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What really works to relieve PMS symptoms?

What really works to relieve PMS symptoms?

Nicole Knight, AHCJ | June 18, 2019 | Women's Health
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You’re not alone if you’ve noticed a crop of ads in your feed advertising the superpowers of new anti-PMS gummy vitamins. They’re called FLO PMS gummies, and they tout all-natural ingredients, like chasteberry, vitamin B6, and dong quai (1). The company’s co-founder claims taking two gummies daily will nix your PMS symptoms right away, but it may take 2 cycles to achieve the full effect.


Since PMS affects 75% of menstruating women (2), knowing how to banish common symptoms like fatigue, bloating, and irritability is an idea we can all get behind. But sometimes it’s tough to suss out fact from fiction when it comes to PMS. (Remember the researchers who claimed PMS-related moodiness was a myth (3)?!)


Here, we’ll examine the evidence, including what medical experts and scientists say about the effects of taking chasteberry, vitamin B6, and dong quai to relieve PMS. We’ll also offer the latest medically recommended tips for combating PMS, including simple strategies like hydrating and eating more frequent, smaller meals.


Do the ingredients in PMS gummies relieve PMS symptoms?


Billed as the “herb for female complaints,” chasteberry is a popular herbal supplement derived from the plant Vitex agnus-castus. A series of studies dating back to the 1970s suggest the herbal remedy may help relieve sore, tender breasts association with PMS (4).


A recent, rigorous study published in Phytomedicine in 2012 found additional PMS-busting benefits after comparing the PMS symptoms of 162 women who were given, at random, either chasteberry or a placebo (4). The women who took 20 milligrams (mg) of chasteberry daily reported fewer PMS symptoms, such as headaches, bloating, and irritability.


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It’s worth noting that the European Medicines Agency, Europe’s version of the FDA, considers chasteberry a “well-established” remedy for PMS (5). However, a medical reference site widely used by American doctors doesn’t list chasteberry as an evidence-based PMS remedy (2).


On the other hand, the American doctors’ site confirms the anti-PMS benefits of vitamin B6 — another ingredient in the PMS gummies, as you’ll recall. The site recommends doses of up to 100 mg a day of B6 to relieve mild PMS symptoms (2).


Dong quai, one of China’s oldest and most respected herbal remedies, is considered a “uterine tonic.” Although there are suggestions of the herb’s anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, and analgesic benefits in the book “Botanical Medicine for Women's Health,” few studies have looked at the effectiveness of dong quai by itself — and experts worry the research doesn’t adhere to the highest clinical standards (6).


Some PMS research on dong quai was done in animals, so it’s hard to say whether the results would work in humans. For example, FLO’s site points to a 1984 study suggesting the herb relieves cramps (7). But that research was done in rabbits.


The bottom line? While there’s no research to evaluate the exact combination of ingredients in PMS gummies, we do know some of its elements have scientific anti-PMS powers. Still, it’s always best to talk to your doctor before adding new vitamins, herbs, or supplements to your daily routine to avoid possible drug interactions and other issues.


What do doctors say relieves PMS symptoms?


Reputable medical sources offer helpful pointers to relieve PMS symptoms. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist, taking 1,200 mg of calcium a day can help ward off PMS-related moodiness and physical symptoms (8). One study also showed vitamin E might help reduce PMS symptoms (8).


Although it sounds counterintuitive, try drinking 64 ounces of water a day to combat bloating, per a doctor with the prestigious Cleveland Clinic (9). Changes to your diet can help too, such as eating small meals throughout the day to prevent blood sugar spikes that may worsen PMS symptoms (8). Other tips include:


  • Decrease moodiness by replacing simple carbohydrates with complex carbohydrates, such as whole grains, brown rice, and beans (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5532289/)
  • Eat more calcium-rich food like leafy greens and yogurt
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol
  • Cut back on salt, sugar, and fat


ACOG also suggests making time for mild exercise, such as walking, and trying relaxation therapy, including breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga, to relieve PMS symptoms (8).


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What doesn’t work? A highly respected medical reference site says popular supplements like evening primrose oil, essential free fatty acids, and ginkgo biloba have no “proven benefit” in relieving PMS symptoms (2).


If you suffer from PMS, it’s worth experimenting with medically sound PMS fixes to see if any work for you. As you already know through charting (you are charting, right?), your body is uniquely amazing, so listen to it as you test-drive new PMS remedies. And, don’t forget, good self-care, including staying hydrated, eating healthy, and exercising are essential every day of the month — not just when PMS hits.


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