Exploring Anxiety, Depression, PMS, and PMDD with Traditional Chinese Medicine

Essential Takeaways
  • A holistic approach that includes Chinese herbs helps those who have cycle-related emotional symptoms, like mood swings, irritability, depression, or anxiety, or the more severe and debilitating form of PMS, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).

  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) looks to support the underlying imbalances that lead to symptoms, not just the symptoms themselves. Liver Qi Stagnation is a common pattern of imbalance that is at the root of PMS and PMDD symptoms. We’re happy to say that Elix has formulas to specifically address this imbalance.

  • Lifestyle plays a large role in mental health, so paying attention to what you’re eating, how you’re moving, your support network, and how you respond to stress can be helpful. 

Many of us experience changes in mood and emotions around our periods (like irritability, depression, anxiety, mood swings, sadness) due to natural hormonal shifts during the cycle. Some people are more sensitive to these hormonal shifts and experience more intense emotional symptoms; and sometimes, they are diagnosed with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD). Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers a unique and holistic perspective for managing PMDD, which so profoundly affects many people’s lives. By supporting the underlying imbalances, TCM extends beyond symptom relief to offer lasting changes.

What Is PMDD?

PMDD is considered a more severe form of PMS, with about 5% of menstruating people diagnosed with this condition. Common symptoms include - depression, anxiety, anger, mood swings, fatigue, lack of interest in daily activities, difficulty focusing, feeling out of control, irregular sleep patterns, and physical symptoms like bloating, breast tenderness, or headaches.   The difference between PMDD and PMS is that PMDD symptoms are debilitating and can last the whole second half (luteal phase) of the cycle. PMS symptoms, on the other hand, tend to last for at most 7 days.

Read more about PMDD here

Understanding PMDD from a TCM Perspective

TCM perceives PMDD through the lens of foundational root imbalances, also known as patterns of imbalance, specifically the pattern of Liver Qi Stagnation (LQS). Think of LQS as a traffic jam in your body: energy and nutrients (i.e. Qi) are not being delivered throughout your body efficiently nor smoothly. This stuck Qi can lead to emotional volatility, extreme emotions, fatigue, brain fog, and physical discomfort, which are hallmark symptoms of PMDD. TCM takes a holistic approach and recognizes several contributing factors to PMDD, such as stress, dietary habits, and lifestyle choices. It highlights the need for a multifaceted support strategy that includes herbal formulas as well as lifestyle adjustments.

Herbal Supplements for Anxiety, Depression, and PMDD

One of the most popular Chinese herbal formulas, Xiao Yao San, known as "Free and Easy Wanderer," is a cornerstone of TCM's approach to target the major patterns of imbalance, like Liver Qi Stagnation. As mentioned earlier, such imbalances lead to symptoms like anxiety, depression, mood swings, and conditions like PMS and PMDD. This classic formula aims to keep Qi flowing smoothly (i.e. clear up and prevent traffic jams). It addresses the root cause of many emotional symptoms.

Adaptogens and Stress

Elix created a supercharged version of Xiao Yao San called Daily Harmony, which contains the addition of adaptogens to help the body become more resilient to everyday stressors, a known exacerbator of reproductive hormone imbalances and PMS symptoms. The adaptogenic components added in products like Daily Harmony are recognized for their stress-modulating properties, offering a bridge between traditional wisdom and contemporary scientific understanding.

Research Supporting TCM in PMDD Relief

Studies highlight TCM's potential in offering a wide breadth of relief from premenstrual symptoms. Specifically, ResearchGate published a systematic review highlighting the many ways in which the classical formula Xiao Yao San can provide relief from varying degrees of PMS symptoms, mood swings and quality of life, implying it would be applicable in supporting PMDD. Pair that with stress modulating adaptogens like we did with Daily Harmony, and you are extra supported!

Many studies have also shown XYS effectiveness in symptoms like depression and anxiety. These studies also show that using herbs in conjunction with prescription drugs like anti-depressants or anxiolytics can produce better results than using the drugs alone. (We always suggest talking to your doctor before starting any new herbs or supplements.)

Acupuncture has also been shown to be incredibly effective in relieving PMDD symptoms, and while unfortunately we don’t always have an acupuncturist around when we need them, self administering acupressure is also incredibly helpful. Try these acupressure massage points for premenstrual relief.

Cycle Balance and Daily Harmony: A Synergistic Approach

When the body needs a little more support with mood-related symptoms, we recommend integrating Daily Harmony alongside Cycle Balance, the dynamic duo that gets results. While Cycle Balance focuses on addressing your unique hormone imbalances, Daily Harmony adds adaptogens to support stress resilience, creating a synergistic effect that promotes overall health and wellness. TCM’s comprehensive care philosophy recognizes that there are different needs throughout the menstrual cycle - and thus that means different formulas. Integrating Cycle Balance and Daily Harmony throughout the menstrual cycle provides comprehensive support for hormonal balance and emotional well-being.

TCM's Holistic Approach of PMDD

TCM's approach is not limited to herbal remedies; it emphasizes that lifestyle choices like nutrition, stress response through acupuncture and meditation, and exercise are so important to lasting change. TCM encourages living in alignment with the flow of seasons and hormonal phases to feel your best. This holistic strategy emphasizes balance across physical, emotional, and spiritual dimensions, essential for managing mental health smoothly and holistically.

Enhancing TCM Herbal Formulas with Lifestyle Recommendations

To complement your Elix herbal formulas, incorporating specific lifestyle changes is important to see the quickest results:

  • Nutrition and Diet: A balanced diet rich in whole foods supports liver health and Qi circulation, avoiding trigger foods like caffeine, sugar, and alcohol that can exacerbate symptoms.

  • Exercise and Physical Activity: Gentle exercises that promote Qi flow, such as Tai Chi and Qigong, are recommended alongside nature walks to foster a sense of peace and grounding.

  • Stress Management and Emotional Well-being: Mindfulness practices, meditation, and acupressure can help manage stress and stabilize emotions. Establishing a relaxing bedtime routine is crucial for improving sleep quality, vital for mental health.

  • Social and Emotional Support: Maintaining a supportive network and seeking professional help when needed.

Chinese Medicine for Emotional Health 

TCM presents a nuanced and holistic framework for understanding PMDD, PMS, and other mood-related symptoms. By addressing the root causes of imbalance through a combination of herbal formulas, lifestyle choices, and stress management techniques, TCM offers a compelling complement to conventional treatment modalities. This integrative approach, grounded in centuries of practice and supported by contemporary research, holds promise for people seeking relief, emphasizing harmony and balance as the pillars of health and well-being.

Natural remedies for Depression, Anxiety, and PMDD

The combination of a customized Cycle Balance formula with Daily Harmony is the dynamic duo of formulas that can help support the “why” behind PMDD and other symptoms related to mental health and hormone imbalances. The integration of Cycle Balance and Daily Harmony throughout the menstrual cycle offers a holistic approach to hormonal balance and emotional well-being. You deserve to feel your best every day of the month! 

If you have more questions about how Elix formulas can best support you, sign up for an informative Health Coach Session with an Elix TCM expert, where you can have any and all of your questions answered. This session is a complimentary perk, as you will get your money back and more upon your first Cycle Balance purchase with a discount offered at the session.

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