Seed cycling has recently blown up on the internet across health blogs and social media, but it’s so much more than a hot new trend.
Way back in the day, ancient and indigenous cultures solely relied on using herbs, plants, foods, and essential oils to heal health issues and create balance in the body.
Did they have any other option?
No. Western medicine didn’t exist, so they had to make use of the resources they had.
But just because modern medicine is newer and more advanced than Eastern medicine, does that mean it’s automatically better?
No. I believe that both are great, and both have their own place.
Unfortunately, there’s an increasing trend for medicine to be readily prescribed for various women’s health issues (stress, depression, anxiety, hormonal imbalance, PMS symptoms, painful periods, irregular periods, acne) as if it’s candy. Although these drugs are sometimes effective at treating the symptoms of what’s going on, they fail to get to the root cause of the problem. This means you end up in a never-ending cycle of being on medication but never fully healing.
Seed cycling is an alternative, holistic medicine that favors natural foods (seeds in this case) over pill-popping as a way to regulate and balance a woman’s hormone levels and help promote a healthier, happier menstrual cycle.
So, let’s take a deeper dive into how seed cycling actually works, how to do seed cycling yourself, and the benefits of incorporating these magic little seeds into your diet.
What is seed cycling?
Seed cycling (sometimes also known as seed syncing) is the practice of incorporating specific seeds into your diet—sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and flax seeds—at specific times in your menstrual cycle.
With seed cycling, the spotlight is on two phases of the menstrual cycle: the follicular phase and luteal phase. However, there are actually four main phases to be aware of.
Pumpkin seeds and flax seeds are to be eaten every day during the first half of your cycle (until you ovulate).
Both seeds help boost estrogen levels in the body. Flax seeds contain lignans that bind to excess estrogen to prevent our bodies from producing too much. Meanwhile, pumpkin seeds are naturally high in zinc, which aids progesterone production for the second half of your cycle.
Sesame seeds and sunflower seeds are to be eaten daily for the remainder of the cycle until you start bleeding again.
Both seeds support progesterone production. Sesame seeds are also rich in zinc which boosts progesterone production. They also contain lovely lignans that block excess estrogen during this half of the cycle. Sunflower seeds are high in vitamin E, which can also aid progesterone. In addition, they contain selenium which detoxes the liver of excess estrogen.
Seed cycling is a really simple, gentle practice that requires little effort (you can easily incorporate seeds into your meals in creative ways). It can help balance your hormones, boost your fertility, and soothe menopausal symptoms.
Some women have also reported improvements in the health of their hair, glowing skin, reduced water retention, and even weight loss. These are just some of the many seed cycling benefits women have shared from their own journeys. However, I want to clarify that the purpose of seed cycling is not weight loss!
Regardless of the current health of your menstrual cycle, seed cycling can be practiced by women of all ages, no matter what stage of life they’re in.
Seed cycling for hormone balance
I’ve lost count of the number of women I’ve worked with who have suffered from hormone imbalances. This is because women’s hormones are complex and must be delicately balanced to function optimally. The problem is that many factors can affect our hormones:
- Quality of sleep
- Stress levels
- Environmental toxins (from cosmetics, plastic, detergents, food, etc.)
Other things like the pill can completely throw your hormones out of whack, despite many doctors prescribing birth control to regulate periods or clear up acne.
Seed cycling is a naturopathic remedy (which means it’s 100% natural) that many holistic practitioners encourage women to try as a way to help balance their hormones. It’s usually prescribed along with several other suggestions and practices, which means it’s not a magical cure on its own.
When a woman’s hormone levels are balanced, estrogen will rise during the first half of the cycle and gradually decline during the second half. On the other hand, progesterone levels rise during the second half of your cycle. Seed cycling can help balance the levels of both these vital hormones in your body.
In turn, this can help to treat conditions including PCOS and endometriosis, reduce symptoms of PMS and breast tenderness, ease the transition off birth control, help stimulate menstruation and/or regulate periods and boost your fertility.
Seed cycling for menopause
During menopause, both estrogen and progesterone levels fall, which puts women at increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis. This can also lead to common menopausal symptoms, including mood swings, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and weight gain.
Seed cycling can potentially help to boost your hormone levels.
There is some evidence that suggests seed cycling can be beneficial for menopausal women. One study found that taking a supplement that included flax seed reduced symptoms like mood changes, hot flashes, and headaches.
Flax seed is also linked to reducing the risk of breast cancer in postmenopausal women.
