Ayurveda for Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a collection of physical, psychological, and emotional symptoms that appear in the two weeks before a woman’s menstrual period. The symptoms of PMS can include depression, irritability, mood swings, food cravings, weight gain, bloating, cramping, and acne. According to the National Women’s Health Information Center at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as many as 75 percent of menstruating women have some PMS symptoms. Ayurvedic treatment of PMS is a whole-body approach that can eliminate or reduce the severity of PMS symptoms.

How Can Ayurveda Help Relive Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) Symptoms?

Although Ayurveda does not provide an exact scientific explanation for its effectiveness, it is a natural treatment that can decrease or prevent Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) symptoms by addressing the root cause of PMS. Ayurveda focuses on an individual’s lack of mental peace and inner joy and helps her balance her body, mind, and spirit, thus improving overall health.

Ayurvedic treatment for PMS begins with an evaluation by an Ayurvedic practitioner who will determine what is out of balance and causing the symptoms of PMS. As with all Ayurvedic therapies, the approach to treat imbalance is holistic: all areas of the patient’s life are examined to see if they are in harmony. On the first visit, a practitioner takes a detailed medical history and conducts a physical exam. The Ayurvedic practitioner then discusses all areas of the patient’s life, including family, career, life purpose, diet, exercise, general health, and spiritual life to create an integrated and well-rounded life assessment. Based on this assessment, the practitioner then draws from more than 20 types of treatment to recommend a combination of natural therapies that may include massage, herbs, meditation, balanced food suggestions, healing oils, yoga, and simple lifestyle adjustments to restore health and reduce or eliminate PMS symptoms.

Ayurveda treatments are individualized based upon a person’s dosha imbalance. The three doshas are the Ayurvedic bioenergetic influences: Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. Specific symptoms of PMS, their related imbalances, and possible treatments can include:

Anxiety, Mood Swings, Insomnia, and Headaches
These Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms may be the result of an imbalance within the Vata dosha. Vata is the natural force that governs movement. In order to treat these PMS symptoms, Ayurveda principles suggest meditation, maintaining a regular life routine, taking time to rest and relax, and avoiding overstimulation. Meals should be warm, liquid dishes with a smooth texture, such as soups and vegetable purees. Raw or cold food and anything with a rough texture should be avoided. Suggested dietary supplements include herbs such as cumin, cardamom, fennel, garlic, aloe vera, and saffron. Ayurvedic oil massage with a warm oil, such as almond, is recommended.

Anger, Irritability, Excessive Heat, Poor Complexion, and Cramping
These Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms may be related to an imbalance in the Pitta dosha. Pitta is the natural force that governs food digestion, sensory perceptions, and discrimination between right and wrong. Individuals with these symptoms of PMS should eat uncooked, cool, heavy foods with sweet, bitter, and stringent tastes. Example would include fruits such as pears, mangos, and melons. Herbs such as aloe vera and motherwort may be helpful in decreasing these symptoms. Work schedules should be moderated with time for relaxation and regular meals. Ayurvedic oil massage with a cooling oil, such as coconut, is recommended to keep the body cool.

Depression, Bloating, Weight Gain, and Lethargy
These PMS symptoms may be related to an imbalance in Kapha. Kapha is the natural force that governs the body’s weight as well as the structure and lubrication of the mind and body. Ayurveda principles suggest that regular exercise and seeking out new experiences may assist with these symptoms. Food should be eaten warm and include plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and legumes. Meals should be light with the heaviest meal eaten in the middle of the day. Tastes that are heavy, oily, cold foods and sweet, sour and salty should be avoided. Herbs such as cinnamon, myrrh, and motherwort may increase energy.

Why Use Ayurveda for Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)?

The standard Western medical approach to PMS uses a broad medical treatment, most likely a drug, to treat all individuals with a variety of symptoms. This approach of matching drugs to symptoms may not completely address all of the symptoms of PMS in a particular individual. Ayurvedic practitioners work one on one with an individual to match treatment suggestions to the exact needs of the patient. The individual’s balance can be restored through individualized Ayurvedic therapies. Restored mental and physical balance will increase the individual’s overall health and well-being, with the added benefit of also relieving PMS symptoms.

Although scientific studies of Ayurvedic principles tend to focus on the effect of taking one type of treatment or herbal supplement rather than the combined effect of the numerous Ayurvedic therapies, available studies do find positive effects on PMS when certain Ayurvedic principles are followed. One 2008 study by Agha-Hosseini and colleagues found that the use of one agent used in Ayurvedic therapy, Crocus sativus L. (saffron), was effective in relieving symptoms of PMS. In 2000, a study by Bendich published by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that there is potential for dietary supplements to reduce premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms. Also in 2000, a small-scale study by Hernandez-Reif and colleagues found that premenstrual symptoms are relieved by massage therapy.

What is Ayurveda?

Ayurveda is an ancient Hindu system of medicine that originated in India 5,000 years ago. The goal of Ayurvedic therapy is to teach individuals to balance their body, mind, and spirit, including the emotions and psychology. The three Ayurvedic bioenergetic influences, or dosha, which work together to effect health are called Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. The Vata dosha is the natural force that governs movement and is representative of space and air. The Pitta dosha is the natural force which governs food digestion, sensory perceptions, and discrimination between right and wrong. The Pitta dosha is representative of fire and water. The Kapha dosha is the natural force that governs the body’s weight as well as the structure and lubrication of the mind and body. It is representative of water and earth. When in balance, Ayurvedic principles are designed to help keep people healthy, happy, and in harmony with their soul, life purpose, families, communities, planet, and universe. Ayurvedic therapies are numerous and include herbs, diet, exercise, yoga, massage, aromas, healing oils, and meditation. By aiming to balance the body, mind, and spirit, practitioners believe Ayurveda helps prevent physical and mental issues, including PMS.

What Causes Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)?

The exact cause of PMS is unknown. Some studies have suggested that PMS is caused by an exaggerated physical response to the normal hormonal changes that occur just before menstruation. Other studies suggest that the women most severely affected by PMS are low in a chemical called serotonin. Serotonin is a chemical that controls many brain and central nervous system functions. Another theory suggests that a deficiency of magnesium and calcium in the diet can cause symptoms of PMS. Ayurvedic practitioners find that individuals whose bodies are out of balance have more issues with PMS.

Finding an Ayurvedic Practitioner

Although none of the 50 states offers a license to practice Ayurveda, there are several institutions across the United States that offer educational programs, including the California College of Ayurveda, that issue certificates of “Clinical Ayurvedic Specialist.” Other sources of information include the California Association of Ayurvedic Medicine and the Ayurvedic Institute.

Additional Resources:
Herbst, Diane. “Beauty and the Beast.” Natural Health, Oct./Nov. 2002, Vol. 32, Issue 8.

Krishan, Shubhra. “Essential Ayurveda: What It Is and What It Can Do for You,” New World Library, Novaro, CA, 2003.

Lad, Vasant. “Ayurveda: A Brief Introduction and Guide,” The Ayurvedic Institute, 2003.

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