Pre Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) – What it is and How to Minimize It

Pre menstrual syndrome (PMS) affects up to 80% of all women at some time during their reproductive years and can rule some peoples lives. The symptoms are many and varied but all come form hormonal imbalances that can often be corrected through herbs and natural medicines.

The main symptoms include irritability and anger, moodiness, depression, headaches, insomnia, fatigue and/or great bursts of energy, sore, swollen breasts, water retention, food cravings, especially chocolate and carbohydrates, backache and abdominal cramps. Some women are so badly afflicted that they may even become violent. Statistics show that over 75% of women convicted of violent crimes committed them in the week before the menses. This has even bee used as mitigating circumstances in a court of law!

PMS may be mild or severe, lasting a day to two weeks or more. The table below shows the major group of symptoms from more than one category

Pre-Menstrual Syndrome Classification

SUBGROUP SYMPTOMS MECHANISMS PREVALENCE (%)
PMS A Anxiety High oestrogen 65-75%
Irritability Low progesterone
Mood swings
Nervous tension
PMS C Food cravings Low progesterone 25-35%
Headache PGE1
Fatigue
Dizziness
Palpitations
Increased appetite
PMS D Depression Low oestrogen 23-37%
Crying High progesterone
Forgetfulness Elevated aldosterone
Confusion Low thyroid
Insomnia
PMS H Fluid retention Elevated aldosterone 65-72%
Weight gain
Breast tenderness
Abdominal distention
Swollen hands & feet

(Adapted from the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine by Murray and Pizzorno)

Holistic Treatment of PMS

Dietary Treatment of PMS

  • All refined carbohydrates should be limited (sugars, honey, white flour products) and all concentrated carbohydrates should be eaten in moderation (dried fruits, maple syrup, fruit juice etc.)
  • Vegetable protein intake should be increased (legumes and unrefined carbohydrates) as this stabilizes the blood sugar
  • All dairy products should be decreased or avoided due to the high incidence of artificial hormones in the milk fats
  • All animal fats should be decreased because they can disrupt prostaglandin formation, while polyunsaturated vegetable oils should be increased to boost the intake of essential fatty acids.
  • Increase intake of green leafy vegetables to boost fibre intake and promote hormone clearance, but restrict intake of the brassicas (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts) because they cab aggravate hypothyroidism.
  • Use hormone-free, organic meat and chicken, and increase your intake of fish.
  • Restrict salt because it aggravates water retention.
  • Restrict alcohol, coffee, tea, chocolate and cocoa because they al stress the adrenal glands and impair energy production.

Supplements to use for PMS:

To strengthen and support the nervous system

  • Vitamin B6 100 mg./day (up to 300 mg./day in the week before period).
  • Vitamin B complex 50 mg./day

To regulate prostaglandin formation

  • Vitamin E 200-400 iu./day
  • Evening Primrose oil 300-600 mg. Twice a day
  • Lipotropic factors (Choline & L-methionine) 1 gram of each/day
  • To balance blood sugar and reduce cravings, especially for chocolate
  • Magnesium aspartate 200-500 mg./day

Lifestyle Support for PMS

  • Exercise regularly to help with stress reduction and weight control. Excess body fat can interfere with the metabolism.
  • Expose your eyes and body to sunlight on a regular basis to help regulate the functions of the pineal gland which controls all the cyclical processes of the body.
  • Ensure that you get plenty of rest. Oestrogen and progesterone are broken down in the liver into molecules suitable for elimination from the body. This organ is under parasympathetic nervous control which means that liver function is enhanced when the body is in a state of rest. Adequate rest ensures that hormones do not accumulate in your body and cause imbalance.

Herbal Treatment of PMS

Hormonal balances and normalizers

Vitex agnus-castus (Chaste berry) works on the pituitary gland (the master gland) to regulate all hormone production in the body, Chamaelirium luteum (False Unicorn root) and Anemone pulsatilla (Pasque flower) are ovarian tonics and regulators. Achillea millefolium (Yarrow) may also be used to normalize the cycles.

Oestrogen support

Caulophyllum thalictroides (Blue cohosh), Cimicifuga racemosa (Black cohosh), Trifolium pratense (Red clover)and Salvia officinalis (Sage) all contain chemical precursors of oestrogen that the body may use to support and enhance its own natural hormone supply. Angelica sinensis (Dong quai) may be used in this way also, although, interestingly it contains no actual hormone precursors.

Progesterone support

Only one herb is currently known to do this – Dioscorea villosa (Wild yam), the Mexican plant originally used to manufacture the contraceptive pill. It appears to act by potentiating the action of endogenous progesterone and does not actually raise the serum levels.

Uterine tonics

General support for the entire female reproductive system is provided by Leonorus cardiaca (Motherwort), Mitchella repens (Partridge berry) and Lamium album (White dead nettle). Probably the best known female tonic herb is Rubus ideaus (Red raspberry), which is gentle yet effective to impart strength and regularity to all parts of the reproductive system.

Anti-depressants and tonic nervines

Several herbs may be useful here, including Scutalleria lateriflora (Skullcap), Hypericum perforatum (St.John’s wort), Valeriana officinalis (Valerian) and Verbena officinalis (Blue vervain). These can provide both relaxation and nervous energy so that fatigue and lethargy are reduced while calm is maintained.

Diuretics

To aid in the elimination of unwanted hormones from the body, liver function can be gently enhanced by using bitter herbs such as Arctium lappa (Burdock), Taraxacum off. radix (Dandelion root), Gentiana lutea (Gentian) or Iris versicolor (Blue flag). Several herbs used in other categories are also useful as liver tonics e.g. Verbena off. (Blue vervain), Achillea millefolium (Yarrow) and Leonurus cardiaca (Motherwort).

PMS is a very real problem to very many women. It is possible, however, to find significant relief form adopting some of the measures outlined above. Any of them may be helpful, and the more severe the PMS the more impressive will be the results. It is important to remember that natural remedies seek to rebalance and normalize the bodily functions and this may take some time to become apparent and effective, especially where cyclical processes are being affected. Allow at least 6 months to go by before judging the results of your PMS remedies.

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