Each month, those who menstruate can face a wide variety of challenges. Cramping, fatigue, emotional distress, and irritability can leave us desperately searching for remedies to help. For people who suffer from PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, the most daunting challenge of all is that it happens month after month — meaning it's only a matter of time before symptoms begin again.
At times, PMS symptoms and hormone function are directly related. Estrogen and progesterone are two sex hormones that are vital to the menstruation cycle as well as fertility; think of them as chemical messengers that carry out specific functions in the body. If one hormone isn't functioning properly, it's possible to disrupt the function of others. The menstrual cycle is a feedback system in which the rise and fall of sex hormones are dependent on each other.
Between exercising, dietary changes, and preparing for that "time of the month," what else can we do to transition more smoothly in and out of our cycle? Let's explore three herbal allies that may help relieve discomforts associated with premenstrual syndrome.
Low levels of progesterone have been associated with PMS symptoms. Vitex berry (Vitex agnus-castus), also known as Chasteberry, Chaste tree berry and monk's pepper, is a great ally to combat this. The peppercorn-like fruit of the Vitex berry has an interesting history of being used to suppress sexual desire. It was often placed on the table of monasteries during the Holy Roman Empire for those who practiced celibacy. Little did they know, it actually had quite the opposite effect.
Known as a regulator of menstruation and sexuality, recent studies have shown this fruit supports healthy progesterone levels. When enough progesterone is provided and the feedback system is functioning properly, balanced hormones are achieved. In some cases this may relieve discomforts of PMS, such as bloating, breast tenderness, irritability, and headaches. Commonly taken as a tincture or long infusion, Vitex is aromatic, relaxing, and restorative to the reproductive system.
Perhaps one of the most versatile herbs that has an affinity for many different body systems is Scutellaria lateriflora. Also known as Skullcap, this flowering perennial is a member of the mint family. Scullcap is native to North America and has a strong history of traditional use by Native Americans, especially among the Cherokee. This herb calms the mind and nervous system, making it an effective ally for those who suffer from PMS.
Flavonoids, or plant compounds that regulate cellular activity, may help relieve cramping associated with menstruation. However, Scullcap really shines for its calming actions on the nervous system. The stabilizing and restoring nature of this plant may provide relief from emotional distress during difficult cycles. Commonly taken as a tea or tincture, Scullcap pairs beautifully with Motherwort, Passionflower, and Hops for additional mood support.
Cramping is among one of the most common discomforts of premenstrual syndrome and is often an indicator our period is arriving. Crampbark, or Viburnum opulus, may relax tense reproductive organs to help provide relief. This remedy may be taken at the first signs of an oncoming cycle, even before cramping typically begins. The reproductive tract contains smooth muscle, which is a type of muscle that contracts without any voluntary control. Crampbark's relaxant effect on smooth muscles is especially helpful, as it targets the systems where the cramps are originating. Since smooth muscles help regulate the flow of blood throughout the body, it's imperative they are relaxed and functioning optimally.
Crampbark also contains an active constituent called methyl salicylate, which supports healthy inflammation response. It's important to remember that cramping is often a natural mechanism to protect a vulnerable part of the body, and while this may be painful, remedies like Crampbark can help. Taken in conjunction with magnesium, it is helpful for muscle relaxation, cramping, back pain, and headaches associated with PMS.
Plant Remedies and the Reproductive Tract
Although you may be able to find all of these herbs individually, they're even more effective when combined. You'll find Vitex berry, Scullcap, Crampbark, and more in our WishGarden formulas!
P.M.S. Emotional Mood Support is designed to help soothe cycle-related discomfort with herbs like Vitex berry, Scullcap aerials, Motherwort aerials, Passionflower aerials, Blue Vervain aerials, Burdock root, and St John's Wort aerials that support a healthy liver, mood, and relaxation.
Cramp Release Menses Soother is made specifically to soothe temporary discomforts associated with a normal menstrual cycle. It's formulated with Crampbark, Black Cohosh root, Catnip aerials, Wild Yam root, and Scullcap aerials.
It's easy to feel helpless or out of control as the severity of PMS arrives. The varying symptoms can be a lot to manage on top of everyday life. However, the bond between the reproductive tract and plant remedies is very strong and effective. The herbs that have an affinity for our reproductive organs modulate our symptoms just as naturally as our cycle comes and goes. In addition to seeking the remedies that work for you, it's important to be kind and patient with yourself during this vulnerable time.
Brittney Offenburg (she/her) believes in empowerment through education. She attended the Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism where she studied medical herbalism, and she is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Integrative Healthcare from Metropolitan State University of Denver. She is a customer journey representative at WishGarden Herbs.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.