Chinese Herbs For PMS

“Are you on your rags again?”. This is a question that you may have been asked many times by your man. “No,” you protest under your breath gritting your teeth, “I’m feeling pre-menstrual”.

PMS is Before the Period Not During

That’s right, contrary to belief a woman can experience Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS) or Pre-Menstrual Tension (PMT) prior to their period, and is usually relieved within hours of the period starting – thank goodness!

Woman cramping feeling pre-menstrual PMS
Feeling pre-menstrual, tired, down and wired

What is Pre-Menstrual Syndrome (PMS)?

A series of signs and symptoms unique to each woman occurring 7 to 10 days before the onset of the period and is characterised by;

  • nervousness,┬áirritability & emotional instability
  • anxiety, nervousness, anger, crying & depression
  • lack of control & agitation
  • headaches
  • oedema (fluid retention), weight gain & oliguria (reduced urine output)
  • mastalgia (breast fullness and pain)
  • dysmenorrhoea (period pain)
  • lethargy, depression and fatigue
  • constipation, nausea, vomiting & diarrhoea
  • skin, pimples and acne

Causes of PMS

Are not specified. However the pathophysiology of PMS originates from fluctuation in the female hormones oestrogen and progesterones levels. Women will find their PMS to worsen when they are more stressed or burnt out.

PMS is Different for Each Woman

The type and intensity of the symptoms vary from woman to woman and cycle to cycle. Symptoms can last from a few hours to more than 10 days. They usually subside once the period begins.

Picture of woman on chair pink background feeling Pre-menstrual PMS
PMS is different for every woman

Chinese Medicine & PMS

Much research has been conducted with Chinese herbs and acupuncture for PMS. Famous TCM Physician Giovanni Maciocia called it Rebellious Qi of the Chong Man (Vessel of Crossings). In the clinic I see two common cases of PMS;

PMS due to Deficiency: these women tend to have deficient liver and spleen energy, are of a weaker constitution and tend to cry and feel weak and exhausted with their PMS. They tend to have dull pain, such as dull ache on the lower back or abdomen.

PMS due to Excess: this pattern is seen in more robust patients and will get more extreme symptoms such as rib and breast pain, very short and angry with their temper, sharper and stronger pain prior to menses, and don’t get down or depressed, they get angry and pissed off. I once had a patient who would break up with her boyfriend every month prior to her period!

PMS due to Combined Excess & Deficiency: this is more rare and seen in women who display a combination of signs and symptoms of the patterns above. This is a more serious case of PMS and requires longer treatment of Chinese herbs and acupuncture, along with delving into the deeper emotional aspects.

PMS & Emotions

A woman is a deeply emotional and sensitive being and the better she can deal and express her emotions the less PMS she will experience. When a woman is pent up emotionally, sexually or physically this provides great stagnation of her energy with in and is released when the period comes. The period and PMS is a reflection of her month prior to. When women have issues with anything related to the menstrual cycle and attaining to being a woman (i.e. reproductive or feminine) it can be due to not loving or accepting herself as a woman, not being authentic or present in her feminine energy and any relative problems to this. A woman has both a masculine and feminine energy and can express either as she pleases providing it is authentic to her nature.

What about PMDD?

Pre-Menstrual Dyphoric Disorder (PMDD) is where a woman experiences many PMS signs and symptoms to such an intensity that it severely impacts her daily life ranging form school to daily life, work, social relationships and self-esteem. In extreme cases it has driven a woman mad and even to commit murder.

individualised jars of Chinese herbs
Chinese herbs have been used for hundreds of years for Women’s Health

Chinese Herbs for PMS

In Asia, women have taken Chinese herbs for centuries for PMS, health and beauty. Chinese herbs can be very helpful for PMS providing you are taking the right formula specific to your pattern.

Xiao Yao San is a common formula often modified to suit the patients signs and symptoms. It translates as the Free and Happy Wanderer, suggesting that taking the medicine will relax the body and calm their stress and tension, all very relevant to PMS.

Here are some classical herbs used in the formula Xiao Yao San, the first word e.g. Chai Hu pertains to the Chinese Pinyin name of the herb and the herb in brackets e.g. (Radix Bupleurum) relates to the Latin Pharmaceutical Name.

Chai Hu (Radix Bupleurum) – Moves stagnant liver qi, pacifies the liver energy, affects the Shao Yang and can cool fever. Combine with Bo He (mint) to help depression, a stifling sensation in the chest and irregular menstruation (due to liver blood deficiency with stagnation).

Dang Gui (Radix Angelicae Sinensis) – Tonifies the blood, regulates menstruation and moves stagnant blood (i.e. blood stagnation that causes pain). Commonly used with Bai Shao (white peony root) to strengthen the blood and calm the mind (anxiety) due to liver qi stagnation.

Bai Shao (Radix Paeoiae Albae) – Anchors the liver yang, reduces pain, tonifies the blood and regulates menstruation. When used with Chai Hu (bupleurum) it can treat flank pain due to liver qi stagnation.

Bai Zhu (Radix Atractylodis Macrocephalae) – Is a qi tonic and strengthens the spleen to tonify qi. When combined with Fu Ling (Poria Fungus), strengthens the spleen and resolves dampness.

Fu Ling (Poria) – Strengthens the spleen function to harmonise the middle jiao, drains dampness, reduces swelling, promotes urination and transforms phlegm.

Zhi Gan Cao (Radix Glyrrhizae Preparata) – is honey-fried liquorice root which gives it a more townifying and warming property. It is a qi tonic, tonifies the spleen qi, stops pain and harmonises other herbs. When combined with Bai Shao (white peony root) it can ease spasmodic abdominal pain.

Sheng Jiang (Zingiberis Recens) – Is often added to detoxify the formula from any strong or harmful effects of the herbs, we call this harmonising. It prevents rebellious qi from uprising and normalises the flow of qi at the centre.

Bo He (Herba Menta Halocalycis) – Used here because it benefits the liver qi and has a cooling effect given when the liver qi stagnates it creates heat. It has been added here to enhance the Chai Hu (bupleurum) function of dispersing the liver qi.

Your Personalised Chinese Herbal Prescription

You can buy these herbs individually or patented however the best result is always obtained from an experienced practitioner. This is because herbs can be omitted, replaced or added to create a specific formula for your needs. For example for someone who had cold in the stomach and a lot of diarrhoea I would personally replace Sheng Jiang (fresh ginger) with Gan Jiang (dried ginger). For someone who got very angry, hot and irritable I would also add Zhi Zi (gardenia) which clears heat and calms the Shen (mind) along with Mu Dan Pi (peony tree twig) which clears liver fire and moves stagnation. I learnt this from renowned Herbalist Ngaio Richards of House of Fertility and Healing, Sydney.

Ilana Sowter Acupuncture administering acupuncture
Acupuncture can help restore your body to balance for women’s health, PMS, fertility, conception and beyond.

Chinese Herbs and Acupuncture for PMS in Auckland

Ilana Sowter is a renowned practitioner both having treated PMS for over 8 years experience with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs in Auckland. Acupuncture is very effective at moving the stuck energy and allowing you to feel good again before your period.

Call Ilana on 020 4159 8393 or send her an email to for more information.

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