PMS? Oral Contraceptives Not The Only Option!

PMSPre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) is thought to affect about 90 per cent of women at some point in their lives, with a significant proportion of these suffering regularly from severe and debilitating symptoms.  PMS is typically the result of abnormal hormone fluctuations, such as elevated prolactin levels, or low progesterone during the second half of the menstrual cycle.  Another possibility is estrogen dominance, where the liver has a difficult time metabolizing estrogen, leading to a disproportionate amount of estrogen in the system.  And these are just a few of the possible scenarios that can lead to PMS.

So why, then, does conventional medicine treat virtually every person with PMS the same?  Oral contraceptives are prescribed almost exclusively to treat this issue, regardless of the cause.  While oral contraceptives may be a magic bullet in some instances, the list of potential side-effects is long, and includes an increased risk of breast cancer, cervical cancer, stroke, acne, yeast infections, and weight gain.  Therefore, why subject so many people to these side-effects, when there may be other, more natural cures that not only alleviate the symptoms, but address the root cause?

One of the most established natural treatments for PMS is an extract of an exotic fruit known as Agnus castus. Research from Germany shows that Agnus castus (also known as Chasteberry, Monk’s pepper and Vitex) can reduce prolactin levels and increase the production of progesterone. These effects help to correct the hormonal imbalances common in PMS, thereby helping to ease its symptoms.

Earlier this year, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published a study which proved the effectiveness of this natural remedy in the treatment of PMS. Over half the women in this study had significant improvement in their symptoms, and the treatment was found to be safe and generally free of side-effects. This recent study is not the only evidence which supports the use of Agnus castus in PMS. Last year, the Journal of Women’s Health and Gender Based Medicine published a study which examined the effect of Agnus castus in more than 1600 women. The study lasted three months, after which time 93 per cent of the women reported an improvement in or elimination of their PMS symptoms. Four out of five women rated themselves as ‘much better’ or ‘very much better’.

Naturopathic doctors can also perform specialized hormone testing that can help to pinpoint specific imbalances, which in turn can be corrected with nutritional and herbal therapies.  This allows each case of PMS to be treated uniquely, rather than treating everyone the same.  If PMS is something you’ve been suffering from for years, and birth control isn’t the answer you’re seeking, seek out a qualified naturopathic physician who can help to get your symptoms under control.

PMS and Vitex

Clinically, I’ve seen such great results with this herb, so it’s nice to see further confirmation that it’s truly effective!

Vitex and PMS in Chinese Women

Chinese women suffering from moderate to severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS) were studied in a prospective, double-blind, placebo controlled, parallel-group, multi-center clinical trial. A Vitex agnus castus extract, VAC BNO 1095, contained 4.0 mg of dried ethanolic (70%) extract of VAC, corresponding to 40 mg of the herbal drug and was given once daily throughout the three cycles during the treatment phase. Two hundred and seventeen women were randomly assigned to the treatment group or the placebo group. 

The mean total Premenstrual Syndrome Diary (PMSD) score decreased from 29.23 at baseline to 6.41 at the end of the third cycle for the Vitex group and from 28.14 at baseline to 12.64 at the end of the third cycle for the placebo group. The difference in the PMSD score from baseline to the third cycle was significantly lower in the treatment group than in the placebo group. The Premenstrual Tension Syndrome Self-Rating Scale (PMTS) decreased from 26.17 at baseline to 9.92 for the treatment group and from 27.10 to 14.59 for the placebo group; similar positive results to the PMSD scores. 

Comments: Vitex extracts have so far been the best investigated botanical therapies for PMS and several placebo controlled clinical trials have been done that confirms its efficacy. The current study adds to the clinical relevance of this plant in the treatment of moderate to severe symptoms of PMS. In addition, no significant adverse events were reported.

He Z, Chen R, Zhou Y, et al. Treatment for premenstrual syndrome with Vitex agnus castus: A prospective, randomized, multi-center placebo controlled study in China. Maturitas 2009; 63:99-103.