Ladies. It’s that time of the month. Aunt Flo has come to pay you a visit, and she couldn’t have picked a more inconvenient time.
The stuff has just hit the fan, big time. Grocery and convenience stores have been picked clean, the roads are blocked with abandoned cars, and a mandatory curfew has you confined to your home against your will. Not to mention, it isn’t exactly safe to be venturing out to town at this particular moment.
Your stash of disposable hygiene products is quickly dwindling. What am I going to do when my supply runs out? You wonder. You think back to your history textbooks, trying to recollect any mention of what the pioneer women might have used for menstruation. What the heck did they use? Leaves? Corn husks? Strips of leather? You begin to feel desperate as you consider the embarrassment this could lead to if you don’t think of something soon.
If you’ve never considered having reusable backups to your monthly menses needs, now would be a good time to formulate a plan, while you still have time for options. Sure, worst case scenario you could pack your panties with leaves and hope they stay in place, but who really wants to go that route? Yeah. Me neither.
Historically, women from all across the globe have been able to maintain sanitation and dignity through creative means long before Playtex hit the scene. For the sake of time I won’t go over the irrelevant (although interesting) contraptions which have been replaced in modern society with much more comfortable means. But I would like to share some really great products and DIY alternatives to disposable sanitary supplies which you could use over and over again without need of replacing for quite some time.
Reusable Sanitary Options
For ages, women living near the sea have been using natural sea sponges as washable tampons. Due to an increase in oceanic pollutants, there are rising health issues associated with using sea sponges harvested from contaminated areas. However, there are companies today who are raising sea sponges for exactly this purpose in a controlled and clean environment in order to ensure a safe and natural alternative to tampons.
Washable Cloth Pads
Ancient Romans used soft cloth for menstrual pads (and tampons). In the 1900s, American women used the same cotton cloth that diapers were made from as sanitary pads as well. Linen has also been used through the years.
When disposable pads and tampons became available, more and more women switched to using these over the washable versions. However, as more information about the dangers of the chemicals that are used in these products has come to the forefront women are gradually shifting back toward using cloth pads, not only for health reasons but also for the environmental and monetary benefits of reusables.
You can buy cloth sanitary pads online. There are also plenty of tutorials on YouTube on how to sew your own. Although I have personally purchased several cloth pads to use on a regular basis, I’ve also kept a stash of my children’s baby receiving blankets and old towels to make more cloth pads as needed.
In the 1930s, a group of midwives patented the first menstrual cup. With disposable alternatives available, these cups never grew in popularity. In recent years however, menstrual cups have made a comeback as more women are looking for sustainable, safer alternatives to tampons.
I have a Diva Cup that I’ve been using for about a year now. Initially I purchased it just to have a backup to disposables for emergencies. However, after getting into the habit of using it I much prefer it to tampons. Without going into TMI, I would definitely recommend it as a SHTF alternative to tampons. Buy several if you have a lot of women in your family or group.
I’ve seen some really creative women make washable tampons using rolled organic cloth or even crocheting or knitting organic fibers. Be sure not to use synthetic materials that could cause a reaction within your body. And don’t use water-repellant materials such as wool which will cause leaking.
What if you find yourself in the wilderness without time to prepare for that time of the month? Native American women would have used plant based materials, such as moss or inner bark shavings of Cedar, for sanitation needs. They wove plant fibers, or used animal hair to make pads.
Soft Shredded Cedar
You wouldn’t think that bark would be very comfortable to wear, but when worked properly it can be surprisingly soft, and has been used for clothing for thousands of years.
Although I’ve yet to try it myself, here is some information I found on how to soften the inner bark of Cedar trees:
Material: The inner bark of both the western red cedar and Alaska yellow cedar is used in weaving. Cedar bark is harvested from the trees by removing only a small strip of bark from a tree, so the tree can easily heal and continue to grow. For weaving, as soon as the bark is removed form the tree, the inner and outer bark are separated. The inner bark is then dried and stored in a dry place for later use. No part of the tree is wasted.
