Period pain can range from pesky to debilitating. Many women take the Pill just to relieve menstrual cramping and heavy bleeding. While this treatment may be effective, the Pill can lead to long-term hormonal imbalance and estrogen dominance, which may predispose some to hormone related cancers, such as breast cancer. Estrogen dominance means that there is too much estrogen in relationship to progesterone, the two main female hormones. This can exacerbate cramping, PMS, and weight gain. Here are some natural remedies for cramp relief.
Natural Remedies for Menstrual Cramp Relief
First off, address the underlying issue. Have your female hormone levels tested (easy do-at-home saliva test) to determine if you do have too much estrogen and/or not enough progesterone. This is easy to fix using bio-identical hormone therapies, usually made with wild yam. Avoid using over-the-counter progesterone creams, which can build up in fatty tissue and swing the pendulum too far the other way (which comes with a whole host of other unpleasant symptoms). Also, hypothyroidism can worsen cramping. Have your adrenal hormones checked (another easy saliva test) and corrected. Adrenal hormones govern the thyroid, and fixing the adrenals is the upstream way to fix the thyroid. Have your TSH, T3, and T4 levels checked for thyroid function. (you can order these tests yourself here.)
Clean up your diet. Cut out refined foods, especially white sugar and white flour products. Get mineral-rich leafy greens and eat them daily for the magnesium. Most people don’t get enough magnesium, and it is a natural muscle relaxer. Increase your vitamin B intake through a multi or B-rich foods like eggs, liver, meat, brown rice. Reduce caffeine–cut down on coffee especially. Avoid trans fats and up your essential fatty acid intake. Get more omega 3s via salmon, walnuts, or flaxseed oil.
Plants are medicine. Use them! Herbs that work are cramp bark, ginger, white willow bark (natural aspirin), chamomile, peppermint, cinnamon bark, fennel. Drink ginger tea twice daily: grate ginger in a mug and pour hot water over it. Steep and drain; add honey if desired. It increases circulation, is a natural pain remedy, and is said to help dispel menstrual waste.
Make a cramp bark tincture. This, in my opinion, is the best way to take it so that it works. I have tried herbal combos of ginger, cinnamon bark, and cramp bark, in capsule form, and it didn’t work. At all. Not even a little. Tinctures pack a punch. Google how to make a tincture for more detail, but the basic formula is to add about a cup of herb to a mason jar and cover with vodka, seal, let sit for a couple months, then strain. Throw some cinnamon bark in if desired. Take 30-40 drops a couple times a day. Find all this at an herbal apothecary.
You can try a tea of any of the aforementioned herbs in any combination and drink liberally. Peppermint and fennel specifically are anti-spasmodic. Red raspberry is considered a good female toner to drink throughout the month, but I don’t find that it reduces acute pain very well. It can be quite preventative.
Take a vitex supplement. It takes a couple months to work, but it regulates your cycle by stimulating progesterone production. Avoid it if you are using hormonal birth control of any kind.
Try a liver cleanse! The liver metabolizes all hormones, so a clean liver can reduce PMS & other menstrual symptoms. Click on my workshops page to read about the regular liver cleanse workshops we conduct in the Bay Area. You don’t have to live here to participate.
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. In addition to her coaching practice, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and kick nagging digestive issues for good. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.