©2007 3sth3r Feverfew may reduce menstrual cramps.

Menstrual cramps, heavy or light periods, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) can make a woman uncomfortable at "that time of the month."

Menstruation's discomfort can surface in a number of ways. In fact, PMS includes a cluster of about 150 symptoms. The most frequently reported problems include fluid retention and bloating, breast tenderness, irritability and depression, skin blemishes, fatigue, and carbohydrate cravings.

Whatever your symptoms, a number of herbal remedies exist that can help soothe menstruation's effects.

Herbal Remedies for Menstruation

Diuretic herbs can help take care of fluid retention and the feeling of bloat that often accompanies menstruation. Parsley, dandelion, hydrangea, angelica, and horsetail all have diuretic properties. Drink infusions or decoctions of these herbs.

Breast tenderness, skin blemishes, and cravings are typically caused by hormone imbalances. Chinese angelica, or dong quai, helps to stabilize hormone levels. One method is to mark on the calendar the time in your cycle that you experience these symptoms. Start taking tea or tincture of dong quai several days before the anticipated problem time. Stop taking dong quai as soon as your period starts.

Painful menstrual cramps are a frequent complaint; antispasmodics are invaluable for repressing them. Herbs that have a particularly good reputation for easing menstrual cramps include black cohosh, valerian, wild yam, yarrow, chamomile, and feverfew. Make decoctions or infusions of these and start drinking them a day or two before you expect cramps to start; take every two hours during the most acute phase.

Red raspberry leaves tone the uterus and also help prevent menstrual cramps. This herb needs to be taken consistently over a long period of time to get this benefit. If menstrual flow is heavy, red raspberry leaves will help control it. Yarrow is also instrumental in reducing excessive menstrual flow. Use tea or tinctures several times per day.

If you have the opposite problem, very light periods, and you need to increase menstrual flow, angelica can coax the situation. This herb will also help regulate the menses. The underlying cause of heavy or light periods should be determined before using herbs. Consult a holistic practitioner.

Several herbs contain oils that have proved very beneficial in reducing PMS symptoms. The herbs can be grown in your garden, but it takes commercial preparation to get enough strong oil from them. Evening primrose, black currant, and borage contain gamma-linolenic acid (GLA). Three thousand milligrams of evening primrose oil per day, taken in divided doses, alleviates many PMS symptoms for some women. Begin taking this ten days before menses are expected to start.

Traditionally, evening primrose is eaten as a food and may be helpful if eaten frequently. It is just one of many herbal remedies that can be used to treat the often uncomfortable side effects of menstruation -- some of which may offer you relief.

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Eric Yarnell, N.D., R.H. (A.H.G.) is a naturopathic physician and registered herbalist in private practice specializing in men's health and urology.  He is an assistant professor in the botanical medicine department at Bastyr University in Seattle and is president or the Botanical Medicine Academy.  He is the author of several textbooks including Naturopathic Gastroenterology, Naturopathic Urology and Men's Health, and Clinical Botanical Medicine; He writes a regular column on herbal medicine for Alternative and Complementary Therapies.  This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies.   Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness. Each state and each discipline has its own rules about whether practitioners are required to be professionally licensed. If you plan to visit a practitioner, it is recommended that you choose one who is licensed by a recognized national organization and who abides by the organization's standards. It is always best to speak with your primary health care provider before starting any new therapeutic technique.