Every Friday, we send out a weekly roundup of what’s new on Blood & Milk along with articles you may have missed from the archives. We also include an interview with an inspiring woman, and this week we’re excited to feature Veronica Ricksen. To get the newsletter, sign up here.
Veronica Ricksen is a clinical herbalist specializing in women’s wellness. She has her own practice and also practices out of and teaches at the Berkeley Herbal Center in Berkeley, California.
You created a gorgeous calendar for tracking your cycle, but as we know, tracking is so much more than understanding when you’ll start menstruating. You mention in the description of the calendar that “you’ll understand why the menstrual cycle was once regarded as sacred.” Can you tell us more about that?
Menstrual cycles, along with lunar cycles, were the original keepers of time. The first calendars were sequences of notches carved into bone—dating back to 33,000 BCE—that kept track of time according to the lunar cycle and the days of women’s menstrual cycles. The ancients saw that both cycles were 29 days in nature and that they had phases of fertility and brightness (full moon and ovulation) as well as phases of infertility and darkness (new moon and menstruation). The ancients planned their lives, their crops, and harvests around the brightness of the moon and the seasons. The earliest societies regarded menstruation as a time when women had heightened sensitivities and intuition and could help advise their communities with whatever foresight they received during menstruation.
When women begin tracking their cycles and discover that we continuously cycle through phases just like everything else does in nature, we begin to see ourselves as a part of nature, not separate from it. We begin to understand that time is not linear and neither are we. This gives us the grace to be kind to ourselves no matter what phase or season we find ourselves in. That is sacred.
If you like these topics, check out Mysteries of the Dark Moon by Demetra George and Red Moon by Miranda Gray.
The calendar also provides dietary information for each phase of the cycle—a topic I love but which honestly feels difficult for me to keep track of! Are there any trends for the phases, or key superfoods for each one (so, four total) for beginners who are overwhelmed by a total diet overhaul?
Following diets can and often does lead to more harm/stress than good, especially for women trying to hold up to societal standards of weight, beauty, and now, “eating for your menstrual cycle” that’s currently trending. So even though I offer food and herb suggestions in the Menstrual Calendar Journal, in general, I suggest eating intuitively, and when in doubt, eat what your ancestors ate! Did they eat fish and tropical fruits, or meat and potatoes? Ultimately, eating a well-balanced diet full of healthy fats, carbohydrates, and protein will help support all the phases of the menstrual cycle, eliminate PMS and reduce other menstrual difficulties.
What’s been the most empowering part of cycle tracking for you?
The most empowering part of cycle tracking for me has been taking over the responsibility of my reproductive health and understanding what’s going on in my body and why. Advocating for myself and my reproductive health has also allowed me to do so in other areas of my life, becoming more assertive and confident. However, my personal favorite part of cycle tracking is seeing myself as a part of nature and nature reflecting herself back in me as well.
Do you track on an app, too, or just using pen and paper?
I am a pen and paper gal! When I started tracking in 2015, I wasn’t aware that menstrual/fertility apps existed and I’m glad I didn’t know. Charting by hand helps to learn the intricacies of understanding fertility signs much easier and in more depth. It also allows time to turn inward, if even just for a minute every night to check-in, ground oneself, and take time away from electronics. But to each her own! You have to do what’s most realistic for you and your lifestyle. My advice to anyone who uses fertility apps is to turn off the predictor mode. If you are using an app for pregnancy achievement or avoidance, I highly recommend educating yourself and not depending on an app to tell you whether you are fertile or not.
You recently had a baby (congratulations!)—what holistic care practices have helped you most through pregnancy and new motherhood?
Thank you! Honestly, pregnancy and the initial postpartum really put me through the ringer! I’m sure the pandemic didn’t help with either.
Talking to friends who are going through similar experiences, eating nourishing foods, and enjoying my favorite herbal teas—a tulsi, ginger, and rose combo—are the rituals that keep me grounded. I planted some veggies and flowers a few weeks back and take my son outside first thing when he wakes up so we can see how the plants developed overnight. Small, simple rituals like these help support the adrenal glands, reduce stress hormones, and keep us sane.
Coming out of all that was 2020, many of us are feeling unbalanced; physically, mentally, and/or emotionally. Do you have any wellness practices, remedies, or suggestions for someone looking to find that pre-pandemic balance again?
Adaptogens! Adaptogens are herbs that help people adapt to and fortify their bodies against stress. This includes environmental, physical, emotional, and biological stressors. If you found yourself having a particularly stressful 2020, take an adaptogenic herb consistently for at least 3 months to help bring your body, mind, and spirit back in balance. You can do your own research or work with an herbalist or naturopathic doctor to find the right herb(s) for you.
Thank you, Veronica!