Chasteberry Extract and Other Proven Ways to Treat PMS Without a Prescription

Premenstrual Syndrome is more than just an excuse to be grouchy a few days each month. As many as forty percent of women suffer from a combination of symptoms which can include fatigue, breast tenderness, headache, and depression or anxiety in the days before their periods. If you’re one of those women, you might find yourself losing patience with your children or spouse, avoiding social activities, even calling in sick for work. For a small percentage of PMS sufferers, symptoms are so severe that they need medical help such as antidepressants. But what about the rest of us? What can we do when PMS is just distressing, not disabling?

In fact, there are several options-and they’re all available without a prescription. Doctors have studied a number of supplements, herbals, and lifestyle changes, and found some that can make a difference. Here are a few to try:

Exercise
Studies show that women who exercise regularly have less severe PMS symptoms than women who don’t. You don’t have to be hard-core-how often the women in the studies exercised was more important than how hard they worked out. Why does it work? No one knows. Doctors think it might have to do with a change in estrogen levels. And elevated endorphins (the same chemicals responsible for “runner’s high”) can’t hurt.

Diet
In 1983, researchers discovered that women who suffered from PMS were eating nearly three times as much sugar, 79% more salt, 62% more carbohydrates, and only half as much iron. Do these diet differences cause PMS, or do women who suffer from PMS just crave more junk food? The study didn’t say. But it can’t hurt to aim for healthier choices. You’ll feel better all over.

Calcium
Calcium is important for strong bones. But it might help with PMS, too. In one study, women who took 1200 mg of calcium carbonate per day had a reduction in PMS symptoms by about half. Women who took a placebo (a sugar pill) also improved a little, which suggests that just making the effort can help-but the women taking calcium did better.

Magnesium
Women who suffer from PMS tend to have low magnesium levels, and studies suggest that magnesium supplements may alleviate symptoms. Try eating high-magnesium foods (green leafy vegetables, tofu, whole grains) or add a daily supplement of 200 to 400mg. Magnesium can cause diarrhea; try magnesium citrate or magnesium malate, which may be easier on the GI system.

Vitamin B6
For years, doctors have recommended Vitamin B6 for depression related to use of oral contraceptive pills. Some also suggest taking it for PMS. Does it help? Vitamin B6 appears to increase production of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine-the same brain chemicals that antidepressants act on. Studies are still preliminary, but they point to a positive effect on PMS. Try 50mg a day. Higher doses can be toxic, so don’t take more without asking your doctor. Add a multivitamin: the body needs other vitamins and minerals to process Vitamin B6.

Chasteberry Extract
Women in Germany swear by the fruit of the chasteberry tree for PMS. Chasteberry extract appears to help normalize the hormones involved in menstruation. It’s comparable in effect to Vitamin B6, and better than a sugar pill. Chasteberry extract is available in tincture or capsules, with differing strengths. Common doses are 20 mg of dry extract one to three times a day, or forty drops of tincture once a day-but check the label for specific instructions.

Kava
Although not studied specifically for PMS, kava is known to help with anxiety. It’s a well-known medicine in the South Pacific-and a popular drink for relaxing, too. Try taking it from about two weeks before your period until a few days after it starts. Kava can make you sleepy, so be careful about driving until you know how it affects you. Look for tablets with 30% kavalactones, and take 100 to 300mg per day.

Although all these remedies are natural, remember that supplements aren’t harmless. They can interact with medicines you’re taking, and they can have side effects including stomach upset and diarrhea. You might have to experiment a little to find the remedy that’s best for you. And if you’re taking prescription medicine or have a chronic illness, be sure to check with your doctor before starting any herbal or vitamin.

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