HERBAL TREATMENT OF PMS.
Allopathic medicinal treatments for premenstrual syndrome (PMS) usually include the oral contraceptive pill (OCP), antidepressants, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and other pain killers, diuretics, progesterone and GnRH analogues; which can significantly reduce the amount of hormones produced in the ovaries.
Some main symptoms experienced in PMS include:
As there are different types of PMS such as PMS-D (depression), PMS-A (Anxiety), PMS-C (carbohydrate craving), PMS-H (hyper hydration) and the more severe Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD); there can be different herbal remedies that may be warranted.
INDICATED HERBS AND THEIR ACTIONS.
Which form of PMS is it suited for?
Vitex agnus castus
Vitex has the ability to bind to dopamine receptors, which therefore inhibits the release of prolactin and corrects a progesterone deficiency; therefore reducing breast pain experienced in PMS (Wuttke et al, 2003). Due to Vitex’s ability to reduce prolactin levels, it can also enhance corpus luteum development and modulates the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian (HPO) axis to also correct irregular menstruation (Hoffman, 2003, p.595).
All other forms of PMS
White Peony may be useful in PMS associated pain and abdominal distension due to its ability to inhibit twitch responses of skeletal muscle, and has anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting TNF-a and IL-1B (Bone, 2003, p459; He & Dai, 2011); therefore reducing stimulation of nociceptive receptors (pain receptors) and reducing muscular pains and cramps experienced in PMS. White Peony is also a cognition enhancer, which may also be beneficial in PMS during times of poor concentration and memory (Bone, 2003, p.458).
All other forms of PMS
One of the active constituents of St John’s Wort (hyperforin) inhibits the reuptake of feel-good neurotransmitters Serotonin and Dopamine, as well as noradrenaline, GABA and L-glutamate; which allows them to illicit a greater response/increasing their action in the body (Klemow, Bartlow & Crawford, 2011). Therefore, as the mechanism behind mood changes experienced in PMS is due to a relative serotonin deficiency, for which St John’s Wort can be effective in improving (Yonkers, O’Brien & Eriksson, 2008). Symptoms of a serotonin deficiency can also be craving carbohydrates, as carbohydrates support the delivery of the serotonin precursor, tryptophan to the brain (Richard et al, 2009).
Cramp bark can be useful in PMS due to its uterine relaxant and antispasmodic activity (Dietz et al, 2016), studies on human uterine tissue have also shown a relaxant effect (Jarboe, Zirvi, Nicholson & Schmidt, 1967). It may also be effective in inflammation and pain associated with PMS due to its ability to inhibit inflammatory metabolites such as TNF-a, NFkB, IL-6 and IL-8 and decreasing the stimulation of nociceptive receptors (Finn & Walsh, 2013). Cramp bark may also be effective in PMS-A due to its mildy sedative and hypotensive effects (Bone, 2003, p.164).
All forms of PMS
Dandelion is a well-known herb used for its diuretic actions, however it also has an affinity for the liver, and actions as a bitter (Hoffman, 2003, p.587). As stress and sympathetic nervous system activation can alter hormones via HPA/HPO axis stimulation & enhancing PMS symptoms, Dandelion may be effective in reducing this effect due to it’s ability to enhance parasympathetic nervous system activity via stimulation of the vagus nerve (Howland, 2014). Furthermore, as Dandelion’s diuretic action increases urinary output, it can be useful in fluid retention experienced in PMS (Hechtman, 2012, p.779). As it’s also a hepatic, it may also help support the liver in clearing excess hormones (Hoffman, 2003, p.587).
Withania/Ashwaganda is a well-known adaptogenic herb that exerts its action via modulation of the HPA axis, down regulating cortisol production, and therefore improving the stress response, which can be heightened in PMS patients (Hechtman, 2012, p.779). Due to the down regulation of cortisol, this herb may also be effective in allowing proper synthesis of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA, which is down regulated in anxiety; as well as enhancing serotonin synthesis (Kumar et al, 2013).
Withania can also modulate the HPO axis, regulating the menstrual cycle and modulating oestrogen, progesterone luteinising hormone and follicle stimulating hormone (Toufexis et al, 2014).
If you're experiencing any of the above listed symptoms, and cannot seem to find any relief; why not try a more natural (and very effective) approach, using herbal and nutritional medicine?
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