If you’ve heard about seed cycling for better hormones, but don’t yet know how to get started, this article is for you! Hormonal balancing for women is important for deep wellness, and seed cycling can be an easy and affordable first step towards happier hormones.
Why Seed Cycling?
Many years ago I was suffering with recurrent monthly yeast infections: I’d get my period, then two weeks later a yeast infection, then two weeks after that, my next period. It was pretty dispiriting – and yet it was one of the most instructive points in my life. This was how I found natural medicine (acupuncture and naturopathic medicine), after using convention medicine and doctors for years that couldn’t help me. And in this time I also found an intentionality with my monthly cycle that I’d never experienced. If you’re interested in learn more about natural yeast infection protocols, I encourage you to please read the very detailed article linked here. In that article I briefly touched on a key healing protocol that I learned during that time: seed cycling.
I was given this protocol almost 20 years ago from Dr. Karen Tan, the naturopathic doctor and acupuncturist that finally helped me heal my body from the persistent infections, and for that I’m forever grateful. In the almost two decades since, I’ve revisited this protocol a few times, and I’ve recently reintegrated the seed cycling protocol in a more concerted effort. Why did I decide to integrate now? I’m generally healthy, active, and balanced (hormonally, emotionally, and digestively). However, I want to do as many things as possible to ensure that I am in the best possible health – so adding seed cycling back into your diet is a way to ensure that I support my hormones as best as possible.
There is a lot to learn about our sacred cycles and how to better manage them while living increasingly busy lives. Seed cycling is an opportunity to pay special attention to our monthly moon cycle, tune into the needs of our body, and create a deeper focus for this essential part of female health.
As a woman with a cycle you likely are very familiar with the ways hormones can change your digestion, your energy, your moods, sex drive, and well, nearly everything else! So it should not surprise you to know that supporting your hormones can also help support the rest of your body. I’m very happy to see that hormonal health is finally getting some attention – Well + Good even said that 2019 is the year we finally get serious about our hormones.
What is Seed Cycling?
So how can we ensure good hormone health and a more balanced menstrual cycle with seeds?
Seed cycling is an easy protocol to follow, and since it uses only seeds – which can be purchased for relatively cheap – it’s a great first step to begin healing work for your hormones. If you are feeling dramatic hormonal shifts, pain, mood swings or other serious issues, there might be bigger stuff happening, so please see a holistic health care practitioner. However, if you’re in good health (and not pregnant), seed cycling is a great way to get more serious about your health.
Seed cycling is eating a collection of raw seeds at different stages of your cycle: pumpkin + flax during the first part (from menstruation start to two weeks, the follicular phase) and sunflower + sesame in the second half (the luteal phase).
Why do seeds help with hormones? Herbal Academy explains it succinctly: “Seeds carry certain oils, vitamins, and nutrients that can help support the body’s production, release, and metabolism of hormones.” Basically, different plant components bind with different hormones, and can help balance the hormones when too abundant or lacking.
Rather than dive deep into how exactly seed cycling works, I leave it to those that have already covered it in much greater detail: The Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine, Herbal Academy and The Chalkboard Mag have great explanations of why the phytoestrogens and essential fatty acids in these little seeds can have great benefits to our own estrogen and progesterone cycles.
How to Start the Seed Cycling Protocol?
I asked Dr. Tan to explain how to get started with seed cycling:
If you have a regular menstrual cycle (between 28-30 days): starting from Day 1 (the start of your period) until Day 14 of your cycle eat 1 Tablespoon of each flax seeds and pumpkin seeds. On Day 15 until the start of your next menstruation, eat 1 Tablespoon of each sunflower and sesame seeds.
If you have an irregular menstrual cycle or no menstruation: eat 1 Tablespoon of each flax seeds and pumpkin seeds from the new moon until the full moon; on the full moon, switch to 1 Tablespoon of each sunflower and sesame seeds. Check the moon phases on a tide calendar or astrological chart to see how your cycle lines up. Fun fact: my period starts every month on the new moon, so I can predict my cycle easily and accurately.
