Natural Remedies for PMS Symptoms

As hormones rise and fall with menstruation, some people experience premenstrual syndrome (PMS), a group of physical and emotional symptoms such as headaches, abdominal bloating, breast tenderness, changes in appetite, fatigue, depression, and anxiety in the days or weeks before their menstrual period.

Tired woman near her bed
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Natural Remedies

If you have PMS, you may be able to improve your symptoms by making lifestyle changes. Several natural approaches are often used to relieve PMS symptoms. These can include strategies such as eating or avoiding certain foods and exercising. Here are some of the more commonly used remedies.

Calcium

A variety of supplements have been suggested to relieve PMS symptoms, but calcium is the only one that has demonstrated a therapeutic benefit.

For example, in a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers analyzed a 10-year span of data from 1057 females who had PMS and 1968 females who didn't have PMS. They found that those who had a high intake of calcium from food sources had a significantly lower risk of having PMS.

Approximately four servings a day (equivalent to about 1200 mg calcium) of skim or low-fat milk, fortified orange juice, or low-fat dairy foods such as yogurt was associated with a lower risk.

Foods high in calcium include:

  • Dairy products
  • Sesame seeds
  • Almonds
  • Leafy green vegetables

The study also found that participants who had a high intake of dietary vitamin D (a vitamin that regulates calcium absorption and metabolism) corresponding to approximately 400 IU per day had a lower risk of PMS.

A later study published in BMC Women's Health assessed blood levels of vitamin D (25-hydroxyvitamin D) and found that vitamin D levels were unrelated to the risk of PMS overall, but that low levels were related to the risk of specific menstrual symptoms such as breast tenderness, diarrhea or constipation, fatigue, and depression.

Diet

The most common dietary recommendations for managing PMS are to limit sugar intake and to get enough complex carbohydrates in your diet. Some people may benefit from reduced sodium intake, which may help to reduce bloating, water retention, and breast swelling and tenderness.

Caffeine restriction may be beneficial for some people because of the association between caffeine and PMS symptoms, such as irritability and insomnia.

Exercise

Sticking to a regular exercise routine may help to improve PMS symptoms. Regular aerobic exercise such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling releases endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin (chemical messengers that can boost mood) and has positive benefits on energy and sleep.

Stress Management

Breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga are natural ways to reduce stress and promote relaxation. Many people feel more assertive and attuned to their needs in the weeks before menses. This can be used constructively by allowing for personal time to relax, expressing emotions, and giving priority to your needs and what nourishes you.

Agnus Castus (Chaste Tree Berry)

Chaste tree berry (Vitex agnus-castus) berry is often suggested as an herbal supplement to help with premenstrual syndrome.

A study published in Phytomedicine examined the use of agnus castus (in three different doses) and in comparison to a placebo in 162 females with PMS. After the three-month period, participants who took 20 mg per day of the herb had improved symptoms compared to those who took the placebo, or the 8 mg or 30 mg doses of the herb.

In a 2013 study published in Planta Medica, researchers reviewed previously published studies on the use of the chaste tree for female reproductive conditions. They found that five out of six studies found agnus castus supplements to be more effective than a placebo.

This herb can cause side effects and it may not be appropriate for some people, so if you are considering taking agnus castus, it's important to consult your healthcare provider first.

Integrative Approaches

Acupuncture, massage therapy, and aromatherapy (using essential oils) are sometimes suggested to reduce symptoms of PMS. The effects of these approaches haven't been validated, but some people find them beneficial, and they are safe if done correctly.

Bottom Line

If you have PMS, there may be certain lifestyle changes you can make to improve your symptoms. Knowing your pattern of symptoms is an important start to being able to manage them. You might start by giving yourself a little extra rest and self-care at times when you anticipate symptoms such as headaches, irritability, depression, or anxiety. Speak with your care provider, who can help you choose the approach that is right for you.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Bertone-Johnson ER, Hankinson SE, Bendich A, Johnson SR, Willett WC, Manson JE. Calcium and vitamin D intake and risk of incident premenstrual syndrome. Arch Intern Med. 2005 Jun 13;165(11):1246-52. doi:10.1001/archinte.165.11.1246

  2. Bertone-Johnson ER, Hankinson SE, Forger NG, et al. Plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D and risk of premenstrual syndrome in a prospective cohort studyBMC Womens Health. 2014;14:56. doi:10.1186/1472-6874-14-56

  3. Cleveland Clinic. 11 diet changes that help you fight PMS.

  4. Heijnen S, Hommel B, Kibele A, Colzato LS. Neuromodulation of aerobic exercise-a reviewFront Psychol. 2016;6:1890. Published 2016 Jan 7. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01890

  5. Schellenberg R, Zimmermann C, Drewe J. Dose-dependent efficacy of the vitex agnus castus extract ze 440 in patients suffering from premenstrual syndrome. Reproductive Endocrinology.

  6. Van die MD, Burger HG, Teede HJ, Bone KM. Vitex agnus-castus extracts for female reproductive disorders: a systematic review of clinical trials. Planta Med. 2013;79(7):562-75. doi:10.1055/s-0032-1327831

Additional Reading
  • Bertone-Johnson ER, Hankinson SE, Forger NG, et al. Plasma 25-hydroxyvitamin D and risk of premenstrual syndrome in a prospective cohort study. BMC Womens Health.

  • van Die MD, Burger HG, Teede HJ, Bone KM. Vitex agnus-castus extracts for female reproductive disorders: a systematic review of clinical trials. Planta Med.