Traditional Chinese Medicine Information Page

About TCM
Five Elements
Herbal Therapy
Expert Advice on Common Diseases
TCM News
Health Resources

About Us
Expert Advice-Treatment of Irregular Periods in Traditional Chinese Medicine(TCM):

Treating Irregular Periods with Chinese Herbal Medicine

Today’s women spend over one third of their lifetimes with menstrual cycles. Regular and healthy periods are what every woman seeks. In response to this perennial concern of women, gynecology and obstetrics comprise over a third of the theory and practice of traditional Chinese medicine.

Joan is a 31-year-old single mother. Her menses began at age thirteen, and she had irregular periods until she was sixteen. Recently, for eight months, her periods began to come early, eight to ten days before the expected time. She experienced heavy bleeding, with a sticky, purplish flow, clots and abdominal pain. Ten prescriptions of Clear Menses Formula (see below) with slight variations and acupuncture treatments returned Joan to normal.

Menstrual disorders are varied: olyomenorrhea, polymenorrhea, menorrhagia, metrorrhagia, hypomenorrhea, amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea, menopause, premenstrual syndrome, breast distention, headache, mood swings, fever, diarrhea, vomiting blood, edema, dizziness during menstruation and other symptoms with menstrual cycles are common among women across cultures, across countries and across time.

What is causing my menstrual irregularities and imbalances asks the woman who suffers. Chinese medicine theory has several answers to this question, the most important of which are: emotions, diet; and imbalance or blockage of the internal organs (Zang Fu) and internal energy pathways (meridians). Each of the major internal organs is affected by a specific emotion, and each organ also controls one or more of the energy meridians. For example, the Liver is strongly affected by anger, and the Liver meridian encircles the reproductive organs. The Liver is responsible for the smooth flow of emotions and Blood in our bodies. When there is excessive anger, especially unexpressed anger, the proper functioning of the Liver is damaged. and many problems, including menstrual disorders, eating disorders, and depression can result. Worrying and excessive thinking can impair the proper functioning of the Spleen, which generates the energy (Chi) and Blood that nourish our reproductive organs. Fear is the big killer for our kidney meridian, which contains our vital essence. Vital essence is very damaging to the Kidneys, which holds our vital essence and genetic makeup. Disharmony of Kidneys, Spleen and Liver is therefore one of the key factors in menstrual dysfunction.

Unhealthy diet choices also strongly affect the reproductive system. Over-consumption of cold, raw foods and icy drinks can decrease energy flow, drain energy from the system, and over time will cause the painful blockage of energy flow and the accumulation of cold in the body. Eating a lot of hot and spicy foods, such as red meat, chocolate, coffee, fried foods, hot spices can overheat the Blood and cause the accumulation of Heat in the body. Unregulated emotions also contribute to Heat accumulation. When you look at our eating habits and stress levels in this country, it is easy to understand the prevalence of Heat and Cold pattern menstrual disorders.

In traditional Chinese medicine, the specific details of the menstrual cycle - duration, volume, appearance of flow, etc. - are only the surface phenomena. The underlying causes of menstrual disorders are dysfunction of the internal organs; disharmony of Chi, Blood and Body Fluids; imbalance of the Conception and Governing meridians; and irregularity of Kidney Essence.

In any type of menstrual disorder, blood is critical. For regulating the menstrual cycle, regulating blood is always necessary. Angelica, peony and rehmannia are medicinal plants which nourish the Blood and regulate the menstrual cycle. Angelica tops the list for gynecological problems. The "female ginseng" can tonify the female reproductive system, relieve menstrual pain, regulate the menstrual cycle, reduce premenstrual syndrome and relieve many symptoms of menopause. A research project on Angelica is under way at the University of California at Berkeley.

The following three patterns of menstrual disorders are very common have been emphasized by Chinese medicine practitioners for hundreds of years.

Disharmony of Liver, Spleen, and Kidneys
This pattern includes irregular periods, dysmenorrhea. Also indicated are potential profuse bleeding and amenorrhea. This pattern is always connected to emotions. Stable Menses Formula (Ding Jing Tang) is the main prescription for this type of menstrual disorders.

Stable Menses Formula (Ding Jing Tang)

Buplerum (Chai Hu)

Schizonepeta (Jing Jie)

Angelica (Dang Gui)

Peony (Bai Shao)

Yam Root (Shan Yao)

Poria (Fu Ling)

Dodder Seed (Tu Si Zi)

Rehmannia (Shu Di)

This formula was prescribed by Dr. Fu Qingzhu in his famous book, Fu Qingzhu’s Gynecology, written in 1827. This is one of the most important gynecological textbooks in traditional Chinese medicine. His formulas are still the standard in the modern textbooks. In this formula, buplerum and schizonepeta soothe the Liver, yam root and poria strengthen the Spleen, dodder seed and rehmannia tonify the Kidneys. All these herbs help angelica and peony to "soften and comfort" the Liver, nourish the Blood and regulate the menstruation. It is a well-balanced formula.

Excessive Heat Pattern
This pattern includes early periods, heavy menstruation, profuse bleeding, dysmenorrhea with symptoms such as anxiety, feverish feeling, dry mouth, purple clots in menses, breast distention, hypochondriac pain or abdominal distention, aversion to heat or warmth. Clear Menses Formula (Qing Jing Tang) is the main prescription for menstrual disorders of Excessive Heat Type. This formula was also prescribed by Dr. Fu Qingzhu in his Fu Qingzhu’s Gynecology. In this formula, peony root, wormwood and phellodendri clear the Heat; Rehmannia and wolfberry root clear the Heat and cool the Blood; Poria moves the Fluid. Although this formula is to clear the Heat, rehmannia and peony help to protect the Yin and Essence. It is a time-tested formula.

Clear Menses Formula (Qing Jing Tang)

Peony Root (Dan Pi)

Wolfberry Root (Di Gu Pi)

Peony (Bai Shao)

Rehmannia (Sheng Di)

Wormwood (Qing Hao)

Phellodendri (Huang Bai)

Poria (Fu Ling)

Excessive Cold Pattern
This pattern includes scanty periods(oligomennorrhea), delayed periods, amenorrhea, or dysmenorrhea. Main symptoms include blood stasis with periods, cold limbs, abdominal pain with periods, and aversion to cold. Warm Menses Formula (Wen Jing Tang) is the main prescription for menstrual disorders of the Cold Type. This formula was prescribed by Dr. Chen Ziming in his book, Fine Prescriptions for Women, written in 1237 during Song Dynasty. Cinnamon warms the menses and uterus; Angelica and Cinidiuum correct the menstrual irregularity from stagnated Blood; congealed Blood or deficient Blood; Ginseng tonifies the Qi and assists the other three herbs. Zedoary, Peony Root and Achyranthis promote Blood circulation and eliminate stasis; Licorice harmonizes. This is a representative formula in traditional Chinese medicine wisdom.

Traditional Chinese medicine has accumulated tremendous experience in dealing with women’s health problems. TCM gynecology was developed among the earliest. It pays a lot of attention to very subtle aspects of women’s health. Different patterns, different stages, even many symptoms not differentiated by conventional medicine are detailed in the huge volumes of medical literature and records of clinical experience.

Warm Menses Formula (Wen Jing Tang)

Ginseng (Renshen)

Angelica (Dang Gui)

Cnidium (Chuan Qiong)

Peony (Bai Shao)

Cinnamon (Gui Xin)

Zedoary (E Zhu)

Peony Root (Dan Pi)

Achyranthis (Niu Xi)

Licorice (Gan Cao)