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From The Herbalists Clinic


Tara, age 28, is a self-employed yoga teacher. She came to see me with severe PMS and dysmenorrhea (painful periods), which impact her work and often result in missed classes. As she is self-employed, she loses her income for any days not worked, which adds extra pre-menstrual stress.

Leading up to her period she gets tired, feels antisocial, has mood swings and is often so irritable that she asks her boyfriend to plan nights out or time away just so she isn’t always biting his head off! She also gets bloated, which she attributes to the extra carbs she eats at this time.

Her diet is good for the most part, but she turns to sugar and refined carbs (and adds a second cup of coffee) in the premenstrual days for both comfort and energy. She doesn’t smoke, and drinks moderately but says she often has “a few too many glasses of vino at the weekend.” She gets tender breasts at this time too and adds, “but that’s normal, right?”


Before I prescribe herbs, I always look at diet and lifestyle. For Tara, I recommend the tips below to get rid of her cramps and PMS, including sugar cravings, bloating, irritability, exhaustion and cyclical breast tenderness, all of which are quite common but are not inevitable just because you have a uterus.

We aren’t designed to suffer monthly! If you are experiencing anything similar, know that diet and lifestyle changes, and herbal medicines can really help. Try some of the following ideas and make sure to seek out the help of a naturopath or herbalist if your symptoms are more severe. It’s also sensible to check with your doctor to rule out issues such as fibroids.

2 tablespoons of ground flaxseeds daily – flaxseeds are a wonderful source of phytoestrogens and fibre, which will help with Tara’s hormone imbalance and with digestion.
Nutrient levels naturally drop before and during our period. A good multivitamin containing the following would be important for her.

  • Chromium – this will help with the sugar cravings leading up to her bleed.
  • Magnesium – to help with cramps.
  • Zinc – great support if you are feeling frazzled or irritable.
  • Iron – to help with fatigue and natural blood loss each month.

Coffee: Use Bambu, or chicory / dandelion coffee substitute. Turmeric lattes are great too.
Alcohol: Use herbal mocktails or alcohol-free gin with soda water.
Processed foods: Avoid the need to binge by preparing healthy snacks in advance.
Sugar: Try some raw chocolate instead or drink some delicious cacao.


Start cycle mapping – by tracking her cycle, Tara became more aware of when she has more energy each month (mid-cycle around ovulation) and when she naturally needs more rest (in the pre-menstrual week and when her period begins).

Schedule downtime for a day or two before the period and at the beginning of menstruation. We naturally need more rest and alone time during and before menstruation. I recommended adding some more classes and workshops around the energetic time of ovulation, and allowing for less work around menstruation. This significantly helped ease her stress as well.


For Tara I recommended the following herbs:

    • Agnus castus – 30 drops every morning, taken every day of the cycle – to help with
      the underlying hormonal imbalance causing dysmenorrhea and PMS.
    • Milk Thistle – 20 drops, 3 times a day before meals, taken every day of the cycle – to help her liver process the alcohol, refined foods and excess hormones, all being processed through her liver. Often, when we take the burden off the liver, the skin no longer needs to detox as much and acne clears up. This will also help with her bloating and digestive discomfort.
    • Valerian and Hops – 15 drops, 3 times a day, as needed. These are two wonderful antispasmodic herbs that are also calming for the nervous system. These can be taken in the days leading up to the period and while cramps last during menstruation, and on the days when she feels stress and anxiety levels increase.

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From The Herbalists Clinic