New evidence finds acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine effective for the treatment of menstrual pain.One study reveals a popular herbal medicine for the relief of cramping and pain. Another study found acupuncture as effective as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for menstrual related pain. The first and most recent study on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for the treatment of menstrual discomfort was conducted in Taiwan.
This new study finds Dan Gui Shao Yao San the primary herbal formula consumed in Taiwan for the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea. This type of dysmenorrhea is characterized by lower abdominal cramping and pain prior or during menstruation and is not due to endometriosis. Approximately 53% of Taiwanese women with primary dysmenorrhea use Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and over 90% of this group sought the relief of menstruation related pain. The study notes that Dan Gui Shao Yao San is the most commonly prescribed herbal formula for this condition and it contains both “sedative and anti-inflammatory agents.”
The researchers made a survey of 23,118 Taiwanese women with primary dysmenorrhea. The data was derived by the National Health Insurance Research Database. The researchers documented a total of 213,249 TCM office visits for the treatment of primary dysmenorrhea. Over 99% of these patients were treated with herbal medicine and Dang Gui Shao Yao San (Tangkuei and Peony Powder) was the top choice. As a result, the researchers have formally recommended a study on the effects of this Chinese Medicine herbal formula.
Existing studies have measured the medicinal effects of Dang Gui Shao Yao San. A 2005 study reveals that:
"DGSYS showed anti-superoxide formation and free radical scavenging activity in a concentration-dependent manner. It also inhibited PMA- but not fMLP-induced superoxide anion released from human neutrophils. These antioxidant actions of DGSYS showed beneficial cytoprotective effects against lipid peroxidation in rat liver homogenate, human platelet aggregation induced by arachidonic acid (AA) and adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and mitomycin C-mediated hemolytic in human erythrocytes."
Dang Gui Shao Yao San contains the ingredients Dang Gui, Bai Shao Yao, Chuan Xiong, Fu Ling, Bai Zhu and Ze Xie. The TCM functions of this formula are to nourish the Liver blood, harmonize the Liver and Spleen and to transform dampness. It is classically indicated for the treatment of dysmenorrhea, irregular menstruation, painful urination, edema, threatened miscarriage and lower abdominal cramping. This formula is categorized as a tonify blood formula in the TCM system and is appropriate in certain cases where the differential diagnostic patterns match the classical indications.
The acupuncture study concluded that, “Acupuncture was as effective as NSAID therapy for patients with primary dysmenorrhea.” Group 1 received NSAIDs and group 2 received acupuncture care. Both groups received treatment for one month. The NSAID group showed a 52.2% decrease in dysmenorrhea related pain. The acupuncture group demonstrated a 69.5% decrease in dysmenorrhea related pain.
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Pan, Jung-Chuan, Yueh-Ting Tsai, Jung-Nien Lai, Ruei-Chi Fang, and Chia-Hao Yeh. "The traditional Chinese medicine prescription pattern of patients with primary dysmenorrhea in Taiwan: A large-scale cross sectional survey." Journal of Ethnopharmacology (2014).
Shen, Ai-Yu, Trey-Shy Wang, Mei-Han Huang, Chang-Hui Liao, Sheue-Jiun Chen, and Chun-Ching Lin. "Antioxidant and antiplatelet effects of dang-gui-shao-yao-san on human blood cells." The American Journal of Chinese Medicine 33, no. 05 (2005): 747-758.
Kiran, Gurkan, Yakup Gumusalan, Hasan C. Ekerbicer, Hakan Kiran, Ayhan Coskun, and Deniz C. Arikan. "A randomized pilot study of acupuncture treatment for primary dysmenorrhea." European Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology and Reproductive Biology (2013).