Many women have resigned themselves to the monthly emotional and physical roller coaster that their menstrual period brings. Psychological symptoms include weepiness, moodswings, irritability, anger, and depression. Physical symptoms can include bloating, cramping, backaches, breast tenderness, food cravings, headaches, acne, and digestive problems.
Oriental medicine has developed treatment for the many complaints of pre-menstrual syndrome over the past two thousand years. Treatment and prevention involve the use of acupuncture and herbs along with nutritional and lifestyle counseling.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine are based on the theory that life energy, called “Qi” (pronounced “chee”), flows through channels or meridians in the body. When a person is under mental, emotional, or physical stress, the energy, which normally flows freely through the body, begins to stagnate.
This may not sound rational to the modern mind, so it might be helpful to illustrate an obvious example of “Qi Stagnation”. When a person is under stress, their neck and back muscles tense up. This can interfere with nerve stimulation to the arms or legs. The Chinese would consider the person’s neck or back to be “stagnant” while the person’s limbs would be “deficient” (lacking in nervous stimulation).
The buildup of the uterine endometrial lining and the hormonal changes a woman experiences before and during her period are seen as a natural process that is conducive to stagnation, particularly at times of stress in a woman’s life.
Acupuncture and herbal medicine is used to harmonize and free up patterns of stagnation in the body in order to alleviate the many symptoms of pre-menstrual syndrome. This can result in relaxation, stress relief, and mitigation of many of the symptoms of PMS. Symptoms of PMS such as cramps, breast tenderness, backaches, depression, moodswings, constipation, bloating, can all be treated with herbs and acupuncture. Acupuncture has also recently been endorsed by the National Institute of Health for the relief of pre-menstrual pain.
Many of the herbs used for PMS alleviate depression and are phytoestrogenic. They may improve a woman’s natural hormonal functioning. Herbs such as vitex, bupleurum , white peony, and black cohosh are used in Chinese herbal formulas to balance hormones and treat Qi stagnation. Vitex is particularly useful for fibrocystic breasts and for menstrual pain due to endometriosis and fibroids.
As a result of acupuncture and herbs, many Asian women have a much easier “time of the month”, and now women in the West can also benefit from the wisdom of Oriental medicine.