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Herbal Remedies for PMS

Nature did not create the menstrual cycle to be a sickness. The menstrual cycle is the nurturer and giver of life.

by Kami McBride, Master Herbalist

Women have between 350 and 500 periods in a lifetime. If your monthly period is five days long, each year you spend 60 days menstruating. You spend one or more years out of every ten years of your life bleeding. If you bleed from the time you are twelve years old until 52 years of age, you can spend four to five years or more of your life shedding menstrual blood!

Menstruation is a sign of good health. Sometimes that is hard to believe when there are over one hundred different symptoms that are associated with PMS. Prior to and during menstruation, more than 70% of American women experience PMS symptoms at some time in their life. The medical research around PMS is inconclusive. Every woman is different and there is no decisive medical etiology of why women have PMS. There is not an agreed upon cause, treatment or theory and the standard medical approach of cause and cure is not working for women.

I believe that nature did not create the menstrual cycle to be a sickness. The menstrual cycle is the nurturer and giver of life. Without menstruation there would be no human life. It was not meant to be riddled with suffering and trouble. There are many cultures where women don't experience the PMS symptoms that we do. Why then does our menstrual cycle cause us so much pain?

Menstruation has an inward and downward movement in the body. In a society obsessed with productivity and output, it can be difficult to honor and support the inward energetic nature of menstruation. I feel the PMS epidemic is the collective voice of the feminine speaking and trying to tell us something.

Each month the cycle of life waxes and wanes through the female physiology. Women are biological creatures and the menstrual cycle is related to other biological cycles such as the moon cycle, the ebb and flow of the tides and the seasons of the year. Menstruation is an embodied dance of life cycles that reminds us of our humanness and our connection to the cycles of the planet on which we live. We can cultivate our cycles as a gift that can help keep us in balance or we can shame it, drug it and try to ignore it.

The current primary practice in relation to menstruation is to plow through it as if nothing is happening. The changing rhythm of our body cycle is not reflected anywhere in the calendar or work schedule. Menstruation is a built in cycle that provides us with the opportunity to restore and rejuvenate each month. It is a time when the female body releases, regenerates and heals. Menstruation is a natural part of our cycle that can take us into the regenerative and contemplative aspects of the feminine.

U.S. statistics show that more than 60% of American women are sleep deprived. With the epidemic of chronic fatigue and exhaustion related illness, many women find that some of the problems around menstruation are the body letting them know that it would like to have a little down time during this monthly time of releasing and letting go. All cycles have a waning and waxing rhythm. When we are just constantly on the go, we forget that optimum health requires that we have time to rest and restore. The menstrual cycle is the perfect guide to help us find balance in our lives of over commitment and consumption. Let menstruation be a resource to help you move from the yang experience of outward expression and achievement to the yin experience of going inside and listening to the deep recesses of your soul. The menstrual cycle teaches us about harmony between yin and yang, dark and light, activity and rests.

There are many herbal remedies that can help a woman to work with instead of fight against the constantly changing rhythm of her body. Each month when you begin menstruation, take an herbal bath or footbath to mark the transition into the more yin part of your cycle. Take a little more rest time and drink a nourishing herbal tea or take an herbal tincture to support your menstrual time.

Recommended Herbs:
Viburnum (also called cramp bark): one of our best allies for all sorts of menstrual ailments. Taking 30 to 60 drops of the tincture in warm water helps to support the inward and downward energetics of menstruation. It relieves uterine cramps, relaxes muscle tension and spasms, improves digestion and calms anxiety. Note: do not use viburnum if you are taking any medications for cardiovascular diseases. 

Dandelion: A nutrient rich herb full of vitamin A, potassium and iron. Two cups of dandelion root or leaf tea a day helps to relieve many menstrual ailments such as bloating, water retention, swollen breasts, muscle spasms, acne, anemia and inflammation.

1) High Tide Tea
3 cups water
1 tablespoon dandelion root
1 tablespoon oatstraw
1 tablespoon chamomile
1 teaspoon raspberry leaf
1 teaspoon rose hips
1 teaspoon ginger root
Put herbs and water into a stainless steel pot. With the lid on bring the herbs to a boil and then turn off the heat and let the herbs continue to steep for two hours. Strain and reheat the tea and drink two cups a day to support a healthy menstruation.

2) The Menstrual Bath
4 gallons water
1/2 cup lavender flowers
1/2 cup rose petals
1/2 cup chamomile
1/2 cup hops
In a large pot bring herbs and water to a boil then turn off the heat and let stand for 15 minutes. Pour herbs and water directly into the bathwater. Relax and let all of your pain wash away

3) Moontime Footbath
6 cups water
2 tablespoons rosemary
2 tablespoons lavender
2 tablespoons mugwort
Bring herbs and water to a boil. Pour the mixture into a foot basin and when cool enough, soak your feet in the tea for about 15 minutes. This foot bath is very helpful for calming any anxiety and tension during menstruation.

Kami McBride has taught herbal medicine and women's health since 1988. She is the director of Cultivating the Herbal Medicine Woman Within, an experiential herbal studies program where women are inspired to reclaim their heritage as herbalists and healers. Kami is the author of  105 Ways to Celebrate Menstruation and she teaches Women's Wisdom workshops for women to experience optimum health in relation to their body cycles. For more information visit www.livingawareness.com

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