Herbal solutions for PMS
Last month I was teaching about menstrual cycle awareness and women’s health at a yoga
retreat run by a friend of mine.
Almost every woman in the class suffered from PMS in some way, and they were all asking the
same questions: Is this normal? And if not, what can I do about it?
Get in tune with your cycle
To some extent, feeling ratty, moody and sensitive is a completely normal response to the
fluctuations of the hormones oestrogen and progesterone in the week running up to
In fact, each stage of the menstrual cycle has specific characteristics in terms of how it makes us feel.
Up until ovulation, we feel full of energy, bursting with confidence - we learn new things quickly and come up with amazing ideas.
After ovulation we head into the ‘PMS’ week, and with the period comes a few days of introspection, withdrawal and reflection (1). By embracing this full spectrum of female creative energies, and anticipating and planning
properly for each stage, we can start to shrug off some of the guilt, self - pity and embarrassment that comes with being a woman in a consistent, goal - driven, male-oriented society.
As one of the biggest contributors to PMS is stress, accepting yourself as a cyclical being may be all you need to get your symptoms under control. But what if that’s not enough?
When PMS is a problem
When the body becomes over - sensitive to the fluctuation of hormones, or when there is too little
or too much of a particular hormone in circulation, PMS can be a problem.
Take progesterone - this ‘happy’ hormone connects with GABA receptors in the brain and has a soothing, calming action. It’s also anti-inflammatory and boosts thyroid function. Progesterone is produced in the ovaries by the ‘corpus luteum’ , so the only way to make sure you’re getting enough is to have a strong, healthy, natural ovulation.
Magnesium, vitamin B6, zinc and selenium are essential here, as is making sure your thyroid and blood sugar are in balance.
Herbs that increase progesterone are white peony root, lady’s mantle and Vitex agnus castus.
Vitex has been widely studied for its benefits in PMS, but it should only be prescribed by a
qualified herbalist as its action is specific and not everyone will benefit (2).
What about oestrogen?
PMS can also be a response to an excess of oestrogen in the body. Our modern environments full of plastic and pesticides are very ‘oestrogenic’, and things like antibiotics, alcohol and dairy products increase oestrogen by damaging gut and liver function and promoting inflammation.
‘Cleaning up’ your diet and home is a great place to start, along with gentle liver herbs like
dandelion root and artichoke to support detoxification.
One herb I use a lot in my practice to reduce oestrogen excess and boost female fertility is Angelica sinensis.
It contains weak phyto-oestrogens that sit on receptors and block the action of stronger oestrogens (3).
The take-home message? You’re not alone! But you don’t have to live with severe PMS symptoms. All of it can be avoided simply by taking a few basic steps towards holistic hormonal health.
1.Miranda Grey (2009) The Optimized Woman: Using Your Menstrua l Cycle to Achieve Success and Fulfillment. O Books. UK
2. van Die MD, Burger HG, Teede HJ, Bone KM (2013) Vitex agnus-castus extracts for female reproductive disorders: a systematic review of clinical trials. Planta Med. 79(7):562 -75.
3. Ruth Trickey (2011) Women, Hormones & the Menstrual Cycle. Trickey Enterprises. Australia
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