Menstrual cramps, also known as dysmennorhea, are one of the most common symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. These cramps are thought to be the result of hormones known as prostaglandins, which are secreted by the uterine lining and cause uterine contractions. Menstrual cramps usually affect the lower abdomen, although they can sometimes affect other areas such as the lower back and inner thighs.
Many women treat these painful cramps by taking over-the-counter or prescription medications. However, the cost of these medications can add up over time, and some women may experience unpleasant side effects. As a result, a number of women have turned to herbal remedies for a natural, safer way to treat their menstrual cramps. If you would like to learn more about herbs to help alleviate menstrual cramps and discomfort, here are the top three:
Black cohosh is a wild plant found in the eastern United States and Canada. Native Americans and early American physicians used it to treat many female reproductive problems such as menstrual cramps and irregular bleeding. It is believed to relieve menstrual cramps by relaxing the uterus and improving uterine muscle tone. Black cohosh is available in the following forms and dosage:
Tincture: Take ¼ to ½ teaspoon, two to four times daily.
Powder: Take 20 to 40 mg twice per day.
Capsule: Take 2 to 4 300-mg capsules per day.
Side effects include nausea, headaches, abdominal pain and dizziness. Do not take black cohosh if you have a heart condition or are pregnant. Women taking estrogen should consult their doctor before taking black cohosh.
Cramp bark was used by the Native American Meskwaki people to treat cramps and body pain. Other Native Americans such as the Penobscot people used it to treat mumps and swollen glands. Today, cramp bark is used to treat muscle tension and pain. Some women treat menstrual cramps with cramp bark by taking it one day before the expected menstrual period. Preparation and dosage of cramp bark are as follows:
Decoction: Add 2 teaspoons of the dried bark to 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10–15 minutes. Drink up to 3 cups daily, or ½ cup every three hours.
Tincture: Take 1 teaspoon in water three times a day.
Lotion: Rub into affected area as needed to relieve pain.
There are no recorded side effects of cramp bark. However, pregnant and lactating women should consult their physician before use.
Dong quai has been used as a medicine in China for thousands of years. It contains a pain reliever and muscle relaxant known as ferulic acid, and it is often used to treat painful menstrual cramps and other causes of uterine spasms. Here are the recommended forms and dosage:
Tincture: Take 10 to 40 drops one to three times per day.
Capsule: Take 1500 mg three times a daily.
Avoid prolonged exposure to sunlight while taking dong quai, as it may cause sensitivity to sunlight in some people. Dong quai is not recommended for long-term use, and it should not be used by pregnant women.
This article is for informational purposes only; it is not intended to provide medical advice. As with any new treatment, please consult with your physician before starting these or any other herbal remedies. Please bear in mind that herbal remedies do not work the same for everyone, and that it may take time to find one suited to your particular needs.