Preparation: The two types of cedar bark are best suited for different uses, and require different preparation. If using western red cedar bark for diapers, towels or clothing, beat the dry bark with a blade-type beater, placing the bark over the sharp edge of a board. As you beat the red cedar bark, move the bark over the sharp board edge, making the bends every 1/8 of an inch.
For yellow cedar, soak the bark for five to seven days, and then beat the bark with either a hard wood or bone bark beater on a hard surface (such as a flat rock). Yellow cedar bark is better suited for making clothing; it beats much finer (heavy thread size), and does not break or come apart like red cedar bark.
Traditionally, bark was harvested in spring and sometimes fall. Once the inner bark was softened in this manner, Native American women would further soften bark fibers by twisting them, ruffling them between their two hands, or “thigh rolling” where they roll the fibers with one hand on the thigh. The end result was very pliable and soft fibers perfect for weaving.
Wooly Lamb’s Ear has super soft leaves and would make another really nice padding for menstruation. If you have gauze on hand you could use it to fashion a sanitary pad stuffed with leaves.
Slow or Stop Menstruation With Herbs
Another way to reduce your need for sanitary products is to slow your menstrual flow or even possibly stop it with herbs. This practice isn’t recommended on a regular basis, but would be helpful to know in an emergency.
The following is intended for informational purposes only, and is not meant to be medical advice. Please do your own research into these herbs before trying them.
- A tea of Angelica root is an old Chinese herbal remedy said to regulate female hormones and has been used to stop menstruation.
- Raspberry Leaf tea helps ease abdominal cramping due to menstruation and may reduce the length of your period. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil, then remove from heat. Add 8-10 raspberry leaves, and cover. Allow to steep for 5 minutes, then strain and sweeten with honey, if desired.
- Garden Sage tea can slow heavy menstrual bleeding. Boil 2 cups of water with 4-5 leaves of sage for 10-15 minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey.
- A tea made from the root of Bitter Dock is said to reduce menstrual flow.
- Lady’s Mantle is another herb known to stop menstruation naturally. Mix 1 teaspoon of Lady’s Mantle in a cup of water. Let the mixture boil for a few minutes. Steep and cool the tea. Add honey if desired. Or mix Lady’s Mantle with Raspberry leaves and lemon balm for a nice blend.
“Taken regularly for a period of several months has been proven to reduce or stop menstrual flow completely in women. The recommended dose of this herb is 20 to 30 drops of extract taken at least thrice a day for 3 weeks prior to expected date of period.” ~Source
- Shepherd’s Purse has strong anti-hemorrhagic properties. When Garden Sage and Lady’s Mantle don’t prove to be strong enough, Shepherd’s purse is a good next choice to stop heavy menstrual bleeding. Gather a handful of fresh Shepherd’s Purse leaves and cover them in a pot of water. Bring to a simmer, and reduce liquid by half. Strain off leaves and drink.
- A tea of dried or fresh Comfrey leaves can be taken regularly with a little honey to reduce or stop periods completely.
Easing Menstrual Pain Naturally
I never experienced menstrual cramping until after the birth of my fourth child. Holy moly it hurt like heck! Many women rely upon Ibuprofen or other drugs to help ease the pains of their monthly cycle, but there are some very potent ways to relieve the discomfort naturally.
Raspberry leaf to is my go-to for easing menstrual cramps. One nice, hot cup of tea and the pain almost instantly vanishes. A hot water bottle applied to the abdomen is also very soothing. Essential oils give amazing results as well. Lavender, Clary Sage, and Marjoram essential oils rubbed over the abdomen have been shown to ease pain and cramping. I strongly advice that you store a good supply of top quality 100% pure therapeutic grade essential oils in your medicinal preps. They never expire and have countless uses.
Circumstances Play A Role
When our body senses that it is going into a “fight or flight” mode, it can do some pretty interesting things. One common effect of stress or lots of exercise is irregular or missed periods. Malnourishment also alters your menstrual cycle, reducing the number of periods you have or stopping them altogether. In an emergency situation, you may find that your periods are much lighter or that you skip them altogether.
Whatever the circumstances are, it’s always a good idea to have some reusable backups in place to deal with menstruation as it occurs.
Like it or not, that time of the month is coming. Will you be prepared when the SHTF?