In Depth Healing Strategies for Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
WESTERN INTERPRETATION AND TREATMENT
Until recently, PMS was considered a form of hysteria and often labeled psychosomatic, but studies convincingly demonstrate that the symptoms are caused by deficient progesterone production, most likely due to a “luteal phase defect” involving the corpus luteum. The emotional instability so often associated with PMS is created by relative imbalances in estrogen and progesterone levels. The syndrome tends to intensify with age but resolves with menopause. Western treatments include progesterone therapy (Provera) for general symptoms, diuretics for bloating, painkillers for headaches, tranquilizers for anxiety, and antidepressants or psychotherapy for depression.
FIVE ELEMENT HEALING INTERPRETATION
The Chinese offer two interpretations of PMS, which can occur independently but often coexist:
- Constrained Liver chi creates blockage and stagnation, which leads to symptoms such as irritability, breast pain, headaches, bloating (especially in breasts).
- Deficient Spleen and Kidney chi creates the symptoms of general bloating, chronic depression, fatigue, lassitude, aches and pains throughout the body, and intensified sugar cravings.
PMS also reflects an imbalance in the world around us, in which estrogen comes to us in myriad forms, from dairy, eggs, meat and poultry which have been added to our foods, from chemical additives which break down into harmful synthetic estrogenic molecules, and microwaving in plastic containers which leach estrogen. It has been shown that even excess stress can stimulate extrogen, so it is no wonder that fibroids, PMS and exacerbated menopausal symptoms are so out of control. Acupuncture, herbal remedies and stress reduction work beautifully to balance your hormones.
- Gamma linoleic acid, or GLA has well-documented anti-inflammatory actions and a balancing effect on the immune system. As many researchers and clinicians theorize, arthritis and other autoimmune diseases are caused in part by the body’s inability to manufacture GLA and other essential fatty acids. So this is a particularly important supplement for arthritis patients. GLA is available in oil of evening primrose, borage seed oil, and black currant seed oil. Take 1,500 mg. daily. GLA and omega-3′s work well together and are often found in combined formulas. Whether you take them separately or in one formula, make sure you get 1,500 mg. of each daily.
- Omega-3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid or EPA): These anti-inflammatory agents have general supportive effects on the circulatory system and a specific ability to reduce blood cholesterol levels. Omega-3′s reduce the joint stiffness and soreness caused by rheumatoid arthritis and improve flexibility. They are found in cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, anchovies, sardines, and tuna. Eat two or three servings offish weekly, or take a 1,500-mg. supplement daily.
- Vitamin B6 (100 mg twice daily; always take any single B vitamin with a B-complex 100 vitamin*)
*The B:100 designation indicates that the product contains 100 mg each of the B vitamins. ReColJ1 mended dosage is one tablet per day, or as directed.
- Vitamin E, alpha tocopherol (400 iu/day)
- Magnesium and calcium (Take two units of magnesium for every unit of calcium. Try 500 mg/day of calcium and 1,000 mg/day of magnesium; increase magnesium to 1,500 mg/day with onset of menses until symptoms abate.)
Because PMS is considered a form of stagnation, exercise is essential .to keep the energy and blood flowing. Walk, jog, work out gently on exercise machines at least three times every week. Whenever possible, exercise outdoors as fresh air and natural light appear to reduce the intensity of the symptoms.
- Chasteberry, (Vitex agnus-castus) Chasteberry, also known as monk’s pepper, is a “wise mother” herb, nourishing and supporting the mind/body/spirit and gently restoring balance and harmony to the entire system. Chasteberry is my most cherished ally for women suffering from PMS or women who have difficulty negotiating the transition from summer to late autumn-the menopausal years-and it is also useful for a wide range of other gynecological conditions. The herb’s effects are generally felt only after two or three months of faithful use; one to two years of regular use may be necessary for long-term improvement.
- Common Uses
• Relieves symptoms of PMS, including irritability, depression, headaches, bloating. and cramping
• Relieves menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, night Sweats, depression, anxiety attacks, and flooding, or heavy periods
• Balances and regulates the menstrual flow
• Reduces uterine fibroids
• Helps resolve endometriosis
• Clears up hormonally related acne and other skin problems
• Protects against osteoporosis and reproductive cancers (especially breast and endometrial cancers)
• Induces emotional calm
- Common Uses
- Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), An excellent all-purpose herb, motherwort is particularly effective for menopausal complaints and the tension and discomfort associated with premenstrual syndrome. Its calming (but non-sedating) effects extend to the mind and the spirit, helping to restore emotional balance by relieving tension, anxiety, confusion, and irritability.
- Common Uses
• Relieves and reduces hot flashes
• Reduces cramping with periods (PMS or otherwise)
• Helps to stimulate menstrual flO\v and reinstate regular periods
• Reduces pain and discomfort associated with menstruation
• Thickens and moistens vaginal walls
• Relieves anxiety and irritability
• Promotes a good night’s sleep
• Tones and strengthens heart muscles and blood vessels
• Eases heart palpitations, calms a rapidly beating heart (tachycardia), and reinstates a steady heartbeat
- Common Uses
- False unicorn root (Chamaelirium luteum) This Native American herb has been used for centuries for all manner of gynecological problems, ranging from weak or heavy periods to miscarriage and morning sickness, but its most treasured quality is its ability to promote fertility in both women and men. False unicorn root, also known as helonias root, is an adaptogenic herb, automatically adjusting its actions to the specific needs of the individual.
