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Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine in the treatment of Premenstrual Syndrome

February 11, 2014


Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) refers to a wide range of symptoms occurring about a week before the onset of menses. Symptoms include mood swings, depression, irritability, anxiety, headache, insomnia, craving for sweets, fatigue, abdominal distention, breast tenderness and swelling, back soreness and pain, edema, feeling of cold, etc.Generally speaking, a woman with a perfectly balanced and harmonized body would not feel much difference in physical or emotion before menstruation. If you experience certain symptoms before menstruation, it means that your body has some imbalance. These imbalances, from the perspective of Chinese medicine, are generally related to blocked meridians, qi and blood stagnation, and weakness of internal organs. The most relevant organs are the liver, spleen, kidney, and heart.

Let’s briefly talk about the those four organs’ physiological functions according to traditional Chinese medicine, and their relationships with PMS.

The liver has a dispersive capacity, which means it is able to regulate the flow of qi. This function promotes blood circulation, fluid metabolism, digestion, emotional balance, and a woman’s menstrual cycle. In other words, if your liver’s dispersive function is normal, your energy should flow smoothly without obstruction. This helps blood circulation, fluid metabolism, and digestion. The emotional state will be happy and the menstrual cycle regular. Therefore, before menstruation, the symptoms of mood swings, depression, irritability, anxiety, breast tenderness and swelling, and water retention are related to dysfunction of the liver. The liver also has the function of storing the blood and regulating the volume of the blood. Some women have trouble falling asleep before menstruation. This usually indicates a deficiency of the liver blood or heart blood.

The spleen governs transportation and transformation, and controls the blood flowing within the vessels. Transformation and transportation refer to promoting digestion and absorption, the transport of nutrients, and water metabolism. The spleen also governs the lower abdomen, so that bloating and water retention are also related to deficiency of the spleen. Some women also crave for sweets before menstruation. Since the spleen is associated with the sweet taste, this craving for sweets often indicates imbalance and deficiency of the spleen. Also, some women bleed for well over five days. The flow seems unstoppable. We call this symptoms metrostaxis, which means a slight but continuous uterine hemorrhage. This is related to a dysfunction of the liver, which stores the blood, and the spleen, which controls the blood flowing within the vessels. I have recently treated one woman with this symptom. I used one base formula called “Jiaoai Soup” from the classical Chinese medicine book of Jin Gui Yao Lue, and added some herbs based on her own current physical condition and constitution. The problem was resolved in a quite short period of time

The kidneys are viewed as the origin of life. They control the growth and development of the body. They are also responsible for reproduction, water metabolism, the reception of energy through breathing, and they producing marrow, which is traditionally said to make up the brain and manufacturing blood. The kidneys’ yang energy also warms up the surrounding organs. The kidneys are located in lumbar region. Therefore, before menstruation, symptoms of fatigue, anxiety, soreness and pain in the lower back, water retention and feeling cold are mostly related to deficiency of the kidneys and blockage of the meridians.

Finally, we need to talk about the function of the heart. The heart governs the blood and is in charge of mental activities. A lot of women with PMS have constitutionally cold hands and feet. In other words, these women have a deficiency of kidney and heart yang. Therefore, before menstruation, symptoms of feeling cold and having trouble falling asleep are mostly related to a weakness of heart yang energy and a deficiency of heart blood.

Early on in my practice, I have used acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to help to tune up a lot of female patients’ physical constitution. Clinically, treating their problems begins by doing a diagnosis based on their signs and symptoms. With a correct diagnosis, effective treatment is very likely. If a patient does not have a serious disharmony of heat versus cold or yin versus yang requiring immediate attention, I will usually ask her to come twice a month for acupuncture treatments, and take four to six packs of raw herbs before, during and after menstruation cycle . If they follow the treatment course and my dietary guidelines, improvement will be seen within the first month of treatment. After three to four months of regular treatments and tune ups, most of the PMS symptoms will disappear. Their physical constitution will be greatly improved. This kind of tune up also promotes health in general, builds a good foundation of body self-healing capability and prevents a lot of future illnesses.

Written By Sophia Tang


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