If once a week every month you find yourself clinging to a bottle of ibuprofen like it’s a life raft, you’ve probably also always wondered whether any of those herbal remedies for PMS actually work. As a longtime sufferer of bad PMS — name a symptom, and I’ve probably experienced it — I know I've always been curious. After all, suffering through bloating, cramps, back pain, and any other slew of awful period-induced symptoms is no one’s cup of (Yogi) tea.
When I first started researching various herbal PMS remedies, I was blown away by the sheer variety of options. Besides what I expected to find — mainly teas — there were magnesium supplements, tincures, and even herb packets. Sure, you might have to trek out to your local and organic food market to find them, but it has become an industry unto itself.
Knowing that common over-the-counter medications have been shown to have severe side effects — acetaminophen (Tylenol) has been shown to cause liver damage if taken in large doses and ibuprofen can lead to stomach ulcers and bleeding — I decided to try six of the herbal remedies for myself to see if they worked just as well. My results were mixed. Some proved to be truly relieving, while others didn’t seem to make a difference.
l tried all these products below the week before my period, and here's my verdict on each of them.
1. Natural Vitality 'Natural Calm' Supplements
What It Is: The bright-colored packaging and cheesy graphics on this bottle of Natural Vitality Natural Calm—A Magnesium Supplement just screamed gimmick to me, but this turned out to be my favorite pick of the whole bunch.
How It Claims To Help: This product promises to act as a natural sleep aid, reduce stress, and support bone health.
What It Tastes Like: This white powder has roughly the consistency of powdered sugar, but smells like Kool-Aid. Luckily, it doesn’t taste like sugar water. Be sure to add hot water — cold stuff just doesn’t cut it — and you’ll get a tasty (but not too sweet) concoction that you’ll actually look forward to drinking.
The Verdict: I found that this drastically helped with bloating — not one of the listed benefits, but one I was grateful for. My stomach seemed a lot less full after drinking this. Studies have shown that magnesium can help decrease breast tenderness and a slew of other PMS-induced symptoms too, so I’d put this one high on your list of things to try.
2. Yogi Women's Raspberry Leaf Tea
How it Claims to Help: On the box it says that this tea will “help ease the discomfort of menstruation and to strengthen and tone the uterus.”
What It Tastes Like: It actually tasted rather plain to me — like a nice cup of black tea.
The Verdict: Well, there’s no way I can tell if it toned my uterus (duh), but I didn’t experience any lessening of PMS symptoms after I drank this. Still, it’s always nice to drink something warm during that time of the month.
3. Pacific Herbs PMS Relief Herb Pack
What It Is: Pacific Herbs PMS Relief Herb Pack is a small packet of herbs that you steep in hot water, just like tea. These little packets smelled and looked like one of those tiny seasoning
packets that comes with a Ramen package — but you should never judge based on
How It Claims to Help: According to Pacific Herbs' website, this product promises to help with cramps, back pain, bloating, irritability, breast tenderness, and body aches.
What It Tastes Like: There’s just a hint of spice when you pour it down your throat. It’s not too strong, but the package suggests adding sweetener if you wish.
The Verdict: I loved this product. It really did seem to lessen my cramps, as advertised — and that’s a sentence I’d never thought I’d write. Now, they didn’t disappear completely (that would be a true miracle), but I didn’t have to take ibuprofen on my worst cramp-y day until nighttime. I’d suggest this if you’re searching for a way to deal with your cramps. Just expect it to wear off as the day goes on.
4. Earth Mama Angel Baby Organics
What It Is: Put one of the Earth Mama Angel Baby Organics' Organic Monthly Comfort Tea tea bags in hot water and enjoy.
How It Claims to Help: It promises to help ease painful cramps.
What It Tastes Like: Get ready for a lightly ginger-spiced tea. If you're a ginger fan, you could buy this just for the subtle taste.
The Verdict: It did seem to very briefly help with my cramps ... but that also could have been because of the hot bath I was soaking in. It might be worth a try, especially if tea is your beverage of choice.
5. Girl Uninterrupted Herbal Supplement
What It Is: Girl Uninterrupted Herbal Supplement comes packed in a chic silver-colored
compact filled with a few pink pills. It was, by far, the chicest option I tried.
What It Claims to Do: These pills claim to “curb cravings, minimize bloating, relieve irritability, and improve focus.”
What It Tastes Like: Be sure to swallow, not chew, these. Unless you like the taste of wood chips. (I bitterly discovered this the first time I tried them.)
The Verdict: When I read that it purports to help tackle
cravings, I couldn’t have been more excited. Like most women, when my
period rolls around, I cannot get enough chocolate. My cravings are on high
alert. If I’m searching for something salty, I must have it. Or else. But I didn’t really notice much of a difference using this product.
6. Jade & Pearl Ebb & Flow Herbal Tincture
What It Tastes Like: You dilute this with water, and it has the slightest taste of apple cider vinegar to it.
How It Claims to Help: This product claims that it reduces “spotting and menstrual bleeding, eases PMS symptoms, replenishes the blood, builds energy and soothes runaway emotions."
The Verdict: I didn’t experience any of that. If anything, my flow seemed heavier this go around.
My Conclusion: All in all, my results were very mixed with these picks. Still, next time Aunt Flo pays you a visit, I’d suggest trying herbal remedies, (especially #1 and #3 above) just to see if they might help. You never know what might be right for your body. And if nothing else, you’ll get to try some great tea.
Image: pabadoo/Flickr; Jade & Pearl; Girl Uninterrupted; Yogi; Natural Vitality; Pacific Moms; Earth Mama