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.
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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acetaminophen/pamabrom/pyrilamineAcetaminophen/pamabrom/pyrilamine is a combination medication available over the counter (OTC), used for the temporary relief of menstrual symptoms, including cramps, backache, headache, bloating, water-weight gain, minor aches and pains, muscular aches and irritability. Do not take concurrently or within 14 days after treatment with monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI) type of antidepressant medications. Acetaminophen side effects include hives (urticaria), itchy rash, swelling, severe anaphylaxis-like allergic reaction (anaphylactoid reaction), blood disorders, and others. Pamabrom side effects include discolored urine (golden tinted). Pyrilamine side effects include blurred vision, sleepiness (sedation), and dry mouth (xerostomia).
ashwagandhaAshwagandha is an herbal adaptogen used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat various ailments and to improve general physical and mental health, energy, and youthfulness. It has also been shown to improve reaction time in children with ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder). Side effects of ashwagandha with large doses may include stomach upset, diarrhea, vomiting, and liver problems (rare). Do not take if you are on high blood pressure (hypertension) medications. Do not take ashwagandha if you are pregnant because of risk of miscarriage. Avoid use if you are breastfeeding.
false unicorn rootFalse unicorn root is an herbal product used as a traditional medicine by Indigenous Americans, and eventually by Europeans as well, to treat menstrual, gynecological, digestive, urinary, and other disorders. The suggested uses of false unicorn root include the following the absence of menstruation (amenorrhea), painful menstruation (dysmenorrhea), premenstrual syndrome (PMS), ovarian cysts, infertility, repeated miscarriages, morning sickness, menopausal symptoms, and others. Avoid use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Common side effects of false unicorn root include nausea and vomiting.
Ginkgo BilobaGinkgo biloba is a leaf extract used as a dietary supplement with recommended uses such as altitude sickness prevention, reduction of cardiovascular disease risk, cerebral vascular insufficiency, cognitive disorders, dementia, dizziness and vertigo, intermittent claudication, macular degeneration, glaucoma, memory loss, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), sexual dysfunction, and vasodilation. Common side effects of Ginkgo biloba include gastrointestinal upset, nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, headache, weakness, dizziness, vertigo (rare), restlessness, seizures, palpitations, and others.
l-tryptophanL-tryptophan supplements are used as an adjunct to antidepressant therapy to treat depressive disorders. L-tryptophan supplements are also used for many other conditions including anxiety, insomnia, teeth grinding (bruxism), premenstrual syndrome symptoms, and migraine headaches. Common side effects of l-tryptophan include nausea, dry mouth (xerostomia), loss of appetite (anorexia), vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea, rash, hives (urticaria), itching (pruritus), swelling (edema), muscle pain (myalgia), wheezing, dizziness, drowsiness, headache, blurry vision, serotonin syndrome, and sexual disinhibition. Do not take if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Menstrual Cramps and PMS (Premenstrual Syndrome) Treatment
Menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms include abdominal cramping, bloating, a feeling of fullness, abdominal pain, mood swings, anxiety and more. Treatment for menstrual cramps and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms include regular sleep, exercise, smoking cessation, diet changes, and OTC or prescription medication depending on the severity of the condition.
PMS vs. Pregnancy: Differences and SimilaritiesMany women have difficulty figuring out if they are pregnant, have PMS, or are about to start their period. The most common signs and symptoms of early pregnancy, PMS, and the start of your period include mood swings, back pain, increased urination, and tender breasts. These three conditions also share other similar signs and symptoms, but there are unique differences between each. Moreover, there are symptoms that only occur if you are pregnant. Early pregnancy symptoms, PMS, and the start of the menstrual period all have common signs and symptoms like mood swings, back pain, and breast pain. Symptoms and signs between the three conditions that may seem similar, but are slightly different include the following: Pelvic or abdominal cramping before or during your menstrual period is normal; however, the cramping of early pregnancy is mild. If you are pregnant, nausea and vomiting, or morning sickness, is common. They are not common symptoms of PMS. Fatigue is common in both, but PMS usually goes away once your period begins. Food cravings or aversions to certain foods are common in both pregnancy and PMS, but if you are pregnant, the cravings or aversions to foods are more specific and intense. You may have spotting or bleeding if you are pregnant or suffering from PMS. When the embryo inserts itself into the uterus (implantation bleeding), you may mistake it as your menstrual period. However, implantation bleeding is much lighter (not enough to soak a pad or tampon) than the heaving bleeding experienced at the beginning of your period. Signs and symptoms that you may have only if you are pregnant include, implantation cramping and bleeding, a white, milky vaginal discharge, and your areolas or nipples darken. The only way to find out if you are pregnant is with a pregnancy test. Home pregnancy test kits are available without a prescription at pharmacies and most grocery stores. Contact a doctor or other health care professional if you think you may be pregnant.
What Are Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) Symptoms?Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), also known by the name Stein-Leventhal syndrome, is a hormonal problem that causes women to have a variety of symptoms including irregular or no menstrual periods, acne, obesity, and excess hair growth. Treatment of PCOS depends partially on the woman's stage of life and the symptoms of PCOS.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a combination of physical and emotional disturbances that occur after a woman ovulates and ends with menstruation. Common PMS symptoms include; depression, irritability, crying, oversensitivity, and mood swings. For some women, PMS symptoms can be controlled with natural and home remedies, medications, and lifestyle changes such as exercise, nutrition, and a family and friend support system.
PMS SlideshowPremenstrual Syndrome (PMS) can cause from mood swings, munchies, and more. Learn about the symptoms, causes and treatments of PMS.