code-switching.

Let me know what you think,

Cass

Elise: Dear my Herbal Hero,

In our dynamic, I’ve usually taken a step back when questions about Chica’s herbal formula came up. My elementary understanding of the functionalities of our formula faltered in comparison to the two decades you have spent growing up with Chinese medicine. However, I’ve realized that starting a business means we can distribute responsibilities, but we can’t distribute knowledge gaps. I’ve taken strides to catch up with you in our herbal knowledge, and I’ll be following you today with info on the other herbs in Chica.

After Angelica Root, the next big kicker in Chica’s herbal formula is Bupleurum root, which contains active chemical compounds such as saponins, sterols, and saikosaponins. These compounds function as antioxidants in our bodies to help cleanse the liver, and improve immune and anti-inflammatory response systems. Saikosaponins contain cortisol – cortisol is known for helping the body adapt to stress, and is central to the production of progesterone, the ‘soothing’ hormone for menstruators. Cleansing the liver is especially important for a good period because the liver is responsible for flushing out the excess estrogen that affects cramping. If you take estrogen birth control, don’t worry, this will not affect the estrogen you are taking. Bupleurum also contains rutin, a beneficial compound for our circulation system (Healthy Focus).

Peonies are one of my favorite flowers, and peony root highlights why we always discuss the power of the Chica formula instead of just the individual herbs. Licorice, as you discussed earlier, can help stabilize the liver to regulate hormone and insulin production. Combining licorice with the paeoniflorin, paeonol, paeonin, albiflorin, triterpenoids, and sistoterol in peony root is what allows the Chica formula to help relax muscles, balance testosterone levels, and help our periods feel more comfortable (Healthy Focus).

Actractylodes aid in supporting digestion and relieving painful stomach conditions such as bloating. Poria has been used across Chinese medicine in formulas for fertility health. It’s difficult to discuss these herbs without the lens of Traditional Chinese Medicine because less Western work has been done with them individually. However, they are both used in a study that shows TCM formulas being as effective as hormone therapy for treating endometriosis associated infertility (NCBI).

I will continue to search for better and better resources to learn more about each herb that we use, and I’ll keep you updated here!

Love,

Elise

Poria

Fungus & Root

Scierotium Poriae Cocos / Fu Ling / 茯苓 Scierotium Pararadicis Poriae Cocos / Fu Shen / 茯神

Poria calms the heart and soothes nerves, helping with anxiety and insomnia. Additionally, Poria drains dampness, an excess of moisture that the body collects in the wrong places and makes us feel heavy and fatigued (hello moodiness).

Chinese Salvia

Root

Radix Salviae Miltiorrhizae / Dan Shen / 丹參

Salvia root nourishes the blood and heart, and calms the spirit. Salvia works with Schisandra and Zizyphus in Chica Chill to help relieve insomnia.

Rehmannia

Root

Radix Rehmanniae Preparata / Sheng Di Huang / 熟地黄

Rehmannia root is your Yin nourisher, supporting calm and cold in your system. With its additional ability to help cool blood, increase fluids, and clear heart fire; Rehmannia is a star herb for soothing and preventing heat flashes.

Polygala / Thin-Leaf Milkwort

Root

Radix Polygalae Tenuifoliae / Yuan Zhi / 元志

Polygala root nourishes the Heart, and helps soothe nerves and restlessness.

Schisandra / Chinese Magnolia

Berry

Fructus Schisandrae Chinensis / Wu Wei Zi / 五味子

Schisandra berry is famous for featuring all five flavors of Traditional Chinese Medicine: bitter, sweet, salty, sour, hot. This means that Schisandra is completely energetically balanced, promoting overall health and vitality. Schisandra helps relieve night sweats, insomnia, and hormonal imbalances. Schisandra is also rich in antioxidants that are thought to protect from free radicals and other toxins in the environment that may cause cellular damage. 

Platycodon / Balloon Flower

Root

Radix Platycodi / Jie Geng / 桔梗

Platycodon root is a neutral balancing herb, meaning it is not especially Yin or Yang. Platycodon is nourishing for the lungs, which in TCM, is the organ that supports Qi and fluid flow throughout the body.

Scrophularia / Figwort

Root

Radix Scrophulariae / Xuan Shen / 玄參

Scrophularia root nourishes Yin, drains fire, and cools the blood. Scrophularia is particularly soothing for irritability.

Ophiopogon / Dwarf Lilyturf

Tuber

Tuber Ophiopogonis Japonici / Mai Men Dong / 麦门冬

Ophiopogon tuber works with Asparagus to nourish Yin and clear heat throughout the system. These plants also provide moisture and relieve restlessness.

Stemona

Root

Radix Stemonae / Bai Bu / 百部

Stemona root is a balancing herb in the Chica Chill formula. Stemona is nourishing for the lungs, which in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is the organ that supports Qi and fluid flow throughout the body.

Licorice

Root

Radix Glycyrrhizae / Gan Cao / 甘草

Licorice acts as a unifier, balancing the formula and amplifying the properties of the other herbs.

Zizyphus / Sour Jujube

Seed

Semen Zizyphi Spinosae / Suan Zao Ren / 酸枣仁

Zizyphus seed nourishes the heart and calms the spirit. Zizyphus helps relieve insomnia, irritability, and anxiety.

Ginseng

Root

Radix Ginseng / Ren Shen / 人参

Ginseng root, one of the most famous herbs in Traditional Chinese Medicine, is known for its ability to strengthen Qi and support life vitality. Ginseng nourishes the Heart and calms the spirit, helping reduce anxiety and insomnia.

Acorus / Grassleaf Sweetflag

Rhizome

Rhizoma Acori Tatarinowii / Shi Chang Pu / 石菖蒲

Acorus helps relieve internal heat and is a favorite herb for reducing frequent insomnia.

Eucommia / Chinese Rubber Tree

Bark

Cortex Eucommiae Ulmoidis / Du Zhong / 杜仲

Eucommia bark balances the Chica Chill formula by offering Yang properties. Eucommia is also nourishing for the heart, and has been featured in research in Western medicine for its ability to help lower blood pressure.

Angelica / Dong Quai

Root

Radix Angelicae Sinensis / Dong Quai / 当归

Angelica root is sometimes described as the “female ginseng,” due to its fame for supporting a healthy and regular menstrual cycle. Angelica root strengthens blood and energizes circulation. In Chica Chill, Angelica root balances the herbal formula with its Yang properties.

Biota / Arborvitae

Seed

Semen Platycladi / Bai Zi Ren / 柏子仁

Biota seed benefits memory and promotes restful sleep by nourishing the heart and calming the spirit.

Chinese Asparagus

Tuber

Tuber Asparagi Cochinensis / Tian Men Dong / 天门冬

Asparagus root works with Ophiopogon to nourish Yin and clear heat throughout the system. These plants also provide moisture and relieve restlessness.