PMS or premenstrual tension have been experienced by virtually all women at some point in their lives: symptoms may include: mood swings, irritability, craving for junk foods and chocolate, tender breasts, migraines, headaches, spots or breakouts that come out of nowhere, discomfort, and bloating.

Why Do Women Feel Like This During PMS?

During your monthly period, disruptions in the delicate balance of hormones are usually the cause of PMS. Transitioning between the various types of hormones during menses should go smoothly without abrupt swings or changes. Factors such as daily life, foods, and stress can also greatly impact these hormones. It is difficult to get back on track once they’re out of balance.

What Treatments Are Effective?

PMS is pretty much manageable and not a big deal for some women. For others, however, it can significantly lower their quality of life and make them fear their own menses each month. This is where
Chinese herbs and acupuncture can greatly help. Positive changes and hormonal balance are usually evident within just three months with regular Chinese herbal and acupuncture treatments.

Are There Other Options?

There are women who opt for birth control pills to offset the symptoms. The hormones are kept at an even level with the use of pills throughout the period so less changes means less symptoms. However, not everyone can take the pill and it also comes with its own side effects. The birth control pill is obviously contraindicated for women who want to get pregnant.

What is the Chinese Medicine Perspective of Premenstrual Tension?

Stagnation of Liver Qi or Chi is the primary Chinese Medicine diagnosis for women suffering from PMS. In Chinese medicine, the Liver is the organ system controlling the free flow of energy or qi and aids in the stabilization of the emotions. A stagnating or stuck Liver energy can result in emotional and physical problems such as those felt in the days before menstruation. Interestingly, women with PMS usually describe themselves as feeling stuck in their personal or emotional lives.

What Can You Do To Help Yourself?

1. PMS can be treated effectively with herbs and acupuncture
2. To move Liver Qi, peppermint tea can significantly help.
3. Stay away from foods with chemicals or preservatives or those cured with hormones such as dairy and meat. They can disrupt balance of the hormones of the menstrual cycle.
4. Use spices such as thyme, turmeric, spearmint, rosemary, and peppermint that have the ability to move Qi.
5. Eat lots of fiber to give the Liver more strength to clear hormones from the body. Drink lemon juice in warm water when you first wake up in the morning if you’re suffering from constipation.
6. Take B vitamins if you are under too much stress. B vitamins help the body cope with the effects of stress
7. Stop smoking, minimize the drinking of alcohol
8. A Western herb known as red raspberry leaf can help with PMS. Discontinue if you’re pregnant. Red raspberry leaf can be bought in most health food stores. Use it as tea.
9. Vitexagnuscastus- Used for hundreds of years to resolve premenstrual tension.

Danielle DeVivo is a board certified and licensed acupuncturist in Saratoga Springs, NY.