What is PMS?
If you have horrible PMS symptoms every month, you’re not alone. Some women experience severe PMS that makes it hard to work or go to school. Here’s what to know about some natural remedies that might help ease your symptoms.
PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, is a variety of physical and mental symptoms that women get during a menstrual cycle. This usually starts after ovulation and ends once your period starts. It’s not fully known why you get PMS, but it’s thought that it's because your hormone levels fall quickly during this time. These changes may affect your brain chemicals and cause PMS symptoms.
Symptoms of PMS include:
Is PMS normal?
PMS is a very common condition. Three out of four women say they’ve had PMS at some point. Most of the time, PMS symptoms are mild, but some women have severe PMS that interferes with everyday activities.
Your hormones naturally go up and down. This means you might have symptoms as your period starts because it causes your hormones to change. Experts also feel that severe PMS isn’t a sign of disease or other health problems because the symptoms usually go away once the hormone cycle shifts again.
Severe PMS symptoms are likely to be worse if you have other conditions, though. Some conditions might also mimic PMS. These can include:
Herbal treatments for PMS
Treating these underlying conditions can help improve PMS symptoms. Your doctor may give you medications or recommend other treatments. There may be some herbal treatments for PMS that can also help.
Vitex, also called monk’s pepper, is a berry that comes from the plant Vitex agnus-castus. The berries have a variety of compounds, including essential oils, flavonoids, and iridoids, that have a medicinal effect on the body.
Studies show that vitex berry extracts can lower your follicle-stimulating hormone and raise your luteinizing hormone. This causes lower estrogen levels and higher progesterone levels, which can have a calming effect and ease PMS symptoms.
Vitex can also block or lower prolactin levels, which is the hormone responsible for breast fullness and tenderness. Vitex can help ease sore breasts and other PMS symptoms.
Ginkgo biloba, often called ginkgo or maidenhair tree, is a popular herb extracted from the Ginkgo biloba tree. It’s one of the oldest living tree species on earth and has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Ginkgo is mostly claimed to improve memory and brain function, but some studies suggest that ginkgo might help lower the severity of PMS symptoms.
A 2009 randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial gave women ginkgo extract tablets from day 16 of their menstrual cycle to day five of the next cycle. The women who took the ginkgo tablets had a decrease in the severity of PMS symptoms compared to those in the control group.
PMS is linked to low calcium in your diet. Some evidence also suggests that your calcium levels change during your cycle and might be responsible for some of your PMS symptoms.
A 2017 clinical trial showed that calcium supplements helped lower PMS symptoms like bloating, anxiety, and depression. The supplements had the biggest impact on emotional changes and significantly lowered mood changes and sadness.
St. John’s wort
St. John’s wort, species Hypericum perforatum, is an herb that dates back to ancient Greece. Lots of people claim this herb is helpful for mental health disorders like depression. There are lots of studies on St. John’s wort and many show that it might help mild to moderate depression symptoms. Not all studies agree, though.
One study shows that it might help ease PMS symptoms like cramping, irritability, food cravings, and bloating. The study found that symptoms were 50% less severe after taking St. John’s wort.
While people have used herbs for health for years, most aren’t well-studied. It doesn’t mean they don’t help PMS, but it does mean that the evidence and safety isn’t clear.
Not all herbs and supplements are safe for everyone to take. Herbs and minerals can have a medicinal effect on your body, but they can also cause side effects. For example, St. John’s wort can cause sensitivity to sunlight, skin rashes, mental confusion, and worsened infertility.
Some herbs and supplements can interfere with medications and other supplements. These can cause serious side effects like bleeding or blood pressure problems. They also can stop your medication like birth control pills from working properly, which can affect your health.
Before you take any supplements or herbs, talk to your doctor about your health. Then talk to your pharmacist and a trained herbalist about possible interactions and recommendations.
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American Family Physician: "Premenstrual Syndrome."
BJOG: "A pilot study of Hypericum perforatum for the treatment of premenstrual syndrome."
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews: "Vitex agnus castus for premenstrual syndrome."
Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: "A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of Ginkgo biloba L. in treatment of premenstrual syndrome."
Lancet: "Premenstrual syndrome."
Mayo Clinic: "Endometriosis," "Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)."
Merck Manual Consumer Version: "Menstrual Cycle."
Mount Sinai: "St. John's wort."
National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: "Ginkgo."
Obstetrics & Gynecology Science "Effect of calcium on premenstrual syndrome: A double-blind randomized clinical trial."
Office on Women’s Health: "Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)."
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