I used to suffer from very severe menstrual cramps, but they have gradually abated in recent years. Nevertheless, I keep a combination of herbs on hand for when the cramp-devil hits. For me, these naturopathic remedies are more effective than conventional treatment options, and I experience few of the side effects– such as nausea and heartburn– that I get from drugs like naproxen and aspirin.
Several herbal remedies for menstrual cramps can eliminate these potentially debilitating episodes of abdominal pain. If you have a medical condition or take medication (including oral contraceptives), talk to your doctor before using these herbal remedies for menstrual cramps.
White Willow Bark
The bark of the white willow tree contains salicin, one of the world’s most potent, effective and time-honored medicinal herbs. When salicin interacts with the acids in your stomach, it produces salicylic acid– a compound that is nearly chemically identical to aspirin. White willow relieves menstrual cramps as effectively as aspirin, but it is less likely to cause side effects such as stomach ulcers.
Chaste Tree Berry
Also known as chasteberry, vitex or monk’s pepper, chaste tree berry appears to stabilize levels of the reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone. This may help to reduce problems associated with menstruation, including menstrual cramps and headaches. Chaste tree berry may decrease the effectiveness of birth control pills, so do not use it if you are on the Pill unless your healthcare provider advises you to.
As the name suggests, cramp bark has been used for hundreds of years as an herbal remedy for menstrual cramps. It eases the spasms and contractions in the uterus that lead to severe cramping, and it may also help to slow menstrual bleeding. Cramp bark has also been used historically to prevent miscarriage and preterm labor.
Red Raspberry Leaf
Historically used to strengthen the muscles of the uterus in preparation for labor, red raspberry leaf can prevent menstrual cramps by toughening the muscles surrounding uterine tissue. Red raspberry leaf’s medicinal effects ar related to fragrine, a nontoxic medicinal compound. The leaves of the red raspberry plant are also a good source of calcium and magnesium.
The University of Maryland Medical Center offers more information about herbal remedies for menstrual pain.