Real talk: When your uterus decides to throw its monthly rager, it might feel like there's not much you can do except gas up the heating pad and wait out the party biology forced you to chaperone. The fact that so many of us power through cramps, mood swings, sore boobs, and nausea on such a regular basis makes us bona fide superheroes, in my opinion—but that doesn't mean we don't wish that managing PMS symptoms were slightly, well, more manageable.
There's a good chance you've accrued some strategies to feel better during your period throughout the years—or maybe you just have a longstanding relationship with Midol. But if you've been curious about taking a more natural approach to some of your period's more annoying side effects, know that there are some herbs and supplements that may help.
This science is the driving force behind a series of new period-centric supplements from Love Wellness, the feminine health brand founded by Lo Bosworth. The herbal blends were crafted with a team of medical experts to tackle PMS-related nuisances ranging from mood dips to bloat. That's why we deferred to one of Bosworth's go-to docs, award-winning ob-gyn Christine Sterling, for her advice on the best supplements to take for every kind of period symptom. And as always, if your symptoms are truly disruptive to your life, it might be time to consult a doc. Find her picks below.
If your cramps are particularly awful:
Sterling names chasteberry and ginkgo leaf as key ingredients that have been shown to counteract a few different PMS symptoms—namely cramping, which is what we feel when our uterine muscles constrict and contract. They're both starring ingredients in Love Wellness's #Mood Pills ($25), which were designed to encourage hormonal balance all month long.
One important thing to note, especially if you're on the pill: "Women on birth control pills should be aware that there is concern that, due to its mechanism of action, chasteberry could reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills," says Sterling. Check with your doctor to discuss your options.
If you have bad mood swings:
It's no fun to feel like you've lost all control over your emotions, but it also doesn't have to be an inevitability every 28 days or so. St. John's Wort and vitamin B6 have been demonstrated to work as natural antidepressants, says Sterling, and they're both also in the aforementioned #Mood Pills. (For what it's worth, I've also had success with taking St. John's Wort on its own.)
If you're already on medication for depression or anxiety, you'll definitely need to check with your doctor before adding any herbal remedies. (It's plant medicine, but it's powerful stuff nonetheless.)
If your boobs hurt:
In addition to investing in a very comfortable, period-specific bra, you might consider taking evening primrose oil, which studies suggest might help alleviate breast pain.
Try primrose oil if you tend to avoid exercise around your period due to breast tenderness.
If you're nauseous or bloated:
Is there anything worse? But we have good news: "Ginger is an effective option for combating nausea and has also been found to decrease pain with menses," says Sterling. Studies also show that ginger can help ease any gas and kick-start your digestion, so it's great for bloating, too.
If your digestion is out of whack:
If your digestion is feeling sluggish—which, by the way, is a very common PMS symptom—then you might try taking some flaxseed oil to get things moving, says Sterling.
If you're having trouble sleeping:
Pro tip: Prioritize sleep around your period. "If premenstrual or menstrual symptoms interfere with sleep, women can enter a vicious cycle in which the lack of sleep makes their symptoms worse," says Sterling. "Valerian root and melatonin supplementation both have been shown to help people fall asleep faster."
So consider this your prescription to rest up—ideally with a piece of dark chocolate in hand.
Pattanittum P, Kunyanone N, Brown J, Sangkomkamhang US, Barnes J, Seyfoddin V, et al. Dietary Supplements for Dysmenorrhoea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016;3(3):CD002124. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD002124.pub2
Balci FL, Uras C, Feldman S. Clinical Factors Affecting the Therapeutic Efficacy of Evening Primrose Oil on Mastalgia. Ann Surg Oncol. 2020;27(12):4844-4852. doi:10.1245/s10434-020-08949-x
Nikkhah Bodagh M, Maleki I, Hekmatdoost A. Ginger in Gastrointestinal Disorders: A Systematic Review of Clinical Trials. Food Sci Nutr. 2018;7(1):96-108. doi:10.1002/fsn3.807