Let’s get you on the path to a healthy menstrual cycle with simple herbal remedies for PMS!
All of these suggestions are things that you can do at home, for deeper and more thorough herbal suggestions you need to speak with an herbalist.
Choose the pattern that most fits with your presenting signs and symptoms of PMS, and try that herbal remedy for two to three cycles.
Liver Blood Deficiency
If you tend towards crying and depression, with scantier periods, tiredness, fatigue, dizziness, and poor memory – this is a sign of Liver Blood Deficiency.
Since the Liver controls the smooth flow of Qi and Blood, this means that if there is not enough Blood in the Liver or body-at-large, your period shows as deficient and almost malnourished. I liken this feeling to your body squeezing out every last drop of energy it can muster, leaving you more and more depleted as each month passes.
To alleviate Liver Blood Deficiency symptoms, eat: blackberries, raspberries, mulberries, huckleberries, black currants, dark raisins. Consume liver, spinach, beets, molasses, and goji berries, to name but a few. Drink this simple Liver Blood-Building tea daily. Both Goji and Mulberries affect the Liver, helping the body build Blood per TCM. The berries are sweet, soft, and nourishing. The mint helps to keep your body’s energy flowing, and has the added benefit of being great for Liver Qi. Ginger helps to keep things warm, helping to move the herbs into the body.
Liver Blood-Building Tea:
- 1 tablespoon goji berries
- 1 tablespoon dried mulberries
- 1 tsp mint
- 1 slice ginger
- 1c boiling water
- Pour boiling water over the berries, let steep for 10-15 mins, drink the tea then eat the berries!
- Drink this tea every day.
Deficient Yin (Liver and Kidneys)
Another portion of PMS in relation to depletion is Deficient Yin (specifically of the Liver and Kidneys.) Yin is the moistening, nourishing part of our bodies. Yin provides the lubrication in our joints, and ensures moist skin, nails and hair. Yin cools the body, it is the feminine aspect and is represented as muscle, flesh, blood, fluids, and our organs. Yang, on the other hand, is that which is energetic and warming, it is masculine. Yang is that which moves –bodily functions (such as libido, appetite, digestion)- and is the functional part of the body. Yin is night and the moon, Yang is day and the sun.
If you are Yin Deficient in the Kidneys and Liver, your PMS may manifest as poor memory, dizziness, insomnia (difficulty falling asleep), scanty periods, dry eyes/hair/nails/skin, and irritability. You may even feel hot in your hands, feet and chest but not anywhere else (this is called “five palm heat”.) You may have the tendency to dry stools.
To build your Yin, drink the Liver Blood-Building Tea from above, with the addition of marshmallow root (use 1tsp per cup.) and eat black sesame seeds. Eat nori, seaweeds, oysters, asparagus, string beans, dark berries and cherries.
If your PMS manifests with bloating and water-weight gain, drink an infusion of nettles daily. Nettles is nutritive, being high in minerals, and is beneficial not only to the Kidneys (which control the water in our body) but also to our energy levels as well thanks to those minerals. It is what is called a “nourishing infusion” herb, in that you can take it every day as an infusion. Nettles is diuretic (will make you pee), be forewarned!
- 1oz nettles
- 1 quart of water
- Place nettles in a quart jar
- Pour boiling water over nettles
- Seal jar
- Let infuse for 1-2 hours
- Drink 2 cups or more daily
- You may re-infuse the nettles a second time using the same method as above.
If the nettles infusion alone does not affect the water-weight gain, add 2tsp of dandelion root to the infusion. Dandelion is The Liver herb (or one of at least) so you really cannot go wrong with incorporating dandelion into your tea.
Stagnant Liver Qi
This is the most common type of PMS: emotional instability, moodiness, depression, breast tenderness, and irregular menstruation present with this pattern.
An easy, at-home, preparation to assist your Liver Qi and emotions is to make rose petal paste.
