Herbal Remedies for PMS Relief

Dong quai, raspberry leaf and black cohosh are some of the best herbs for PMS relief.

| July/August 2003

Q. I would like information on herbal remedies for PMS relief and menstrual pain. I am especially interested in dong quai, raspberry leaf and black cohosh.

A. Stansbury responds: Premenstrual symptoms may include physical complaints such as uterine cramps, digestive upset, backache, blood vessel congestion, irritability and weepiness. Therapies to best address any or all of these symptoms may differ. Furthermore, the pattern of the PMS symptoms, as well as any accompanying complaints (digestive problems, varicose veins, irregular blood sugar and breast pain or cysts, etc.) can hint at possible underlying imbalances or causes that would be best treated directly.

For example, PMS accompanied by constipation and acne might be best addressed with liver herbs that assist the body in metabolizing hormones—and not with “female” herbs at all. In such cases, dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) or burdock (Arctium lappa) may help.

Symptoms that are mainly mental and emotional would be best treated with nervine herbs and possible progesterone-enhancing botanicals. Black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), ashwaganda (Withania somnifera) and St. John’s wort (Hypericum perforatum) would be good choices.

If menstrual cramps and backaches are the main complaint, herbs that relax spasms and move congested blood—such as dong quai (Angelica sinensis) and cramp bark (Viburnum opulus)—would be among the best herbal choices.

The herbs you asked about are all good choices for menstrual pain. Raspberry leaf (Rubus idaeus) acts as a uterine tonic and may improve uterine pain and heavy bleeding — it’s a folkloric standard for optimizing uterine tone during pregnancy.

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