Can Chinese Medicine Treat PMS?

Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) refers to a wide range of symptoms that begin before a woman’s period, such as breast tenderness, mood swings and bowel changes. From a Western perspective the cause is unknown, and treatment is either via antidepressants or the oral contraceptive pill, neither of which address the cause of the problem.

Chinese medicine has its own explanation: the Liver is the organ which stores the body’s blood, and particularly the blood that supplies the uterus in menstruation. As this blood builds up in the lower body prior to the onset of menstruation, it leaves the Liver relatively blood deficient, and since Liver is the organ that also is meant to help qi circulate, this deficiency of blood means that the Liver cannot do its job as well as usual. In short, qi backs up and becomes blocked, causing all the symptoms of qi blockage such as bad temper, sore swollen breasts, abdominal bloating and so on.

The treatment is to tonify Liver blood while smoothing the flow of qi, which brings this back into balance. A traditional formula for doing this has the whimsical name of Free and Easy Wandering Powder, or Xiao Yao San in pinyin. This formula was first published in the Song dynasty text Formulary of the Pharmacy Service for Benefitting the People in the Taiping Era, compiled between 1078 and 1107AD. A modern English textbook of Chinese medicine formulas still lists forty formulas from that Song dynasty text which are used regularly.

Acupuncture and herbal medicine allow us to treat PMS at the root of the problem, giving relief to physical and emotional symptoms. Treatment is tailored to the patient’s unique presentation, with the acupuncture points and herbal scripts changing as the symptoms change. Once a harmonious flow of qi and blood is established, treatment has been successful and the patient can be discharged without further need for treatment. [see research]

There is also evidence concerning Chinese medicine and depression.