Feature Archive

Relief for PMS

Can herbs ease a woman's mood swings and bloating?

WebMD Feature

May 22, 2000 -- As a physician, Mary Hardy, MD, was trained to view herbal medicine with a healthy dose of skepticism. But her patients kept gushing about the remedies they were using for premenstrual syndrome (PMS). "I'd had so many patients come in with dramatic stories," she says. "One woman told me 'these herbs are like magic.' "

So when she herself fell victim to a bad case of PMS, Hardy decided to try the two herbs most commonly used for the problem -- evening primrose oil and chaste tree berry (also known as vitex). To her delight, they eased her symptoms, and when Hardy praised the herbs at a March 2000 conference of the American Pharmaceutical Association, national news reports carried her remarks.

Hardy was more open than many physicians to the idea of herbal remedies; as the medical director of the Cedars-Sinai Integrative Medicine Medical Group in Los Angeles, her clinic melds conventional Western medicine with complementary methods like herbs, osteopathy, and acupuncture. After discovering that herbs relieved her own symptoms, Hardy hit the library to see what researchers had learned.

What she found highlights the dilemma of many women seeking alternative treatments to ease PMS. While self-help books and Internet sites trumpet the power of herbal remedies, there's scant scientific evidence to support the claims.