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PMS: How to Manage it Naturally

That nagging, monthly headache, backache, and bite-your-head-off responses to those around you. I know you just want to shut the world out or self-medicate with a pan of brownies or raw cookie dough. Believe me, I’ve been there! I also want you to know that this is NOT NORMAL and can be relieved and even eliminated over time using essential oils, herbs, and dietary changes.

PMS, or premenstrual syndrome, encompasses a group of symptoms that often affect women in the days prior to and up to the beginning of their menstrual flow. It can have an effect on women who are just starting their menarche, usually during adolescent years, and symptoms can continue until menopause. PMS typically affects women between their 20's and 40's most significantly.

Symptoms of PMS include emotional distress, mood changes, depression, aggression, anxiety, stress, and mental state alteration. Physical symptoms include fatigue, bloating, cramps, breast tenderness, low back pain, fluid retention, and headaches. PMS affects some women more adversely than others. According to Dr. Henry G. Beiler, who wrote Food Is Your Best Medicine, there are three lines of defense in the body: the gastrointestinal system, which allows you to digest food and absorb nutrients; the hepatic system, or liver, that filters toxins from the blood and intestines; and the endocrine system, which are the hormones that regulate menstrual cycles and hormone levels in the body throughout the month.

These systems work intricately with each other. When any of these lines of defense are compromised, the rest of the body suffers. Here is how your body gets “set-up” to have PMS symptoms:

  1. If you are eating food that is not nutrient dense or is “unhealthy,” you can’t absorb the correct nutrients and toxins can begin to build up in your intestinal system. This could prompt yeast and candida overgrowth or intestinal bacteria that is harmful. This is a break in the body’s first line of defense.

  2. The liver is forced to take on a heavier load to remove excess toxin through the blood system. It gets angry at having this extra responsibility and responds by initiating hot flashes or a snappy temper.

  3. The endocrine system has been getting poor communication from both the intestinal tract and the liver and becomes confused on how to respond. It begins to misfire as the toxic load is shifted to the last detox organ on the line--the uterus. This hormonal response is the origin of PMS symptoms.  In PMS, the uterus is used as an organ of elimination of toxins in the blood. The cramps, discomforts, and congestion associated with PMS are the result of toxins accumulating in the pelvic region prior to menses.  Edema, or fluid retention, is created by the inability of the kidneys to handle the toxins. Pain and headaches are due to the irritating effects of these toxins.  Finally, heavy menstrual flow, which results in weakness, anxiety, and anemia, is caused by the body trying to rid itself of as much toxic material as possible.

Thus, all PMS symptoms are related to a general toxicity of the blood. Over time these same toxins irritate the female organs sufficiently to cause cysts, fibroids, and other chronic reproductive problems.

I like to take a comprehensive approach to PMS and imbalances in the body using food, herbs, and essential oils. The creation of the 14-Day Hormone Balance Detox program teaches you how to balance seven key hormones using food as medicine.

Herbs that can benefit the symptoms of PMS include some of my favorite products from Nature’s Sunshine:

  • Chinese Liver Balance - aids the detoxification processes of the liver and colon. In addition,

  • Tiao He Cleanse - works especially well when used with the Chinese Liver Balance. It is particularly helpful for PMS that involves irritability with bouts of anger and anxiety.

  • Chinese Blood Build - is helpful with anemia and heavy blood loss.  Many of the herbs in this formula are standard ingredients in Chinese herbal formulas designed to help women have healthy periods throughout their child-bearing years.

  • Chinese Mood Elevator - helpful when PMS is accompanied by sad, heavy feelings and depression.  This formula is very supportive of the liver and gastrointestinal tract.

Herbs for PMS: I get mine from Mountain Rose Herbs.

Dandelion Root: Can be used as a healthy coffee substitute. This bitter root relieves fluid retention. It is prebiotic, which feeds good gut bacteria, flushes fatty deposits from your liver, and stimulates bile production to help your liver detoxify more efficiently.

Maca Root: An herbal adaptogen that balances progesterone and estrogen, relieving menstrual swings, fluid retention, and breast tenderness. Women who take maca during menopause and peri-menopause report less hot flashes, depression, sleep issues, nervousness, and anxiety.

