Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is extremely common among women, however the effects are different for each individual. Symptoms typically start around three to eight days before the beginning of the menstrual cycle and go away once bleeding begins.
Some common PMS symptoms are mood swings, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, trouble sleeping, diarrhea, headache, acne flareups, and breast pain. While for some women it is manageable, others have severe and disruptive experiences. The following herbs have been used since ancient times to relieve PMS symptoms and promote wellness of the body and mind.
1. Vitex Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus)
This shrub, found in the foothills of Asia and the coast of Mediterranean Sea, has been used for centuries for its varied medicinal properties, especially those related sexual health and hormonal balance. Researchers believe that the Vitex plant can regulate the body's levels of prolactin, a hormone that is directly linked to estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone regulation.
Different studies have shown that chasteberry is linked to a statistically significant improvement in breast pain, also known as cyclic mastalgia, one of the most common symptoms of PMS. Research has also found that women report improvement in other symptoms such as irritability, depression, and headaches.
2. Maca (Lepidium meyenii)
Maca is great for hormonal imbalance during PMS because its alkaloids can both raise your energy levels and restore balance to the endocrine system. As a result, maca consumption can effectively reduce mood swings, relieve headaches, lower the incidence of acne flareups, boost libido, and solve many other minor ailments related to PMS. There is no wonder why people have been using this medicinal root in Peru for hundreds of years.
3. Flax (Linum usitatissimum)
Both flaxseed and flax oil are great for female health. Their high phytoestrogen content can help regulate the hormonal processes that occur right before menstruation, and their omega-3 fatty acids will help preserve brain functions, such as concentration, allowing the mind to function at its best. Studies have shown that 25 grams of flaxseed daily can reduce breast pain, bloating, constipation, and depression during the five days before menstruation.
4. Celery (Apium graveolens)
Celery has been found to slightly reduce blood pressure and to regulate stress hormones. It also has a high fiber content, so it will help regulate digestion and prevent any stomach discomfort during the premenstrual phase. In addition, it alleviates stress, which tends to build up right before your period, and it promotes a feeling of ease instead. Do not underestimate this water-dense vegetable, since it is celebrated for its healing properties.
5. Soy (Glycine max)
Soy is another herb that is dense in phytoestrogens, which are known to balance mood and other PMS symptoms. These isoflavones can be found in soy supplements, edamame, tofu, tempeh, miso, and other soy products (such as soymilk). The availability and praise has increased more and more throughout the years as the extensive benefits are studied.
6. Black Cohosh (Actaea racemosa)
Black cohosh has been used to treat "female maladies" for centuries by Native Americans. Not only can it reduce PMS symptoms like anxiety, irritability, mood swings, and cramps, it can also alleviate menopause symptoms. These include hot flashes, night sweats, and vaginal dryness.
7. Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis)
This Japanese root is believed to act as a blood purifier, and women have celebrated for millennia its ability to soothe symptoms of both menopause and PMS, such as pelvic pain, constipation, hot flashes, and bloating. These amazing properties are believed to be caused by its high phytoestrogen content. Unfortunately, modern research has yet to validate many of these claims.
8. Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
Ginseng is all around great for enhanced mental functioning. Its active compounds are the unique ginsenosides, and are believed to improve thinking and memory, as well as lift mood. Some studied have found a relationship between ginsenoside consumption and diminished symptoms of depression, as well as more efficient digestive function.
These eight herbs can be accessed easily at your local specialty store or a wide array of online markets. Make sure that you are getting a quality product, as many will claim to contain the herb, but sometimes the content is minimal.
NYU Langone Medical Center. (2013). Chasteberry. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=21649
NYU Langone Medical Center. (2013). Maca. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=104590
National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. (2012). Soy. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from http://nccam.nih.gov/health/soy
National Institutes of Health. (2013). Flaxseed. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/991.html
University of Maryland Medical Center. (2013). Black Cohosh. Retrieved March 19, 2014, from https://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/black-cohosh