Did Hildegard Have Hot Flashes? (And a Giveaway)



 A post by writer Joyce Ray:

Hildegard of Bingen, the 12th century’s strongest female voice, saint and Doctor of the Church, knew her herbs and also her gems. In her medical and scientific books, she wrote about how to use them to treat women’s health issues.

You might think Hildegard’s knowledge of women’s sexuality was limited since she was a monastic. Oddly enough, Hildegard had a lot to say about women’s sexuality, even to the point of writing the first description of the female orgasm. Yes, you can Google it!

In the 12th century, monastic medicine was the primary form of health care. Women sought consultation for their ailments, and with Hildegard, found a concern for the whole person more than the illness. With a holistic approach, Hildegard treated patients by advocating a balanced diet, lifestyle changes and herbal remedies. Of course, she prayed, too.

In her medical book Causes and Cures, she prescribed an herb-infused oil to encourage a late period.

A young girl whose menstrual periods fail to come at the right time should put roses, and one-sixth as much white dock, in oil, and vigorously and often rub her groin, navel, and hips with that oil. The menses will be moved and loosened.”

From conception to birth, Hildegard offered advice based on her observations and knowledge of the women she treated.

She predicted the personality of children conceived under certain weather conditions.

There are also persons who were conceived by the waning moon and under the turbulence of changing air currents. Some of them are always sad and have a restless character.”

Interestingly, she neglected to offer advice on the most auspicious times to conceive!

Her advice for protection during childbirth in her scientific book Physica shows that Hildegard believed in the healing properties of stones:

When a woman brings forth an infant from the time she gives birth through all the days of its infancy, she should keep a jasper in her hand. Malign spirits of the air will be much less able to harm her or the child.”

Hildegard doesn’t mention hot flashes. She wouldn’t have had access to North American black cohosh, although she was familiar with St. John’s wort, which she thought was good only for animal fodder.

Concerning menopause, Hildegard wrote:

The menses cease in women from the fiftieth year and sometimes in certain ones from the sixtieth when the uterus begins to be enfolded and to contract, so that they are no longer able to conceive.”

Today there is a resurgence of interest in Hildegard’s medicine. New studies are showing that some of her herbal remedies are sound medicine.

The sisters at the Monastery of St. Gertrude in Idaho write about Hildegard’s use of specific herbs at

Giveaway! Joyce is offering an autographed copy of her young adult novel, Feathers and Trumpets: A Story of Hildegard of Bingen, to a Friend for the Ride reader. For a chance to win, please enter a comment (at the very bottom of the post) by June 2 saying that you’d like to be the winner. Thanks, Joyce!

Joy Reading from Hildegarde

Joyce Ray’s debut early YA novel, Feathers and Trumpets, A Story of Hildegard of Bingen (Apprentice Shop Books, March, 2014), is an intriguing look at this dynamic woman of the Middle Ages.

Along with Andrea Murphy and other contributors, Joyce co-authored a new title in the America’s Notable Women Series – Women of the Pine Tree State, 25 Maine Women You Should Know. Her work-in-progress is a result of her research in Nepal last summer.

Joyce is a graduate of the Vermont College of Fine Arts’ Writing for Children and Young Adults Program. She lives in Maine and New Hampshire, writes poetry, leads workshops, and reviews books on her blog Musings at  Joy‘s author website is


29 thoughts on “Did Hildegard Have Hot Flashes? (And a Giveaway)”

  1. Thanks for this most interesting post! I am impressed that a woman of that time period was able to make such a mark. She must have been exceptionally intelligent. Thank you for bringing her to 21st century readers!


  2. Being a Mom of a Naturopathic Doctor I am totally intrigued by Hildegard, and would like to learn more about her.
    Thank you Joyce, I would love to win your book!


  3. I am very intrigued by her. I have always loved and used herbal and alternative medicine. Thank you for this post and i would love to win your book!!


  4. St. Hildegard is my patron saint…I first loved her music and now her teaching as well. I would love to read this new book on her life.


  5. Thanks, Barbara, for inviting me to be a guest blogger. Hildegard has a wide reach! Good luck to all who post comments for a chance to win a copy of Feathers & Trumpets.


  6. As you already know Joyce, I have ordered and read your “Women of the Pine Tree State” and thoroughly enjoyed the enlightenment being a native Maine girl too. I now look forward to learning much more about St.Hildegard of Bingen. The comments written above have me totally intrigued what my childhood next-door neighbor friend has to teach me about her.

    I will be buying a copy regardless, but to be chosen to have an autographed copy from you Joyce would be much more meaningful. Congrats again Joyce! Jeannine


  7. Congratulations, Joyce. I would love to win an autographed copy of your book. It sounds so intriguing to read how women dealt with their bodies in the 12th century.


    1. Hi Ginny! Yes, those long-ago women faced the same physical challenges we face and used available resources to help. Hildegard was a tour de force in her time. Remember how Bob and I raced up the hill to Vespers at the monastery when we stopped in Rudesheim?


  8. Lydia Pinkham from here en Lynn was famous for her cures, based on herbal medicine, certainly a descendant by interest and skill of Hildregard. I’d love to know more about her.


    1. Hi,Irene! I remember your awesome portrayal of Lydia Pinkham at Vermont College. Thanks for commenting here.


  9. I’m eager to read your book, Joyce. My book store in Cambridge doesn’t seem to be able to get it so I will get a copy from Amazon. Never the less I’d like to win an autographed copy too. May your sales go wildly well.


    1. Feathers & Trumpets is distributed by Baker and Taylor, through Apprentice Shop Books directly or through Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Of course, there’s the possibility of winning a copy here, thanks to Barbara Younger! Thank you for commenting here and for your interest in Hildegard. I’m wanting to read your book, too!


  10. Thank you Joyce for introducing me to Hildegard way back at VCFA, and thank you for carrying this book from concept to publication! I can’t wait to read it! If I don’t win a copy here, you can be sure I will buy one!


    1. Annie, a colleague at VCFA convinced me that my 800 word article on Hildegard was worthy of a book. Thanks for visiting Barbara’s blog and commenting.


  11. Hi Joyce, Would love to win an autographed copy of your book, but I plan to buy a copy anyway and have you sign it the next time we’re in Dunbarton. So happy to hear about both of your books.


  12. Wonderful and fascinating Joyce. Since I have a strong interest and must rely on natural remedies, and also share her faith in God, this is inspiring. Being a fellow writer I wish u great success!


    1. Hildegard’s herbal knowledge and her faith seemed to work together. Thank you for commenting. Hildegard was a writer, too, so she understood in multiple ways this journey that we’re on.


Comment on this post

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s