Aphrodisiacs are substances which are believed to enhance sexual desire and improve the quality of sexual experience. Most of them work by alleviating physiological or psychological disorders which may be interfering with sexual pleasure or by supplying the body with nutrients essential for sexual health. Squaw vine is one such herb which has long been used in traditional medicine for promoting reproductive health among women and in the process, boosting the female libido.
About squaw vine
Squaw vine refers to the dried plant of Mitchella repens which is native to the woodlands of central and eastern United States. Belonging to the Rubiaceae family of plants, Squaw vine is also known as partridge berry, deer berry, winter clover and checker berry. It has green leaves, white flowers, and red berries. The parts of the plant used for medicinal purposes are harvested during the summer.
Squaw vine as an aphrodisiac
The key to squaw vine’s aphrodisiacal properties for women lies in its beneficial effect on the female reproductive system. The herb has been used for ages by Native American tribes for strengthening the uterus and treating various types of menstrual disorders. Studies have shown that the major components in squaw vine are saponins and mucilage which is why it is probably advised for painful periods and to prepare the uterus for childbirth. Unspecified alkaloids, glycosides and tannins have been reported among other components whose effects are still largely unknown. Traditionally squaw vine has been used by women of Cherokee and Penobscot tribes for bringing about an easy childbirth and thereafter a quick recuperation of the uterus. The herb is generally taken in the last four weeks of pregnancy to tone the muscles of the uterus, stimulate uterine contractions and post-delivery, expel the afterbirth. Crushed berries of the plant mixed with myrrh are sometimes used to make a paste for sore nipples among breastfeeding women. Other than this, squaw vine is also a popular remedy for menstrual irregularities. Conditions like painful and irregular menstruation as well as a body weakened by childbirth prevent women from experiencing sexual pleasure. By treating such disorders, herbs like squaw vine heal the body and enable women to have healthy sex.
Yet another way in which squaw vine is believed to promote healthy sexual function is by its antiseptic action. Certain compounds in squaw vine are thought to kill harmful microbes which is why the herb may be useful in treating vaginal infections and even certain types of sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea. Infections of the genito-urinary tract also interfere with sexual pleasure and anything which is effective in treating them can be considered to act as an aphrodisiac.
Squaw vine is also useful in treating a range of gastro-intestinal disorders like diarrhea and colitis. This is because of the mucilage present in the herb allows a protective coating on the walls of the intestine. The same action makes squaw vine effective in the treatment of stomach and peptic ulcers. According to some sources the astringent properties of the herb also make it useful for treating digestive disorders.
As a mild diuretic, Squaw Vine is thought to promote suppressed urine and is also said to be effective in some cases of dropsy (edema), which is the retention of fluid by the body that causes swelling and discomfort.
Using squaw vine
For medicinal purposes the aerial parts of the plant, like the vines, leaves and berries are used in herbal preparations. In the natural state, Squaw vine can be taken in the form of tea or a herbal infusion. To make this pour a cup of boiling water onto l teaspoonful of the herb and let infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day. Squaw vine works best in combination with other herbs. As parturient to prepare for childbirth it may be used with Raspberry Leaves. For dysmenorrhoea squaw vine can be combined with Cramp Bark and Pasque Flower.
Other than this squaw vine can also be taken in the form of extract which is available in capsules, tinctures and liquid extracts. For tincture, the usual dosage is l-2 ml three times a day and as capsules two of 600 mg each may be taken every day. One teaspoonful of liquid extract may be taken three times a day. For external application, squaw vine may be crushed with myrrh and applied on sore breasts among lactating women.
The possible side effects of using squaw vine
Ingestion of squaw vine or its extracts may lead to mild side effects like heartburn and irritation of the gastro-intestinal tract and at times may even bring about irritation in mucous membranes. In rare cases, hepato-toxicity many occur brought on by overdose or excessive use.
Since use of squaw vine may lead to uterine contractions among women it should be avoided till the last month of pregnancy. Also people having a history of liver conditions should use squaw vine with extreme caution. Since the safety of the herb has still not been extensively studied, it should be used only under the supervision of a healthcare provider.
Native American tribes of North America were among the first people to recognize the beneficial effects of squaw vine which is probably how the herb got its name and another common term, the Squaw berry. With the arrival of the English colonizers in the seventeenth century, the larger world became aware of the herb and even among the settlers, squaw vine was used as a remedy for menstrual problems and an aid to childbirth. The vine was in fact included in the United States National Formulary from 1926 through 1947. Even though the medicinal claims of squaw vine have not been confirmed by modern science, it continues to be popular in North America as a herbal supplement for uterine health and even as an aid to women opting for homebirth. This beneficial action of squaw vine on the reproductive system of women makes it a useful aid in promoting female sexual health and pleasure.