Another study found that ingesting sesame powder daily improved hormone status in postmenopausal women.
Can you seed cycle if you have an irregular period?
The reality is, many women have irregular cycles that don’t follow the regular 29-ish-day cycle.
You’ve got two options.
Option 1: Adjust the length of time that you consume the seed combinations. For example, if your follicular phase lasts three weeks, then continue consuming pumpkin seeds and flax seeds for those weeks until you eventually ovulate.
Option 2: Follow the lunar cycle instead. Her cycle mirrors ours, and each one lasts around 29.5 days. This is not a coincidence. She is the feminine within us all.
If you’re seed cycling using the moon cycle, the follicular phase becomes the period between new moon and full moon, and the luteal phase becomes the period from full moon back to new moon again. During the first half of her cycle, you eat pumpkin and flax seeds, while in the second half, you eat sunflower and sesame seeds.
But how can you tell when you ovulate?
The biggest challenge of seed cycling for most women is they don’t know when they’re ovulating. Usually, this will happen without any physical body sensations or changes (or ones so small they go unnoticed).
So, how can you find out when you’re ovulating?
There are three main ways to do this:
1. Track your period
If you’re not yet tracking your menstrual cycle, I highly recommend that you do. This will help you understand the phases of your cycle on a much deeper level and pinpoint when you ovulate, so you know when to switch seeds. There are many period tracking apps (Natural Cycles, Flow Health, Clue) to choose from. There’s also the option of using the old-school pen and paper method!
I have been using Natural Cycles for four years now, and it has transformed my relationship with my sacred cycle. Plus, it meant I was able to ditch the pill.
2. Monitor your cervical mucus
The Billings Ovulation Method works by observing the natural discharge produced by your cervix each day. Around ovulation, your mucus will be a wet, slippery texture (similar to raw egg whites).
3. Take an LH test
An LH (luteinizing hormone) test is a simple over-the-counter test you can buy in most chemists, drugstores, and online. It’s a simple urine test that can determine when there’s a surge in LH in your body, which is the hormone that rises right before you ovulate.
Each make will work slightly differently, so it’s important to always carefully read the instructions in the box!
Does seed cycling work?
We live in an age where science is valued above all else. This is a reflection of our patriarchal society. Of course, science has its place, but that doesn’t mean we should automatically discount other things like our intuition, spirituality, and ancient wisdom.
When did we decide to blindly “follow the science” and ignore real women’s experiences?
So if you’re here looking for specific studies that prove that seed cycling works, I’m afraid I can’t give you those because this isn’t a practice that has been looked into. In my experience, studies regarding anything to do with the menstrual cycle are limited (*cough* patriarchy *cough*).
However, I can share with you that many naturopathic doctors recommend their patients try alternative approaches like seed cycling to balance hormones. And these doctors have reported that their patients have experienced positive effects. In some cases, women have managed to shift from an irregular to a regular 29-day cycle within months. There are also countless seed cycling success stories on blogs and social media accounts from certified health coaches and wellness junkies who have found seed cycling works for them.
So if you are a woman who has suffered extensively with menstrual health issues, and modern medicine has failed you, what do you have to lose by trying a new approach?
My cycle has always been regular. Occasionally I experience delayed bleeding, but this is always correlated with high levels of stress in my life or a drastic change in diet and exercise. For example, when I did a four-week intensive yoga teacher training course. So I can’t personally speak to the benefits of seed cycling when it comes to regulating your cycle. However, over the past few years, I’ve become more interested in food and nutrition (especially since I’ve become vegan). And what I can tell you is that incorporating seeds like this into your daily diet has numerous health benefits.
Seed rotation: everything you need to know
I briefly mentioned lignans earlier in this article, but what exactly are they?
Lignans are plant compounds that vaguely mimic some of the effects of human estrogen. Estrogen is one of the key hormones that run your menstrual cycle. It has an impact on ovulation, fertility, and menopause. All of the four seeds recommended for seed cycling contain these lignans. They are also high in fatty acids, which help regulate hormone production.
While lignans are found in other fruits and vegetables, you’d have to eat a shed-load of them to come close to the concentration found in these four magic seeds. For example, you’d have to eat a whopping 53 cups of kale to consume the same amount of lignan in two tablespoons of flax seed. YES.
Below, I’ve rounded up some more stats and sources on each of these seeds so you can seed cycle, understanding exactly what you’re putting into your body and why.
