A smooth rite of passage for women

Two of the most common period-related complaints from women are menstrual pain and headaches.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Herbal Help

Take certain foods to address deficiencies that can lead to menstrual problems

Getting her period is a girl's rite of passage, yet menstrual problems can crop up for many.

A normal menstrual cycle lasts between 28 and 30 days.

If this cycle is shortened or extended by more than seven days for two consecutive months, the woman is diagnosed as having a menstrual problem, said Ms Gee Swee Sien, a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practitioner at Thomson Chinese Medicine in Katong.

Other women have cycles that are so irregular that they cannot predict the timing of their period.

A menstrual period usually lasts four to six days, depending on the woman's age.

The blood flow is usually relatively light on the first day, increases on the second and third days, and tapers down henceforth, stopping by the sixth day.

A prolonged menstrual period is one which lasts for two weeks or more, said Ms Gee. A heavy menstrual flow may cause a woman to feel dizzy and look pale, while a light flow means the period lasts for no more than three days.

Ms Gee said: "A light flow is unhealthy, as it signifies that the overall blood flow in the body is less than optimal."

She has observed that two of the most common complaints from women are menstrual pain and headaches.

Here are five syndromes underlying women's menstrual problems:


Causes: The spleen has the function of retaining essential fluids, such as blood, in our bodies. Spleen qi deficiency is mainly due to poor dietary habits, such as being a picky eater, eating at irregular times and not chewing one's food properly. Stress can also contribute to this deficiency.

Symptoms: A weak spleen that fails to regulate blood flow properly can result in an irregular menstrual cycle, a prolonged period and heavy menstrual flow. Other symptoms include prolonged fatigue, loose stools, water retention and a sallow complexion.

Food therapy: Make soup with one whole black chicken and 30g huangqi . Brew for 30 minutes.


Causes: The kidney is said to govern our reproductive system. Kidney qi deficiency can be due to genetic factors, the ageing process, a hectic lifestyle and an overactive sex life.

Symptoms: A woman may have an irregular cycle, light menstrual flow and menstrual pain. Other symptoms include urinary frequency, backaches, dizziness, fatigue and tinnitus (ringing in the ears).

Food therapy: Make soup with one whole chicken, 30g wolfberries, 30g Chinese yam and 20g huangqi.


Causes: The liver governs the amount of blood flow in the body and is easily affected by our lifestyle. A stressful life - be it at home, in school or at the workplace - coupled with insufficient sleep, will slowly deplete the blood in the liver.

Symptoms: An irregular cycle, menstrual pain and breast soreness before or during menstruation. The person is also depressed, easily irritated and may experience discomfort in the chest.

Food therapy: Make tea with 3g dried roses, 3g green tea leaves and hot water.


Causes: Blood deficiency can mean blood flow is insufficient in the body or that there are inadequate nutrients in the blood. This is largely due to chronic stress and poor dietary habits.

Symptoms: A sallow complexion, pale lips, dizziness, heart palpitation, a pale tongue and weak pulse.

Food therapy: Cook porridge with 60g white rice grains, 10 dried longans, 10 lotus seeds and 10 red dates.


Causes: This is a condition where blood circulation is not optimal or does not flow freely due to previous injury or "coldness" in the womb.

Symptoms: A woman will feel her womb is cold from within, and has a preference for hot beverages over cold ones. People with blood stagnation may have a dark complexion, scaly and dry skin, and a tongue that is purplish or with dark spots.

Food therapy: Make dessert by boiling 15g dried black fungus till soft before adding in a desired amount of brown sugar.


10g cordyceps, washed

10g dried longans

4 to 6 sticks of codonopsis root, soaked in hot water for 15 to 20 minutes

4 to 6 pcs red dates

1 sakura chicken

1 slice ginger

500ml hot water

Salt, as desired


Remove the chicken skin, then wash and blanch chicken in hot water. Rinse and wash the chicken again before setting it aside.

Rinse codonopsis root with hot water.

Brew all ingredients under medium heat for between 2 and 2½ hours.

When soup is ready, season with salt before serving.


This dish addresses spleen and kidney qi deficiency, as well as blood deficiency. Cordyceps strengthens the kidney and lungs, codonopsis root strengthens the spleen, while longans and red dates improve blood quality. This soup also aids in building up a person's strength and immunity.

Source: Ms Gee Swee Sien, traditional Chinese medicine practitioner at Thomson Chinese Medicine (I12 Katong)


This article was first published on Feb 16, 2016. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.