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 scanty periods, lower abdominal pain and irritability in the pattern “Liver Qi Stagnation”. As you will see below, we have in record three 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 three "patterns of disharmony" that can cause pre-menstrual tension

In Chinese Medicine pre-menstrual tension is a symptom for 3 patterns that we have on record. Below is a small explanation for each of them with links for more details.

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

Kidney Yin Deficiency

Pulse type(s): Rapid (Shu), Empty (Xu), Floating (Fu)

Tongue coating: Complete absence of coating

Tongue color: Red

Tongue shape: Cracked

Kidney Yin Deficiency causes false Heat symptoms, such as night sweats, thirst and five palm heat. These signs are from a depletion of Body Fluids and Essence. It can be caused by prolonged overwork, excessive sexual activity, chronic long term illnesses, consumption of Body Fluids by Heat, prolonged blood loss, overdosage of Kidney Yang tonics herbs, smoking and Kidney depleting foods such as coffee, alcohol, sugar, and fruit juices.

In addition to pre-menstrual tension, other symptoms associated with Kidney Yin Deficiency include scanty periods, dizziness and feeling of heat.

From a Western Medicine standpoint Kidney Yin Deficiency is associated with health issues such as Menopausal Syndrome, Prolonged Periods or Irregular Menstruation.

Kidney Yin Deficiency is often treated with Liu Wei Di Huang Wan, a herbal formula made of 6 herbs (including Prepared Rehmannia - Shu Di huang - as a key herb). Liu Wei Di Huang Wan belongs to the category of "formulas that nourish yin and tonify", which might be why it is often recommended for this pattern. Its main action as a formula is: "Nutritive tonic for the Liver and Kidney Yin Essence (nourishes the parasympathetic nervous system)".

Read more about Kidney Yin Deficiency 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 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 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

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 '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 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

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 'Kidney Yin Deficiency' of which pre-menstrual tension is a symptom.

According to Chinese Medicine, Kidney Yin Deficiency can contribute to many health issues, including Irregular Menstruation.

Read more about Dan Zhi Xiao Yao San 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 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 Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang here

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

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 Liquorice (Gan Cao) help with pre-menstrual tension?

Because Liquorice is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat pre-menstrual tension as a symptom, like Xiao Yao San or Wu Yao 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 Szechuan Lovage Root (Chuan Xiong) help with pre-menstrual tension?

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

Szechuan Lovage Roots is a Warm herb that tastes Pungent. It targets the Gallbladder, the Liver and the Pericardium.

Its main actions are: Regulates and moves the Blood. Relieves Wind-Cold and pain. Circulates the Qi in the Upper Burner, relieving headaches.

Read more about Szechuan Lovage Roots here

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

Because Safflower is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat pre-menstrual tension 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

Why might Coco-Grass Rhizome (Xiang Fu) help with pre-menstrual tension?

Because Coco-Grass Rhizome is an ingredient in several formulas indicated to treat pre-menstrual tension as a symptom, like Wu Yao Tang or Ge Xia Zhu Yu Tang for instance.

Coco-Grass Rhizomes is a Neutral herb that tastes Bitter, Pungent and Sweet. It targets the Spleen, the Liver and the Sanjiao.

Its main actions are: Unblocks Stagnant Liver Qi and relieves pain. Regulates the Liver and Spleen. Assists the regulation of menses and relieves pain.

Read more about Coco-Grass Rhizomes here

Conditions associated with pre-menstrual tension

Irregular menstruation Menstrual cramps