- Common Uses
• Promotes fertility
• Prevents miscarriage (especially effective when used with black haw)
• Reestablishes menstrual regularity when natural rhythm has been lost
• Relieves chronic pelvic inflammation (especially effective when used with echinacea)
• Relieves symptoms of morning sickness
• Helps establish balance with erratic and heavy periods during the premenopausal and menopausal years
- Common Uses
- Dandelion root, (Taraxacum officinalis) A story is told about a man who tried everything within his power to rid his garden of dandelions. Having exhausted all known possibilities, he appealed to an expert gardener, who gave him this advice: “I suggest you learn to love them.”‘ Once you learn about the astonishing healing powers of this simple weed, you will find it easier to cherish its ubiquitous presence.
One of the richest of all plants in nutritive value and a cornerstone of traditional herbal treatments, dandelion is the archetypical Liver tonic, helping this vital organ system detoxify and cleanse the blood. Dandelion is also highly valued as a nourishing kidney tonic; the French word for dandelion, pissenlit, literally means ‘piss in bed’ a literary testament to dandelion’s dramatic diuretic effects. Dandelion also has numerous gynecological benefits and is particularly helpful for relieving bloating and digestive disturbances associated with PMS or menopause, with the beneficial side effects of increasing energy, supporting digestion, and improving metabolism.
For Specific Symptoms:
- Bloating: Dandelion leaves
- Cystic breasts and breast tenderness: Cleavers (a lymphatic draining herb). Increase vitamin E to 800 iu/day. (Be sure to eliminate all caffeine products.) Also, try a poultice of cabbage leaves to relieve tenderness: soak cabbage leaves in hot water; bruise the leaves to allow the natural oils to escape; place over breasts while still hot; cover with cheesecloth.
- Irritability: St. John’s wort, valerian root, or vervain
- Depression: St. John’s wort or damiana (Turnera diffusa or Damiana aphrodisica)
- Headaches: Common garden sage
COMPLEMENTARY HERBAL FORMULATIONS
(Traditionally, in both Western and Chinese cultures, the combining of herbs is of superior value than the individual parts. After over thirty years as an herbalist, the synergy of certain herbs became apparent and this understanding has been used to create our own Integral Health Apothecary formulas. We are also listing tradition Chinese herbal tonics which exemplify this synergy.)
- Jason originally created Integral Health Apothecary’s Women’s Harmony Formula for supporting women dealing with PMS, as the harmonious blend of Eastern and Western herbs help to promote harmony in their hormonal cycles. Over the years it has proved effective in dealing with ﬁbroids as well. It’s gentle nature helps to promote gynecological health. Herbs are not hormonal in and of themselves but support the body to balance it’s own hormonal machinery, therefore it is important realize that this does not have an immediate effect, and takes up to three months to reach it’s potency. Ingredients: Vitex agnus castus (Chaste tree fruit), Cimicifuga racemosa (Black cohosh), Bupleurum falcatum (Bupleurum root), Peonia latiflora (White peony root), Salvis officials (Sage), Dioscorea villas (Wild yam), Viburnum prunifolium (Black haw), Rubus idaeus (Red raspberry leaf), Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice root), Lavandula officinalis (Lavener)
- Bupleurum and Peony is the most used herbal tonic in Japan, as this resolves what is called ‘stagnant Liver Chi’. In classical Chinese medicine this type of formula was seen as balancing the flow of Qi in cases of stagnation. The practical applications are that it will help restore harmony and balance to the female hormonal systems for woman who experience PMS symptoms, fibroid tumors, irregular cycles, menopausal imbalances, and mood swings. It is also effective for both genders in resolving digestive issues and the swelling and bloating associated and GERD. Ingredients: Bupleurum root, White Peony root, Dong Quai root, Poria sclerotium fungus, White Atractylodes rhizome, Fresh Ginger rhizome, Moutan root bark, Gardenia fruit, Chinese Licorice root and Mentha (bo he) herb. Herbs processed using grain alcohol, vegetable glycerine and water.
CHINESE PATENT REMEDIES
- Woman’s Precious Pills and/or Wu Chi Pai Feng Wan (Black Cock, White Phoenix Pills) for PMS with signs of deficiency (pale, bloated tongue and chronic symptoms such as lethargy and weak pulses)
- Hsiao Yao Wan (Relaxed Wanderer Pills) or Ji Xue Ten Qin Gao Pian (Milletia Reticulata Liquid Extract, excellent for more severe PMS symptoms) for stagnant Liver or stagnant blood signs (red or purplish tongue and more acute symptoms such as stabbing pains, chronic depression, hopelessness)
- Spleen 6,
- Spleen 8,
- Spleen 10,
- Conception Vessel 4,
- Conception Vessel 6,
- Liver 3.
- For mood swings, press Heart 7 and Pericardium 6.
- For sweet cravings or digestive problems, add Stomach 36.
The symptoms might be expressing these questions:
- “How am I blocking my creativity from expressing itself?”
- “How do I prevent myself from receiving warmth and nourishment from others?”
- “I need time and space to rest, reflect, and dream-how am I neglecting to take care of myself?”