A small 1993 study found that a diet supplemented with flax resulted in fewer anovulatory cycles (a menstrual cycle where ovulation doesn’t occur). The average luteal phase of the participants was also longer. Ovulation needs to happen for a woman to get pregnant. A longer luteal phase can be more supportive of early pregnancy, suggesting that flax seed could boost fertility in women.
Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc, and zinc has been found to reduce menstrual cramps and boost blood flow. This is because menstrual cramps are said to be caused by excess prostaglandins, and zinc reportedly reduces the level of these.
Sunflower seeds are naturally rich in vitamin E. One study has supported the belief that vitamin E can increase progesterone levels (which helps maintain early pregnancy) in women struggling to conceive. In addition, vitamin E has been found to be a critical antioxidant when it comes to female reproductive health and fertility.
A study of postmenopausal women found that consuming sesame seeds increased levels of vitamin E throughout their bodies. This also contributed to a decrease in a type of androgen and an increase in sex hormone-binding globulin. In theory, this may reduce health risks for some women during menopause.
Sesame seeds have also been found to reduce inflammation in the body and improve athletic performance and recovery.
So even if seed cycling doesn’t help regulate your menstrual cycle, the seed cycling benefits are clear. These seeds are great for your body.
How to seed cycle
Now you know what seed cycling is and how it works, I’ll give you some simple steps to follow if you want to try it out for yourself.
Phase 1 of seed cycling
Add one to two tablespoons of ground pumpkin seeds and ground flax seeds into your diet every day from the first day of your period until you ovulate. This will be around two weeks (if you have a regular cycle).
Phase 2 of seed cycling
Add one to two tablespoons of ground sunflower seeds and ground sesame seeds into your diet every day from the day you ovulate until the day before your next period starts. This phase should also last around two weeks.
What kind of seeds should I use?
Organic, raw (unroasted and unsalted), ground seeds are best. You can use a coffee grinder or spice grinder to blitz these down, or just throw them into the blender each morning along with the rest of the ingredients for a smoothie. To save time, you can grind these seeds in batches and keep them sealed in bags or glass jars in the fridge or freezer.
If you don’t have a grinder or blender, that’s okay. It’s better to eat the seeds whole than not eat them at all. However, flax seed is the only seed that must be ground because your body can’t absorb it if it’s left whole.
I buy seeds, nuts, flour, and salt from Whole Foods Online (they’re UK-based). Search for what’s available where you live. I would always recommend buying organic where possible. This is because inorganic seeds will have been exposed to more pesticides which can disrupt your hormones. Yes, it’s more expensive, but it’s much better for your body. And if you feel like you can’t splurge on organic, think about where else you can cut back (alcohol, going out, new clothes, vacations, expensive phone contracts, etc.) so that you can.
Creative ways to eat seeds
- Smoothies and smoothie bowls
- In homemade granola
- Added to oatmeal or chia seed pudding
- Sprinkled on toast with some nut butter
- On top of salads, soups, or buddha bowls
- Added into homemade pestos
These seeds can literally be added to almost any plate of food and will instantly make it more nutritious.
A few more seed cycling tips
Remember that seed cycling shouldn’t replace other practices we need to do each day to stay healthy. Your diet is a holistic experience. That means you should also try and eat a nutritious, balanced diet. Move your body daily. Get enough good quality sleep each night. Avoid consuming copious amounts of alcohol, refined sugar, processed food, and caffeine.
It sounds so cliche, but you are what you eat, so eat well. Your body is a temple. Honor it. Cherish it. Nourish it.
Track your seed cycling experience
When you don’t keep a record of something, it’s easy to forget what actually happened. That’s why I recommend you keep a journal of your seed cycling experience. Record all your symptoms (positive and negative) and feelings.
How long does it take for seed cycling to work?
This is not an overnight fix! And the truth is, there’s no such thing when it comes to alternative medicine. Anyone who promises you a miracle cure is usually not being entirely honest.
The general consensus is that the benefits of seed cycling take about 2-3 months to appear. But every woman and every body is completely different, so be patient if you don’t immediately see the results you’re hoping for.
Are you ready to give seed cycling a go?
I hope this article has broken down the practice of seed cycling in a way that makes it accessible for every woman. All that’s left is for you to come into this experience with an open mind and heart. Let go of your need for facts and stats, and lean into your internal wisdom. Trust that nature will provide everything our bodies need to live our most whole, vibrant, adventurous life.
Have you tried seed cycling in the past, and has it worked for you? I’d love to know. Tell me all in the comments below.