Roses are used in TCM, Ayurveda and Western herbology. In India, rose petals are mixed with sugar, and turned into a paste that becomes Gulkand. Roses are considering cooling to the body in Ayurveda, but in TCM they are considered warming. TCM uses roses to regulate the Qi of the Liver, and finds that roses are specific for premenstrual breast tenderness, menstrual cramps and irregular menstruation in addition to moodiness. Ayurveda uses roses in a similar way to TCM. In Western herbalism, roses are also utilized for their menstrual regulating properties as well as a range of digestive symptoms and as a calming, balancing nervine. Nervines are herbs that affect the nervous system, in rose’s case it is a nervine that relaxes the nervous system thereby calming and centering the individual.
Honey is a Qi tonic (meaning: it builds the Qi of the body), and thus works with the rose petals to both nourish and move the Qi. It is also drying, and is thus beneficial for fluid retention – an oft-maligned symptom of PMS.
Rose Petal Honey Paste for moving Liver Qi:
- Acquire fresh or dried fragrant rose petals, the darker and more fragrant the better (organic, not-sprayed)
- Chop until very fine
- Mix 1 part rose petals with 2-3 parts local raw honey, stir very well – set in a cool, dark place for two weeks. You may add more honey if the mixture seems dry.
- Take 1tsp+ every day. You can spread it on toast, stir into congee, have with tea, put in a smoothie, etc. I really like it stirred into hot milk or tea, or spread on top of homemade rustic bread.
- You can have as much as desired and tolerated, provided you are not pregnant or nursing!
This is also great with a little bit of orange or lemon peel: finely grate 2 teaspoons of lemon or orange peel per pint of rose petal honey, and stir to combine. Citrus peel is a great Qi mover of the Liver! With the combination of the three herbs (roses, honey, citrus peel) you have a tasty and powerful herbal formula that is uplifting to the spirit and great for your Liver Qi Stagnation PMS symptoms.
Stagnant Liver Qi with Heat
For PMS with an increased sense of stress, insomnia (with difficulty staying asleep), frustration, depression, and/or irritability, digestive upset, and headaches, I like lemon balm, mint, chamomile, and burdock as a tea blend. The lemon balm is calming and beneficial for those who are stressed, depressed, and irritable – it is a calmative. Chamomile is a calming nervine, and alleviates feelings of nervousness (including that “butterflies in the stomach” feeling), spasms, indigestion, and menstrual cramps. Mint is cooling, and helps to move stuck Liver Qi. Burdock is a great Liver, blood and lymph cleanser – it is fantastic for Stagnant Liver Qi issues when you feel “hot and bothered”.
Lemon balm, chamomile, and burdock tea:
- 1TB each of lemon balm, mint, chamomile, burdock root
- 1 pint of water
- Place herbs in a quart sized jar
- Pour boiling water over herbs
- Seal jar
- Let infuse for 20-30 mins
- Drink 1 cup twice a day
Note: if you have hypothyroidism or are taking thyroid medications, please speak with an herbalist and your doctor before utilizing lemon balm as lemon balm is best avoided in hypothyroid situations. There are other herbs you can substitute lemon balm with, ask your herbalist which herbs are best for you.
It is important to mention vitex with this discussion of PMS and herbs as is touted as the best herb for PMS. I feel that it is best when recommended and used with supervision alongside a qualified herbalist, because not all PMS is created equal or has the same root cause. Thus, what vitex (or any of the suggestions above) may do and benefit for one person, may prove to not be beneficial for you. Don’t just take vitex (or any other herb) because it worked for someone else!
Choose the most appropriate herbal remedy for your type of PMS, and combine with the discussion of emotional, dietary and lifestyle factors to consider parts two and three. If, after two to three cycles you see no improvement, consult a qualified herbalist. As always, if you can’t take care of it yourself with simple at-home remedies please see your doctor or healthcare practitioner for a medical checkup to rule out anything serious or demanding of medical intervention – working with an herbalist alongside medical doctors is a great way to get truly holistic care.
Next up: strategies for dealing with menstrual cramps! Stay tuned!