This section of the book is from "The Complete Herbalist" by Dr. O. Phelps Brown. Also available from Amazon: The Complete Herbalist: The People Their Own Physicians By The Use Of Nature's Remedies.
Though this is not a disease but a healthy function, but as, from various causes, derangement of the function occurs, it is proper that it should be perfectly understood. Menstruation is the term applied to the phenomenon that attends the rupture of what is called the Graafian follicles of the ovary, and the discharge of an ova, or egg. It is a bloody discharge from the female genitals -- not differing from ordinary blood, excepting that it does not coagulate, and in its peculiar odor. The blood comes from the capillaries of the womb and vagina.
Menophania or the first appearance of the menses, is usually preceded by a discharge of a fluid whitish matter from the vagina, by nervous excitement, and by vague pains and heaviness in the loins and thighs; numbness of the limbs, and swelling and hardness of the breasts. The first appearance is an evidence of capacity for conception. It generally appears about the age of fourteen, but varies from nine to twenty-four years. In warm climates women begin to menstruate earlier, and cease sooner than in temperate regions; in the cold climates the reverse of this holds as a general rule. The manifestations of approaching puberty are seen in the development of breasts, the expansion of the hips, the rounded contour of the body and limbs, appearance of the purely feminine figure, development of the voice, and the child becomes reserved, and exchanges her plays for the pursuits of womanhood.
More or less indisposition and irritability also precede each successive recurrence of the menstrual flux, such as headache, lassitude, uneasiness, pain in back, loins, etc. The periods succeed each other usually about every twenty-eight days, although it may occur every twenty-two, twenty, eighteen, fifteen or thirty-two, thirty-five, and forty days. The most important element is the regularity of the return. In temperate climates each menstrual period ordinarily continues from three to six days, and the quantity lost from four to eight ounces. The menses continue to flow from the period of puberty till the age of forty-five or fifty. At the time of its natural cessation, the flow becomes irregular, and this irregularity is accompanied occasionally with symptoms of dropsy, glandular swelling, etc., constituting the critical period, turn, or change of life; yet it does not appear that mortality is increased by it, as vital statistics show that more men die between forty and fifty than women.
It should be the duty of every mother or female in charge of a child, in whom age or actual manifestations suggest the approach of puberty, to acquaint her with the nature of her visitation, and the importance of her conduct in regard to it. She should be taught that it is perfectly natural to all females at a certain period, and that its arrival necessitates caution on her part with regard to exposure to wet or cold. The author has made the acquaintance of the history of many cases of consumption, and other diseases, which were directly induced by folly and ignorance at the first menstrual flow. The child is often kept in extreme ignorance of the liability of womanhood occurring to her at a certain age, and hence when she observes a flow of blood escaping from a part, the delicacy attached to the locality makes her reticent with regard to inquiry or exposure; she naturally becomes alarmed, and most likely attempts to stanch the flow, with bathing or applying cold water to the part, thus doing incalculable mischief.
This purely feminine physiological function should be well studied and understood by all females. At least they should know that the phenomenon is a natural one, liable to disorder, and that the best interests of their general health demands care and prudence on their part to maintain regularity, etc., of the flow. Disregard of such a duty will surely entail much misery.