Chinese herbs may relieve menstrual cramps better than drugs, acupuncture, or heat compression, Australia-based researchers found after studying nearly 3,500 women in several countries.
Along with relieving pain, Chinese herbs also reduced the recurrence of cramps over a three-month period.
In the study, women were given herbal concoctions to regulate their “qi” (energy) and blood, warm their bodies, and boost their kidney and liver functions. Herbs in the study included, but were not limited to:
2. Szechuan lovage root
3. Red peony root, white peony root
4. Chinese motherwort
5. Cinnamon bark
In one trial, 53 percent of the women who took herbs had less pain, compared with 26 percent in the placebo group.
The Chinese herbs were more effective than non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), oral contraceptive pills, acupuncture, heat compressions, placebos, or no treatment at all.
Chinese herbal medicine has been used to treat menstrual pain for hundreds of years. Up to 50 percent of women of reproductive age experience period pain that leads to absences from school and work.
Since relatively small numbers of participants were included in each trial in the study, the researchers recommended further research to confirm their findings.
This, of course, is not at all in your best interest, but it certainly is in theirs.
Chinese herbs have been used for centuries and have been found to be effective. Even if they haven’t undergone scientific testing, they’ve withstood the test of time and the anecdotal evidence points to their usefulness.
However, just because your supplement is natural does not mean it is safe for you to take. My position on most supplements, including herbal remedies, is to try and avoid them and use lifestyle modifications to treat the foundational causes of your symptoms.
While herbs are generally far safer than drugs and usually cost less, they rarely treat the underlying cause of your symptom or disease.
In the case of menstrual cramps and PMS symptoms (anxiety, irritability, tearfulness, tension), dietary changes can be very useful to relieve your symptoms. You can try:
- Avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated drinks
- Reducing your sugar intake
- Avoiding smoked cheeses, meats, and fish (as they can increase your fluid retention)
- Making sure you’re getting enough nutrients in your diet, specifically vitamin B6, manganese, vitamins A and E, and tryptophan
Additionally, both calcium and vitamin E have been found to reduce PMS symptoms. Just make sure you’re getting your calcium from healthy sources (such as raw milk or green leafy vegetables, not processed, pasteurized, dairy products), and your vitamin E from dark, leafy, green vegetables, raw nuts, and seeds.
Finally, as some VitalVotes readers have suggested, exercise is another useful tool that helps to relieve menstrual cramps, perhaps because it raises your levels of endorphins, which are chemicals in your brain that are associated with pain relief.