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