Top 10 Natural Supplements and Herbs for Alleviating PMS / PMDD Symptoms


Written by Keith A. Nutritionist, herbalist, and researcher

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) are painful conditions that affect millions of women all around the world, and the number may be increasing. Though a small degree of discomfort is natural, severe symptoms may indicate other imbalances in the body. These conditions can bring about a range of physical and emotional symptoms such as bloating, mood swings, increased appetite, headaches, irritability and intense anger, fatigue, brain fog, despair, depression, swelling, and more. Thankfully, there are quite a few natural treatments available that have proven benefits according to research. In this article, we will explore the top 10 natural supplements, herbs, vitamins, and minerals that may help improve the symptoms of PMS and PMDD according to real research. In addition to supplements, it's imperative to improve dietary habits and get rid of hydrogenated oils, inflammatory vegetable oils, insulin spiking foods, and fried foods as much as possible.

1. Magnesium

Magnesium is a vital mineral that plays a crucial role in hundreds of functions in the body. It is particularly beneficial in reducing symptoms associated with PMS and PMDD. Magnesium helps to stimulate calming neurotransmitters in the brain, ease tense muscles, calm spasms, and improve mood, irritability, and anxiety. Additionally, it can help reduce bloating, fluid retention, and breast tenderness. In one placebo-controlled study, magnesium was beneficial compared to placebo for PMS and PMDD symptoms. When magnesium was paired with vitamin B6, the results were even better. We make sure to include both nutrients in Calm Cycle, along with others that may help decrease the severity of symptoms and improve overall comfort.  1

2. Vitamin B6 (P5P)

Vitamin B6 is essential for maintaining hormonal balance in the body. It is an important cofactor in producing calming neurotransmitters such as GABA and serotonin, which influence well-being, calmness, and happiness. When there is a shortage of B6 and magnesium, it becomes much more difficult to manufacture these calming chemicals in the brain. By boosting serotonin and GABA levels (together with other nutrients), vitamin B6 can help reduce mood swings, irritability, and depression associated with PMS and PMDD. In the study cited above with magnesium, we see that pairing it with magnesium causes significant improvements when compared to placebo for several symptoms of PMS. In particular, the emotional symptoms seem to improve the most. One thing that is very important with B6 is to get the active version of P5P, it is much more beneficial than the typical form.  2

3. Saffron

Saffron is known as the world's most expensive spice and is great for adding flavor to dishes. While it can get pricey when used in recipes all the time, it's packed with medicinal value for the brain, circulation, mood, and symptoms of PMS. It works on different neurotransmitters in the brain to help promote a better mood. It also may contain anti-inflammatory properties that can fight the surge of inflammatory compounds that can occur with PMDD. In one study with over 100 women, saffron showed superior benefits to placebo for PMDD. The evaluation for this study included participants recording the severity of their symptoms to truly gauge the effects of saffron. Within 2 months of supplementation, the difference was very clear. If you're interested in saffron, there are several different extracts on the market. However, the spice itself is knocked off quite often, so make sure to purchase something authentic, reputable, or a patented extract in supplement form. 3, 4

4. Chasteberry (Vitex agnus-castus)

Chasteberry, also known as Vitex agnus-castus, is a popular herb that's sometimes used to alleviate symptoms of PMS and PMDD. It works by balancing hormone levels, particularly by increasing progesterone and reducing excess estrogen. In women with PMS or PMDD, the estrogen-to-progesterone ratio can sometimes be a little off, which can result in strong symptoms. Using chasteberry with B6 (P5P) with magnesium may help raise progesterone and improve this important hormonal ratio. Vitex may help to reduce breast tenderness, mood swings, and irritability associated with PMDD. In one study with more than 100 women, an extract from chasteberry helped to reduce symptoms of PMS. By the third month of the study, symptom severity was reduced by close to 50%. 5

