Premenstrual syndrome or PMS affects many women and some of the symptoms associated with it are extremely debilitating. There is no known cause according to modern western scientific medicine and hence no effective treatment. Anti Inflammatory medication may be prescribed for pain and sometimes the contraceptive pill is recommended.
There are actually over 150 different symptoms that are used to diagnose PMS and yet other researchers have concluded that with over five decades of research and data analysis, PMS does not actually exist ! Watch here for an interesting Ted talk with Robyn Stein.
There are a handful of common symptoms that many women experience and from the authors personal experience these are bloating, irritability, sore breasts, acne, depression and crying.
The menstrual cycle according to Chinese medicine involves many meridian systems and a number of organ imbalances could contribute to various symptoms presenting themselves before the menstrual cycle.
Liver energy blockage or sometimes called Liver Qi Stagnation in traditional Chinese medicine terms, is a common pathology that leads to symptoms associated with PMS. The liver channel flows through the breast and hence deals with breast distension or painful breasts. In traditional gynecological thinking the liver being an organ that stores a lot of blood plays a role with the blood of the menstrual cycle. For instance, it is said that a hot liver can cause excess bleeding in a menstrual cycle and the treatment might be prescribing a herb mu dan pi to cool the blood or huang qin to cool the liver.
In traditional Chinese medicine there is a saying that any emotion in excess will lead to fire. Heat and fire rises so pent up irritability or frustration can heat up the blood and this heat rises to cause acne around the menstrual cycle. Western medicine might explain this is a result of hormonal changes and try to treat accordingly. Chinese medicine would address the heat which in turn would affect the hormones.
Crying and sadness is part of grief and in Chinese medicine is allocated to organ of the lung. However, the tears themselves are the fluid of the liver and if there has been a history of weeping and loss of tear fluids, herbs such as han lian cao, nu zhen zi and gou qi zi may be required to supplement the deficiency that has resulted from that ongoing state.
Ilana Sowter, an Australian registered Chinese medicine practitioner based in Melbourne has a specialist interest in treating women’s disorders and sees many women with symptoms associated with PMS. We ask her is there a common Chinese herb formula that is used in addressing the symptoms associated with PMS. Ilana says “Firstly, I must stress that there are a number of causes leading to PMS type symptoms and accordingly, there are a number of different formula or herbal combinations that could be prescribed. I can say though however, that a formula called xiao yao san also known as Free Rambling Powder is a common one that I prescribe in my practise but often with modifications to suit the patient’s individual needs”
For a more in-depth article about Xiao Yao San please visit Ilana’s website here.
Chinese herbal medicine is only as good as the diagnosis and a number of herbs comprise a formula and then often modified to address specific symptoms. For example shan zhi zi and mu dan pi may be added to address acne issues.
The authors personal experience has found the herb he huan pi, albizzia bark, an effective herb to be added to a formula or even as a stand alone medicinal to be used to address the symptoms of irritability and depression associated with PMS.
Listen to the author’s radio show where Heiko Lade interviews Ilana Sowter where they discuss Chinese Herbs and PMS on Radio Kidnappers on November 5th 2019.
Kinetic Distributions has the full range of Chinese herbs manufactured by Ko Da Pharmaceutical Co Ltd available for qualified practitioners of Chinese medicine in New Zealand.