Pre-menstrual tension according to Chinese Medicine

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Pre-menstrual tension 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 tension 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 tension is often associated with dizziness, lower abdominal pain and feeling of heat in the pattern “Damp-Heat”. As you will see below, we have in record four patterns that can cause pre-menstrual tension.

Once identified, patterns are treated using medicinal herbs, acupuncture, and other therapies. In the case of pre-menstrual tension we’ve identified four 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 tension.

The four "patterns of disharmony" that can cause pre-menstrual tension

In Chinese Medicine pre-menstrual tension is a symptom for 4 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 tension, other symptoms associated with Damp-Heat include dizziness, lower abdominal pain and feeling of heat.

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

Peach Kernels (Tao Ren) is the king ingredient for Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, a formula used for Qi And Blood Stagnation

Qi And Blood Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Choppy (Se), Deep (Chen), Fine (Xi)

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

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 Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang, a herbal formula made of 11 herbs (including Peach Kernels - Tao Ren - as a key herb). Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Invigorates the Blood".

Read more about Qi And Blood Stagnation here

The Liver is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Liver in Chinese Medicine

Liver Qi Stagnation

Pulse type(s): Wiry (Xian)

Tongue color: Normal (light red)

When Liver Qi does not flow smoothly or regularly, it becomes Stagnant and in Excess. This leads to Heat accumulating in the Liver. The feeling of ‘Distension’ (zhang 胀) is the main symptom of Liver Qi Stagnation.

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

From a Western Medicine standpoint Liver Qi Stagnation is associated with health issues such as Low Breast Milk Supply, Mastitis or Breast Engorgement.

Liver Qi 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 Liver Qi Stagnation here

The Liver is a so-called "Zang" Organ. Learn more about the Liver in Chinese Medicine

Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Wiry (Xian)

Tongue coating: Yellow coating

Tongue color: Red

In addition to pre-menstrual tension, other symptoms associated with Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire include dizziness, feeling of heat and irritability.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire is associated with health issues such as Menstrual Cramps or Spontaneous Flow Of Breast Milk.

Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire is often treated with Xuan Yu Tong Jing Tang, a herbal formula made of 10 herbs (including White Peony Roots - Bai Shao - as a key herb). Xuan Yu Tong Jing Tang belongs to the category of "formulas that invigorate blood and dispel blood stagnation", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Pacifies the Liver".

Read more about Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire here

Four herbal formulas that might help with pre-menstrual tension

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 tension?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Damp-Heat' of which pre-menstrual tension 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 tension?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Qi And Blood Stagnation' of which pre-menstrual tension 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

Wu Yao Tang

Source date: 1336 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Key actions: Pacifies the Liver. Moves Qi. Stops pain. Nourishes Liver Blood. Eliminates Stagnation.

Why might Wu Yao Tang help with pre-menstrual tension?

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

According to Chinese Medicine, Liver Qi Stagnation can contribute to many health issues, including Irregular Menstruation.

Read more about Wu Yao Tang here

Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San

Source date: 2002 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Key actions: Clears Liver Fire from Stagnant Liver Qi.

Why might Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San help with pre-menstrual tension?

Because it is a formula often recommended to treat the pattern 'Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire' of which pre-menstrual tension is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Stagnant Liver-Qi turning into Fire can contribute to many health issues, including Menstrual Cramps.

Read more about Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San here

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

Why might Atractylodes Rhizome (Bai Zhu) help with pre-menstrual tension?

Because Atractylodes Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat pre-menstrual tension as a symptom, like Yue Ju Wan or Xiao Yao San for instance.

Atractylodes Rhizomes is a Warm herb that tastes Bitter and Sweet. It targets the Spleen and the Stomach.

Its main actions are: Tonifies the Spleen Qi. Fortifies the Spleen Yang and dispels Damp through urination. Tonifies Qi and stops sweating. Calms restless fetus when due to Deficiency of Spleen Qi.

Read more about Atractylodes Rhizomes here

Why might Bupleurum Root (Chai Hu) help with pre-menstrual tension?

Because Bupleurum Root is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat pre-menstrual tension as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Jia Wei Xiao Yao San for instance.

Bupleurum Roots is a Cool herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder and the Liver.

Its main actions are: Harmonizes exterior and interior. Smoothes the Liver and upraises the Yang.

Read more about Bupleurum Roots here

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

Because Dong Quai is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat pre-menstrual tension 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 Cape Jasmine Fruit (Zhi Zi) help with pre-menstrual tension?

Because Cape Jasmine Fruit is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat pre-menstrual tension as a symptom, like Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San or Yue Ju Wan for instance.

Cape Jasmine Fruits is a Cold herb that tastes Bitter. It targets the Gallbladder, the Heart, the Lung and the Sanjiao.

Its main actions are: Clears Heat and calms spirit. Drains Damp-Heat affecting the Liver and Gallbladder. Clears Heat in the Blood and stops bleeding. Anti-inflammatory.

Read more about Cape Jasmine Fruits here

Why might Poria-Cocos Mushroom (Fu Ling) help with pre-menstrual tension?

Because Poria-Cocos Mushroom is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat pre-menstrual tension as a symptom, like Jia Wei Xiao Yao San or Xiao Yao San for instance.

Poria-Cocos Mushrooms is a Neutral herb that tastes Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Heart, the Kidney and the Lung.

Its main actions are: Encourages urination and drains Dampness. Tonic to the Spleen/Stomach. Assists the Heart and calms the Spirit.

Read more about Poria-Cocos Mushrooms here

Conditions associated with pre-menstrual tension

Menstrual cramps Irregular menstruation