It’s very important to use only fresh, raw seeds for the seed cycling. When cooked or roasted, the Essential Fatty Acids (part of the magic that helps our cycle) will be cooked; this doesn’t mean that you can’t eat them, just that you should also be sure to eat the raw seeds as the supplement in addition to anything else you eat. Seeds for cycling should be ground fresh (a coffee grinder, blender, or spice grinder is best for this).
Ideally, grind the seeds fresh each day, but if you don’t have time for that, grind up just enough for a week and store in fridge or freezer. Do not use pre-ground flax meal, as it will be oxidized and not offer much benefit. Grinding is important, especially for the sesame and flax, as these will pass through the digestive tract whole without being digested. It’s also important to note that you can choose either golden or brown flax seeds.
Another important note is that if you are trying to regulate your cycle, Dr. Tan says it’s best to avoid other seeds during the off weeks (ie: avoid pumpkin and flax seeds during your sunflower and sesame week, and vice versa).
What is the Best Way to Eat all those Seeds?
Yes, you can eat your seeds by the spoonful each day. Scoop out one Tablespoon measure of each seed and chew them up over a few bites. You can also just swallow them, but, it’s better to chew slightly. They do get stuck in your teeth, so not recommended right before bedtime. Below I’ve listed some more creative ways to get your daily dose of these important seeds into your daily diet:
1. Put seeds on everything!
I sprinkle the ground seeds atop salads, stirred into grains like rice or quinoa, served atop my chia pudding, and you could blend into smoothies too. As you’re using only raw seeds they are really soft and blend nicely into softer foods (like oatmeal and such).
2. Eat your seeds with nut butter
Dip your spoon in your favorite nut butter (peanut, almond, etc), then dip it into your seeds, gathering about 1 teaspoon onto your spoon. Do this three times to get the full recommended Tablespoon of seeds. This makes it a little more like a snack, and it’s easier to eat with some nut butter to blend the flavor and texture.
3. Make Seed Cycling Energy Balls
Energy balls are really versatile: choose your favorite nuts and seeds, blend with some oil and dates, and done. These are great snacks any time of the day: a quick snack before yoga, a semi-sweet dessert, or for those afternoon hunger pangs. See my recipe below for phase-specific seed cycle recipes.
4. Seed Cycling No-Bake Granola
An easy, gluten-free granola (‘rawnola?) recipe made with oats, nuts, and all the seeds you’ll need. Follow this recipe for No-Bake Granola, substituting the almonds and pumpkin seeds for a combination that fits your cycle (pumpkin + flax or sunflower + sesame). Sprinkle this yummy gluten-free granola atop yogurt, served with your favorite plant-milk, and just out of hand.
5. Seed Milks
Plant-based milks can be made from basically anything, so why not choose seeds that align with your cycle? Here are some great recipes for seed milks: sesame seed milk, pumpkin seed milk, sunflower seed milk, and flax seed milk.
Recipe for Seed Cycling Energy Balls
This recipe uses maca, a great supplement that can also help hormones (and tastes amazing). If you are not interested in maca, you can easily substitute cacao/cocoa, or just leave it out entirely for delish nutty cinnamon date balls.
½ cup almonds, walnuts, or other nut
½ cup pumpkin seeds (or sunflower seeds)
¼ cup ground flaxseeds (or sesame seeds in combination with sunflower)
3 Tablespoons maca powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup Medjool dates, pitted
1-2 Tablespoons coconut oil (more as needed)
- Add nuts, whole seeds, ground seeds, and salt into food processor. Blend until very fine- much like the texture of sand.
- Add in the remaining ingredients, starting with just one Tablespoon of the oil. Blend again, until mixture begins to thicken and stick together inside the processor.
- Check the texture by pinching a bit between your fingers; if it is slightly sticky and keeps its shape, it is ready! Add 1 Tablespoons more coconut oil if mixture is too dry.
- Scoop out into a bowl and then shape with your hands into balls (or press into a pan to flatten). Sprinkle the balls with cacao powder or maca for extra love. Keep in the fridge or freezer.
Yield: About 15, one-inch energy balls
Image credits: recipe images from author; sunflower image from Cathal Mac an Bheatha and pumpkin seed background image by chuttersnap on Unsplash; bowl of sesame image and flax from Pezibear on PixaBay; sunflower seeds in bowl from Pexels