Pre-menstrual irritability according to Chinese Medicine

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Pre-menstrual irritability can be the consequence of several so-called “patterns of disharmony” in Chinese Medicine.

Chinese Medicine sees the body as a system, not a sum of isolated parts. A "pattern" is when the system's harmony is disrupted, leading to symptoms or signs that something is wrong (like pre-menstrual irritability here). It is similar to the concept of disease in Western Medicine but not quite: a Western disease can often be explained by several Chinese patterns and vice-versa.

A pattern often manifests itself in a combination of symptoms that, at first glance, do not seem necessarily related to each others. For instance here pre-menstrual irritability is often associated with lower abdominal pain, dizziness and restlessness in the pattern “Damp-Heat”. As you will see below, we have in record two patterns that can cause pre-menstrual irritability.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of pre-menstrual irritability we’ve identified three herbal formulas that may help treat patterns behind the symptom.

We’ve also selected below the five medicinal herbs that we think are most likely to help treat pre-menstrual irritability.

The two "patterns of disharmony" that can cause pre-menstrual irritability

In Chinese Medicine pre-menstrual irritability is a symptom for 2 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

Korean Mint (Huo Xiang) is the king ingredient for Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San, a formula used for Damp-Heat

Damp-Heat

Pulse type(s): Soggy (Ru)

In addition to pre-menstrual irritability, other symptoms associated with Damp-Heat include lower abdominal pain, dizziness and restlessness.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Damp-Heat is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps, Intermenstrual Bleeding or Abnormal Vaginal Discharge.

Damp-Heat is often treated with Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Korean Mint - Huo Xiang - as a key herb). Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San belongs to the category of "formulas that transform dampness and harmonize stomach", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Releases the Exterior".

Read more about Damp-Heat here

Bupleurum Roots (Chai Hu) is the king ingredient for Xiao Yao San, a formula used for Qi and Blood Stagnation

Qi and Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Normal (light red), Red, Red sides

In addition to pre-menstrual irritability, other symptoms associated with Qi and Blood Stagnation include scanty periods, lower abdominal pain and dizziness.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Qi and Blood Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps, Absence Of Menstruation or Menopausal Syndrome.

Qi and Blood Stagnation is often treated with Xiao Yao San, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Bupleurum Roots - Chai Hu - as a key herb). Xiao Yao San belongs to the category of "formulas that harmonize liver-spleen", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Harmonizes the function of Liver and Spleen".

Read more about Qi and Blood Stagnation here

Three herbal formulas that might help with pre-menstrual irritability

Xiao Yao San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Harmonizes the function of Liver and Spleen. Relieves Liver Qi stagnation. Nourishes the Blood.

Why might Xiao Yao San help with pre-menstrual irritability?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Heat' of which pre-menstrual irritability is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Damp-Heat can contribute to many health issues, including Menstrual Cramps.

Read more about Xiao Yao San here

Tao Hong Si Wu Tang

Source date: 1291 AD

Number of ingredients: 6 herbs

Key actions: Tonifies Blood and regulates the Liver. Moves Qi and Blood in the lower abdomen. Stops pain.

Why might Tao Hong Si Wu Tang help with pre-menstrual irritability?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Qi and Blood Stagnation' of which pre-menstrual irritability is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Qi and Blood Stagnation can contribute to many health issues, including Menstrual Cramps.

Read more about Tao Hong Si Wu Tang here

Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang

Source date: 1830 AD

Number of ingredients: 12 herbs

Key actions: Invigorates Blood. Eliminates Blood Stagnation below the diaphragm. Stops pain. Promotes Qi movement.

Why might Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang help with pre-menstrual irritability?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Qi and Blood Stagnation' of which pre-menstrual irritability is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Qi and Blood Stagnation can contribute to many health issues, including Menstrual Cramps.

Read more about Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang here

The five Chinese Medicinal herbs most likely to help treat pre-menstrual irritability

Why might Dong Quai (Dang Gui) help with pre-menstrual irritability?

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat pre-menstrual irritability as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Tao Hong Si Wu Tang for instance.

Dong Quai is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood. Lubricates the Intestines. Relieve constipation. Promotes circulation and dispels Bi Pain. Reduce Dysmenorrhea and help with irregular menstruation.

Read more about Dong Quai here

Why might Peach Kernel (Tao Ren) help with pre-menstrual irritability?

Because Peach Kernel is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat pre-menstrual irritability as a symptom, like Tao Hong Si Wu Tang or Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang for instance.

Peach Kernels is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Heart, the Large intestine and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Moves Blood and breaks up Stasis. Moistens the Intestines. Relieves coughing.

Read more about Peach Kernels here

Why might White Peony Root (Bai Shao) help with pre-menstrual irritability?

Because White Peony Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat pre-menstrual irritability as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Tao Hong Si Wu Tang for instance.

White Peony Roots is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter and Sour. It targets the Spleen and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Blood and preserves the Yin. Nourishes the Liver and assists in the smooth flow of Qi. Regulates the meridians and eases the pain.

Read more about White Peony Roots here

Why might Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with pre-menstrual irritability?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat pre-menstrual irritability as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang for instance.

Liquorice is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Stomach, the Heart and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Basal Qi and nourishes the Spleen Qi. Clears Heat and dispels toxicity. Moistens the Lungsexpel phlegm and stop coughing. Relieves spasms and alleviates pain. Harmonizes and moderates the effects of other herbs.

Read more about Liquorice here

Why might Safflower (Hong Hua) help with pre-menstrual irritability?

Because Safflower is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat pre-menstrual irritability as a symptom, like Tao Hong Si Wu Tang or Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang for instance.

Safflowers is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Heart and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Moves Stagnant Blood and regulates menses. Relieves pain caused by Blood Stasis.

Read more about Safflowers here

Conditions associated with pre-menstrual irritability

Menstrual cramps