Natural Remedies for Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Are There Ways to Ease PMS Symptoms Naturally?

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What is PMS?

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) refers to a group of physical and emotional symptoms that some women experience in the week or two before their menstrual period. Symptoms subside when the menstrual period starts and within a couple of days of menstrual flow.

Natural Remedies for PMS

So far, scientific support for the claim that any natural remedy can treat PMS is lacking. Here are some of the more commonly used remedies: 

1) Calcium

Studies suggest that calcium levels are lower in women with PMS and that calcium supplementation may reduce the severity of symptoms. A large study looked at 1057 women with PMS and 1968 women without PMS. Women with the greatest intake of calcium from food sources had the least PMS symptoms.

Another study found that 300 mg of calcium carbonate four times a day significantly reduced bloating, depression, pain, mood swings, and food cravings.

2) Chaste Tree Berry

Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) berry is one of the most popular herbs for premenstrual syndrome in Europe.

A study published in the British Medical Journal involving 178 women with PMS found that chaste tree berry significantly reduced PMS symptoms over three menstrual cycles. Women taking chaste tree had significant improvements in irritability, depression, headaches, and breast tenderness.

The most common side effects of chaste tree berry are nausea, headache, digestive disturbances, menstrual disorders, acne, itching, and skin rashes.

Chaste tree berry should not be taken by pregnant or nursing women. The safety of chaste tree berry in children or people with kidney or liver disease has not been established.

Theoretically, chaste tree berry may interact with hormones or drugs that affect the pituitary gland. For more information on chaste tree berry, read my article Chaste Tree Berry/Vitex: What You Need to Know.

3) Magnesium

The mineral magnesium, found naturally in food and available in supplements, has showing good preliminary results for PMS. One study examined the use of magnesium supplements or placebo in 32 women with PMS. The amount of magnesium used was 360 mg three times a day, starting from day 15 to the start of the menstrual period. Magnesium supplements were found to significantly improve PMS mood changes.

Another study used 200 mg of magnesium or placebo for two menstrual cycles. By the end of the second month, magnesium was found to significantly reduce weight gain, swelling of the hands and legs, breast tenderness, and abdominal bloating.

People with heart or kidney disease should not take magnesium supplements without consulting their doctor. Side effects of excess magnesium can include upset stomach and diarrhea. It can also cause nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, slowed heart rate, deficiencies of other minerals, confusion, coma, and even death.

Magnesium may interact with antibiotics, blood pressure medications, diabetic medications, digoxin, levothyroxine, and tiludronate (an osteoporosis medication) and should only be taken together under medical supervision.

4) Evening Primrose Oil

Evening Primrose oil is a plant oil that contains gamma-linolenic acid, an omega-6 essential fatty acid. Gamma-linolenic acid is involved in the metabolism of hormone-like substances called prostaglandins that regulate pain and inflammation in the body.

A review of seven studies on evening primrose for PMS found that the two most well-designed studies failed to show any beneficial effects for evening primrose.

Find out more about using Evening Primrose Oil.

5) Acupuncture

In traditional Chinese medicine, the liver is the organ most affected by stress, anger, and frustration. Stagnation of liver energy, or "qi", by emotions, alcohol, and spicy and fatty foods can lead to PMS symptoms such as breast tenderness and abdominal bloating and cramping.

Although there is no scientific evidence behind this assessment, acupuncture, exercise, expressing emotions, and breathing exercises are recommended by practitioners to relieve liver stagnation.

6) Dietary Suggestions

  • Reduce sugar and salt intake. This is especially useful for bloating and swelling of the hands and feet, breast tenderness, and dizziness. Increase foods rich in potassium, such as fish, beans, and broccoli.
  • Eat small, frequent meals to help stabilize blood sugar.
  • Eliminate caffeine, which can aggravate anxiety, depression, and breast tenderness.
  • Increase intake of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and fish.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Decrease intake of fatty foods and red meat.

7) Exercise

Regular aerobic exercise such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling may help relieve PMS symptoms. In one study, the frequency but not the intensity of exercise was associated with a decreased PMS symptoms.

8) Relaxation

Breathing exercises, meditation, aromatherapy, and yoga are some natural ways to reduce stress and promote relaxation. Many women feel more assertive and attuned to their needs in the weeks before menses. This can be used constructively by allowing for personal time to relax, expressing emotions, and giving priority to your needs and what nourishes you.

Other Remedies

There are other natural remedies commonly used for PMS, including:

Symptoms

PMS symptoms can range from mild to severe. Symptoms may include:

  • Breast Swelling and Tenderness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Food cravings
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Weight gain from water retention
  • Stomach upset
  • Swelling of the face, hands, ankles
  • Depressed mood
  • Crying spells
  • Anxiety, irritability, anger
  • Trouble falling asleep (insomnia)
  • Appetite changes or food cravings
  • Fatigue

Using Natural Remedies

Due to a lack of supporting research, it's too soon to recommend natural remedies for PMS. Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get tips on using supplements here, but if you're considering the use of alternative medicine, talk with your primary care provider first. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

Sources

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Budeiri D, Li Wan Po A, Dornan JC. Is evening primrose oil of value in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome? Control Clin Trials. 17.1 (1996): 60-68.

Daniele C, Thompson Coon J, Pittler MH, Ernst E. Vitex agnus castus: a systematic review of adverse events. Drug Saf. 28.4 (2005): 319-332.

Facchinetti F, Borella P, Sances G, Fioroni L, Nappi RE, Genazzani AR. Oral magnesium successfully relieves premenstrual mood changes. Obstet Gynecol. 78.2 (1991): 177-181.

Fugh-Berman A, Kronenberg F. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) in reproductive-age women: a review of randomized controlled trials. Reprod Toxicol. 17.2 (2003): 137-152.

Quaranta S, Buscaglia MA, Meroni MG, Colombo E, Cella S. Pilot study of the efficacy and safety of a modified-release magnesium 250mg tablet (sincromag((r))) for the treatment of premenstrual syndrome. Clin Drug Investig. 27.1 (2007): 51-58.

Schellenberg R. Treatment for the premenstrual syndrome with agnus castus fruit extract: prospective, randomised, placebo controlled study. 322.7279 (2001): 134-137.

Walker AF, De Souza MC, Vickers MF, Abeyasekera S, Collins ML, Trinca LA. Magnesium supplementation alleviates premenstrual symptoms of fluid retention. J Womens Health. 7.9 (1998): 1157-1165.

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