5. Calcium

Calcium is an essential mineral that plays a vital role in maintaining overall health. Aside from bone health, calcium is critical for nerve conduction, muscle contraction, and the functioning of different proteins and enzymes. Interestingly, calcium has been found to have positive effects on alleviating some of the symptoms of PMS and PMDD. Due to calcium's regulatory effects on contractions (along with magnesium), it can help with cramps and muscle tension. Additionally, calcium has some balancing effects on mood and may reduce fatigue. Some evidence shows that women with PMS may have low levels of calcium and benefit from increasing intake either through supplementation or diet. However, it is wise to stay away from too much dairy, especially A1 dairy from Holstein cows. Dairy from sheep and goat offers a higher amount of A2 protein instead of A1, which can be more inflammatory for some people. 6

6. Zinc

Zinc is an incredibly important mineral for many systems of the body. It is in high demand but needs to be balanced in the right amount. Too little is harmful, just as too much can be, much like selenium and many nutrients. Zinc is important for female reproductive health, protein synthesis, and the repair of tissues. Zinc also influences serotonin signaling through 5-HT receptors. These receptors influence mood, appetite, cognition, learning, aggression, thermoregulation, sleep, and more. One study showed beneficial results of zinc on symptoms such as anger, anxiety, depression, binge eating, breast tenderness, bloating, and more after taking zinc for 6 months. It was a slow process but a very promising addition to any protocol. Taking too much zinc in supplement form can be quite painful to the GI tract, so take small doses, around 8-10 mg per serving. 7

7. Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo biloba is one of the oldest, most ancient trees in the world. It is typically advertised as a brain boosting herb because of circulation-enhancing qualities. Studies have been mixed for brain health, however, research indicates some positive benefits for PMS symptoms. One placebo-controlled study tested a standardized ginkgo extract against the placebo. While the placebo group did see some small benefits over time, ginkgo outperformed it significantly for several mental and physical symptoms of PMS. The participants in the ginkgo group were far more satisfied with the results and treatment than placebo. 8

8. Omega-3 Fats

Omega-3 fatty acids are incredibly diverse in their effects on the human body and brain. The benefits are proven many times over in clinical studies. Not surprisingly, they also contain benefits for PMS symptoms according to research. One randomized clinical trial with just under 100 women. The group taking the omega-3 supplement saw an improvement in both mental and physical symptoms of PMS. The benefits were apparent when supplementing over time, although the study didn't mention how long it took to see benefits begin. Another double-blind study with 124 women gave participants either a placebo or 2 grams of an omega-3 supplement. After 45 days, benefits for depression, anxiety, poor focus, and bloating were seen. 9, 10

9. Gamma Linolenic Acid (GLA)

GLA is a fatty acid that comes from evening primrose, black currant, and borage seed oil. It stimulates anti-inflammatory compounds that may help to ease several symptoms of PMS, PMDD, and menstrual pain. Women who have severe PMS symptoms and PMDD sometimes show low GLA levels in studies. There are two approaches that one can take to gain the benefits of this. One is supplementing with precursor nutrients such as magnesium, zinc, and B6 (P5P) that help convert linoleic acid to GLA. The other is supplementing with a form of GLA itself. While not all studies have shown consistent benefits, many women notice a difference when they raise their GLA levels.

10. Vitamin E

The benefits of vitamin E for overall health are becoming more widely known as more studies occur. We see benefits for sexual, cardiovascular, brain health, and many other areas. Surprisingly, vitamin E also has several positive studies for PMS and menstrual pain. However, not all vitamin E supplements are created equally. The market is inundated with supplements that are of terrible quality. Most vitamin E within products only utilize the isolated alpha-tocopherol form without the other fractions. Two double-blind studies show improvements in several categories of PMS symptoms when supplementing with vitamin E. Make sure to get a form that uses mixed tocopherols for the greatest overall benefits. Tocotrienols are also part of the vitamin E family and have excellent overall health benefits. 11, 12

While natural supplements and herbs can be beneficial in alleviating PMS and PMDD symptoms, it's important to understand if there are other conditions present that may be influencing your symptoms. Try to remain patient through this process and feel confident that improvement is possible. It's just a matter of time and experimenting with some of these things until something helps. Everyone's internal body chemistry is different, so finding the ideal blend of supplements takes time. Using only one nutrient or supplement won't be enough for most people with severe symptoms. It may take some trial and error to find the right combination of supplements and herbs. Also, many of these supplements do take several months to really show maximum possible benefit. We hope these tips will help you find some relief from the symptoms of PMS and PMDD.