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Independent health store advice on menstrual health

Looking for advice on natural wellbeing? Your local independent health stores can offer a wealth of knowledge and expertise. This issue we speak to Siân Eustace of Healing Harvest in Kinvara, Co Galway

The menstrual cycle is a result of the ebb, flow and dance between three hormones: oestrogen, progesterone and luteinising hormone. For many women, their cycle simply does not match this ideal and they struggle with symptoms at various stages of their life.

Menses typically begins around the age of 12, although anywhere between nine and 16 can be considered normal. Monthly periods usually continue until menopause which, on average, occurs around the age of 51. Periods stop during pregnancy, breastfeeding, sometimes due to illness, eating disorders or with certain contraceptives. For many people, this monthly occurrence comes and goes with no major issues. For others it can be more problematic.


Younger women, or girls with a grown up, coming into the shop to ask for help with symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. PMS can include bloating, cramping, breast tenderness, skin disorders such as acne, and also mood issues such as a lack of confidence, depression, anxiety and irritability.

The particular group of symptoms one person will exhibit depends on whether their system is showing a dominance of oestrogen or progesterone. Depending on which of these is the case, there are a variety of herbal formulations and food supplements that can help to bring things into balance.

Clary sage essential oil can be a great help for menstrual cramps as well as supporting the mood and emotions.

Facial cleansers with tea tree and willow bark can help with infection and pain from hormonal acne.

Herbal teas such as dandelion can help with hormone balancing and fluid retention.

Homeopathy and flower remedies can also be very useful for dealing with these symptoms, though it can be useful to visit a practitioner as remedy selection is tailored to the individual.

Lifestyle changes such as gentle exercise, meditation, yoga, Pilates or t’ai chi can be helpful with the mental health aspects of PMS, and also with many of the physical symptoms. It can be useful to take an iron supplement during your period if you have a heavy flow, or take a multivitamin which includes iron. (A person with haemochromatosis should not take iron).


The menstrual cycle will typically continue on until Perimenopause that begins in the 40s and continues until menopause. Typically, women in their 40s and 50s are looking for help with low mood, irritability or hot flushes and/or night sweats. Other symptoms which may be experienced in this stage of perimenopause are irregular cycle, breast tenderness, vaginal dryness, loss of bone density, mood changes, lack of libido, urinary tract disorders and hot flushes. Similar to the symptoms of PMS, these symptoms reflect an imbalance of oestrogen and progesterone and similar herbal remedies and lifestyle changes can be helpful.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms described here, please call into your local independent health food store where they will be able to advise on the best supports.

What’s What and Who’s Who in Healing Harvest

“I opened Healing Harvest on Valentine’s Day in 2007,” says owner-manager Sian Eustace. “At the time I didn’t have children so I was able to work six days a week. I had some experience from working at a health store in Dublin and had recently qualified as a registered homeopath. Once my children were born I was lucky enough to get help from a number of different staff members over the years. My wonderful team are Deirdre, Melanie and Raissa.

“Healing Harvest is a tiny shop which is jammed with stock. Over the past few years, we have tried hard to expand our offering of locally produced foods. We’re delighted to support small, Irish producers and entrepreneurs.

“We are very much a foodie shop – we have about two-thirds food stock. Our top sellers are Irish organic sourdough bread, Irish raw honey and local organic free range eggs.

“We stock pastas, seaweeds and sushi, ingredients for baking, a selection of prepacks, herbs and spices, gluten-free and vegan products, nut butters, olive oil, dairy-free chocolate, curry pastes and blends. Our fridge and freezer contain many vegetarian and vegan options.

“We stock a wide range of herbal remedies, food supplements and flower remedies. For the latter, we can also advise and make up refillable individual blends to your order. We also carry eco-friendly bodycare and babycare ranges, from shampoos, soaps and body washes to handcrafts, body butters and shaving oil. We stock a broad range of organic cotton or bamboo sanitary products such as pads, tampons and liners, but also toilet paper, biodegradable baby wipes and tissues. We carry a small number of reusable sanitary pads and breast pads.

“We are big into refilling and have three different ranges of refillable goods including laundry liquid, washing up liquid, cleaning products, soap, shampoo and conditioner and shower gel. Refilling works out cheaper than buying a new bottle so it is also an inflation buster.

“Due to price increases as a result of inflation and Brexit, we have been working hard to make our products affordable for as many people as possible. We are offering a range of four to five discounted items on a bi-monthly basis. These can be found on the table at the front of the shop. We have also identified a range of basics and created our Healing Harvest Helps range. We promise to keep as tight a margin on these items as possible. The range includes products such as tea, coffee, flour, jam, oats, rice, pasta, biscuits, shampoo, conditioner and sanitary products.”

“We stock a wide range of supplements and will order in others at our customers’ request. We are active on Facebook and have a loyalty card for customers.”

VISIT: Healing Harvest, Main St, Kinvara, Co Galway, V95 T9E2
SPEAK TO: Owner-manager Siân Eustace (homeopath, nutritional coach), sales assistants Deirdre Bennett (naturopath and horticulturalist), Melanie Bouffard (nutritional coach), Raissa Hogan (a marine biologist who is hugely knowledgeable about herbs, permaculture and raw and plant-based cookery).
CONTACT: 091 637176
OPENING HOURS: Mon-Fri 9.15am-5.45pm, Sat 10am-5.45pm. Closed 1-2pm.

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