The Herb Doc Will See You Now

There's still a long list of women's health problems for which conventional medicine falls short -- PMS, cramps, and irritable-bowel syndrome, to name a few. Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., an herbalist and practitioner at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine and co-editor of the new book "Integrative Women's Health," has some alternative suggestions.

Irritable-Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
For those with diarrhea-dominant IBS, enteric-coated peppermint-oil capsules may work well. Try: 0.2 ml taken with meals. When IBS manifests primarily with constipation, Triphala, a supplement made from three fruit extracts, can be very beneficial. Try: 1 to 2 grams per day. 

Both types of IBS benefit from increased fiber intake in the form of psyllium. Try: dosage indicated on package (you may want to start with one dose per day and build to three after a week or so).

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) has been found to relieve PMS-related irritability, mood swings, and headache. Try: 20 to 40 mg of a standardized chaste-tree extract, or 500 mg of powdered chaste tree with water each morning. 

Clinical trials suggest that adding calcium and magnesium supplements can also relieve PMS symptoms. Try: 600 mg of calcium with 200 to 300 mg of magnesium, twice a day, or increasing your dairy consumption.

For occasional anxiety, L-theanine (an amino acid found in tea leaves) takes the edge off and can start working within 20 minutes. Try: 200 mg (in capsule form) as needed. 

A mix of valerian and lemon balm is another traditional treatment for anxiety, and according to Low Dog, the combo works well to make you calmer but not foggy, the way drugs can. Try: Nature's Way Valerian Nighttime with Lemon Balm -- one pill with breakfast, one with lunch, and one in the evening.

Menstrual Cramps
"For acute cramps, ibuprofen is still one of the best medicines," Low Dog says. Taking deglycyrrhizinated licorice (DGL) chewable tablets with ibuprofen helps to protect your stomach. Low Dog also recommends daily magnesium supplements, which can help relieve cramp pain over time. Try: 350 to 400 mg of DGL 20 minutes before meals on the days you take ibuprofen, and 300 to 400 mg of magnesium daily. 

A diet high in fruit, veggies, and omega-3 fatty acids may also help.

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