PMS Herbal Products
A handful of herbal medicines are typically used to treat PMS, including black cohosh, blue cohosh, wild yam root, chasteberry, and dong quai. These herbal products vary in the symptoms they target and their effectiveness and safety.
Black cohosh (Actaea racemosa), an herb native to North America, is primarily used to treat menopausal symptoms and menstrual problems, including sleep problems, mood disturbances, hot flashes, and painful menstrual cramping. There have been at least eight studies of black cohosh, mostly German, involving up to two thousand women, but they've focused on the herb's use as a menopausal treatment rather than as a treatment for premenstrual syndrome.
Experts aren't entirely sure what makes black cohosh work. Initially, the herb was thought to activate estrogen receptors (in other words, it functioned like an estrogen replacement), but more recent studies in 1999 and 2001 showed that although black cohosh does bind with one subtype of estrogen receptors, it doesn't exactly have an estrogen-like effect.
Black cohosh is considered safe, except for women with a personal or family history of breast cancer. One small study suggested black cohosh may promote the spread of breast cancer cells to other tissues in the body. It also has some side effects, especially gastrointestinal discomfort. Other, less frequent side effects include dizziness, headaches, nausea, and vomiting, usually occurring with higher doses.
Unlike in the United States, where herbal medicines are classified as dietary supplements, in many European and Asian countries, they are tested and marketed as over-the-counter or prescription drugs. In Germany, black cohosh root is approved and sold as a PMS remedy.
There are many brands of black cohosh on the market, German brand, Remifemin, is the most widely used and the studied. The standard dosage for Remifemin is 80 milligrams taken twice daily); however, there's evidence that dose may be just as effective in reducing menopausal symptoms. takes between four to eight weeks to become fully effective.
Blue cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides), not to be confused with black cohosh, is often marketed as a uterine tonic and to regulate the menstrual cycle, ease menstrual cramping, and endometriosis. Blue cohosh contains uterine-contracting substances (Native Americans used it to induce labor), and because it toxic, experts don't recommend it for self-treatment. Alternative names for blue cohosh include yellow ginseng, blue ginseng, root, papoose root, and squaw root.
Wild Yam Root
Wild yam root (Dioscorea villosa) is typically used to treat and arthritis-like symptoms, as well as menstrual irregularity, cramps, infertility, menopause, and endometriosis. The Americans used wild yam root for birth control. Wild yam's PMS remedy stems from the fact that it contains diosgenin, a precursor to progesterone and a substance used to make synthetic steroidal hormones. Diosgenin is thought to help balance progesterone; however, there is no evidence that it actually does so.
Chaste Tree Fruit or Chasteberry
Chaste tree fruit or chasteberry (Vitus agnus-castus) is an herb approved as a PMS remedy in Germany. It is thought to inhibit the secretion of prolactin, an inflammatory substance that causes breast pain and tenderness. In fact, there is clinical evidence that supports the use of chasteberry for cyclical breast tenderness and fullness. A number of studies have also shown that chasteberry reduces bloating, constipation, irritability, depressed mood, anger, and headache.
The formulation used in many studies is sold as Femaprin, by Nature's Way. When the fruit extract is used, the standard dose is 20 to 40 milligrams per day, but much higher doses, up to 1,800 milligrams, have also been used.
Dong quai (Angelica sinensis), sometimes called “female ginseng,” is a root widely used in Chinese medicine to treat gynecological problems, such as painful menstruation and pelvic pain, recovery from childbirth, fatigue, and mild anemia. It is also used to treat high blood pressure, cardiovascular problems, and headache. Scientific evidence is unclear about its effectiveness as a PMS treatment.
Evening Primrose Oil
Evening primrose oil (Oenothera biennis L.) comes from the seeds of the evening primrose plant. It contains an essential fatty acid called gamma-linolenic acid (or GLA), which is thought to be its active ingredient. Some clinical evidence suggests that it offers mild relief for breast tenderness. Many women also use it to relive hot flashes, improve mood, cramping, and night sweats.
However, systemic review of clinical trials comparing evening primrose oil placebos suggested it had no benefit for PMS symptoms. Potential side effects include seizures (for those with seizure disorders or who take evening primrose oil in combination with anesthetics), occasional headaches, abdominal pain, nausea, and loose stools.
Other Herbal Products
St. John's wort, kava, milk thistle, dandelion, and valerian are other herbal medicines sometimes used to treat PMS. Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) is used to treat insomnia and other sleep problems. Milk thistle (Silybum marianum) and dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) are used as diuretics. Kava kava (Piper methysticum) reduces anxiety, and St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum) is used to treat mild depression.
However, some of these herbal products interact with conventional PMS drugs. For example, St. John's wort may interact with SSRIs and oral contraceptive pills, while kava may interact with the antianxiety drug alprazolam, so be sure your doctor you are using them, or talk with your doctor before them.
Where to Get Herbal Products
Herbal products have become so popular that you them in grocery stores, drugstores, and health-food stores. However, health-food stores and specialty retailers, such as GNC, may better selection than your local grocery stores. Frequently, medical practitioners offer products for selection. Unless used herbal products before, avoid buying them on the Internet sheer selection of different dosages and brands can be confusing.
Your best bets are to purchase herbal products where get knowledgeable information, find a good selection, and certain that you're getting what you're being promised. they are not regulated by the FDA, herbal products frequently not actually contain the ingredients or dosages that are promised the label. Consumerlab.com is a company that independently tests herbal products, and you can get their reviews of supplements.