What Is Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)?

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is characterized by a wide variety of signs and symptoms which may affect women during their reproductive years.  The reasons are not exactly known, but imbalances in hormones and in the brain chemistry are involved. The symptoms can be emotional and behavioral in nature, including irritability, mood fluctuations, depression, food cravings, and/or physical, such as breast tenderness, fatigue, water retention, or pain (in the lower abdomen, lower back, headaches, migraines). The symptoms may appear anywhere from a few days to 10 days before the menses onset and usually subside once the bleeding starts. The appearance of the symptoms is recurrent with every menstrual period and it’s estimated that 75% of menstruating women do experience a form of PMS. The intensity of the symptoms can be from mild to debilitating.  Each woman suffering from PMS will have her unique set of symptoms.

The Traditional Chinese Medicine View Of PMS

Premenstrual Syndrome is a condition that can be treated successfully with traditional Chinese medicine, clinical research trials have consistently shown this. According to Chinese medicine the patterns of disharmony encountered in PMS can be traced to stagnation in the Liver function. The Liver is said to store the blood and regulate the smooth flow of qi. Any disturbance in its function will lead to stagnation and the blood flow which distributes the nutrients and oxygen needed for the optimal function of the organs will be obstructed. Therefore, when the Liver qi flows freely the menstrual cycle will be smooth.

Acupuncture Can Successfully Treat PMS

Acupuncture and moxibustion therapy are highly effective in treating PMS symptoms. Often, relief from symptoms can occur during the treatment. Also of great significance is that treatments can prevent the PMS symptoms from happening altogether. Some points, especially on the Liver channel, can be learned by the patient for self massage to alleviate the symptoms. Acupuncture treatments can relieve acute symptoms quickly, however, chronic cases, when PMS happens over long periods of time and the intensity of the symptoms is severe, will usually require several months of acupuncture. Taking Chinese herbs in parallel with acupuncture will speed up the resolution of the symptoms.

Chinese Herbs Treat PMS Efficiently

Chinese herbs can alleviate PMS and when used in conjunction with acupuncture they can relieve the PMS symptoms successfully. The choice of the herbs will be determined by the specific pattern shown by the patient. For example, a classic herbal formula for liver qi stagnation is Xiao Yao Wan. It is taken daily until bleeding begins, discontinued until menstruation is complete, and then taken daily again. This is a very popular and often prescribed Chinese medicine formula. Since Liver Qi stagnation is expressed as stress, with irritability, nervousness, and depression, this formula is helpful for people, both men and women, experiencing stress.

Dietary Changes Can Help Alleviate PMS

Dietary therapy can help relieve PMS symptoms. Avoiding sweets, which promote inflammation, can help. Alcohol and stimulants, especially coffee, irritate the Liver and may worsen the condition. They heat the Liver and can aggravate the condition. High stress at anytime, but especially around the period time, can imbalance the function of the Liver and should be avoided. Mint/peppermint tea soothes the Liver and can reduce the intensity of the PMS symptoms.