Cinnamon: This aromatic spice stabilizes blood sugars and insulin levels. Rich in anti-inflammatory chemicals, it supports and strengthens your immune system thus reducing the risk of autoimmune conditions. Ceylon Cinnamon is recommended over Cassia Cinnamon, which can be toxic.

Lemon Balm: Often used as a mild sedative, a calming sleep aid, and for reducing anxiety. It has other hidden benefits, including use as a powerful memory enhancer and can improve concentration. It also acts an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.

Chasteberry: A powerful little berry that can reduce fluid retention and cravings. The chasteberry has also helped reduce hormonal symptoms such as depression and anxiety. It can be made into a delicious tea.

Essential Oils for PMS: I believe that essential oils and the use of aromatic plant medicine is one of the keys to effectively balancing hormones in regards to the mental/emotional aspect of PMS. We are emotional beings and when hormones are out of balance the emotional body is profoundly affected. I believe the emotional components are the most misunderstood symptoms or hormone imbalances and often misdiagnosed and mistreated by Western medicine.

Essential oils are one of the best and most effective ways to get to the root of the emotional issues of hormone imbalance and PMS and begin to directly “unwind” the body and bring it back into balance, naturally. This is why I have dedicated much of my holistic health practice to creating products and effective modalities to help my clients. Visit the aromatherapy store to see some of the products available for hormone balance.

Geranium (Pelargonium Capitatum) - is the rockstar essential oil for balancing hormones. It has been dubbed a woman’s oil for many reasons. This oil shows significant fluid decongestant and detoxifying actions that work in tandem with the liver, kidneys, uterus, and the whole lymph system.


When any of these organs are congested and burdened with toxins, geranium is the remedy of choice. Here we are looking at an important liver, blood, and lymphatic decongestant and detox mechanism. Noteworthy is the experimental success of the oil’s key component, geraniol, in detoxifying the liver and mildly reducing blood cholesterol (Broadhurst & Duke 1997).

Emotionally balancing qualities of Geranium:

Promotes emotional security and inner strength. Loss of emotional support, emotional loss, disappointment or deprivation; grief.Emotional withdrawal, insecurity, neediness. Low self-esteem, guilt, suicidal tendency.Promotes emotional stability and calm.Irritability, moodiness, frustration, mood swings. Depression with anxiety, negative (distressed) emotions and outlook.

Primarily Regulating and Restorative Qualities of Geranium:

Female hormonal regulator/restorative: hormonal disorders from estrogen or progesterone deficiency, including Pre-menstrual Syndrome (PMS), dysmenorrhea, long cycles, and menopausal syndrome with hot flashes.

Adrenal regulator/restorative: adrenal dysregulation or fatigue with energy swings, low stamina, afternoon fatigue, salt cravings, menopause.

Pancreatic (blood sugar) regulator/restorative: hyper and hypoglycemia, diabetes. Primarily Decongestant and Detoxification:

Liver decongestant and detoxification: liver congestion, metabolic toxicity, high blood cholesterol. Draining and detoxifying diuretic: edema, retention of toxic kidney metabolites.

Other essential oils with hormone-like properties that have been studied in relation to benefiting PMS symptoms include Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris) and Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha). In addition, essential oils with estrogen-like properties that are believed to be effective include Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare), Sage (Salvia o cinalis), and Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea). Clary Sage is also an anti-inflammatory and can aid in additional symptom relief.

The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, by Salvatore Battaglia, lists the following essential oils as useful in pre-menstrual tension:

  • Bergamot (Citrus bergamia)

  • German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)

  • Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis)

  • Carrot seed (Daucus carota)

  • Clary Sage (Salvia sclarea)

  • Sweet Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare var. dulce)

  • Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens)

  • Juniper Berry (Juniperus communis)

  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

  • Sweet Marjoram (Origanum majorana)

  • Neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara)

  • Rose (Rosa damascena)

  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus o cinalis)

  • Ylang Ylang (Cananga odorata)

It is important to note that with any use of aromatherapy, essential oils can be beneficial in the relief of PMS symptoms if they are used over time. While it is possible to feel immediate relief of PMS symptoms shortly after using essential oils, in most cases, relief is achieved after the essential oils have been used continuously over a few months.

Above are some amazing recipes that I hope will inspire you to start using essential oils or attend one of my classes.

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