Whether the symptoms are mild or debilitating, monthly pain due to menstrual cramps is an issue women do not wish to experience. While there are medications available that may be effective ways to ward off menstrual pain, many women find that the side effects and potential damage done by such medications makes natural remedies for cramps during period a much more attractive choice. Continue reading for a list of natural home remedies for menstrual cramps, as well as why they work and how to use them.
Yes, the last thing you want to do when menstrual cramps hit is to pull out the exercise equipment. In fact the thing that sounds most attractive may be a nap on the couch. But what if you knew that this home remedy for menstrual cramps was your body’s equivalent of morphine? When you exercise, your body releases beta-endorphins, or natural opioids. These endorphins not only fight pain, but help to burn off prostaglandins, which are chemicals released by your body during menstruation to cause muscle contractions and expel the uterine lining.
-Exercise for at least 30 minutes 3 days a week, or whenever you begin to experience cramps.
For menstrual cramps, consider an aerobic exercise rather than a high impact work out. Go for a run, ride your bike, or swim. The goal is to increase your heart rate and release beta-endorphins.
While science has of yet been unable to provide a reason for why applying heat to the abdomen when menstrual pain hits is an effective pain reliever, this is one of the home remedies for menstrual pain that has stood the test of time. Applying heat to the source of pain has been recommended for ages, and doctors are still trying to figure out why it works. The prevailing theory is that when heat is applied to the myometrium, it is better able to relax and blood vessels are less constricted, resulting in less pain. You can find hot water bottles or heating pads at any mass merchandiser. If the heat causes you to feel sick, discontinue treatment.
-High quality heating pad or hot water bottle
-Towel, or thin blanket
Wrap your heating pad in the towel or blanket so the heat does not burn your skin. Place on your stomach, and maintain the heat at around 104-107 degrees. For best results, keep the abdomen warm for at least 4 hours.
3. Chamomile Tea
Sipping on Chamomile Tea is one of the internal home remedies for menstrual cramps. Chamomile Tea is effective due to it’s anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties. This relaxes the muscles, which in turn helps to relieve the pain. An added benefit is that Chamomile Tea works as a sedative and anti-anxiety, which can assist with any depression or anger that can accompany menstruation. Chamomile Tea is readily available, but can cause severe side effects if you are allergic to chamomile.
Steep tea in the boiled water for 2-3 minutes, or according to package directions. Because research has shown that Chamomile Tea is most effective before pain has started, so brew and drink the tea regularly when your period is about to start.
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiencies are a common problem in the United States, and studies show that optimizing vitamin D levels may be one of the best home remedies for menstrual cramps. Vitamin D works by decreasing prostaglandins and cytokines, which cause inflammation and pain. Something to keep in mind with vitamin D is that it is possible to overdose on this vitamin. Only increase your intake after talking to a doctor and getting a reading of your current levels. Then, always follow the dosage suggested by your doctor.
-Talk to a doctor and have a test done to determine current vitamin D levels and take vitamin supplements according to his directives.
-Alternatively, increase your vitamin D via sun exposure.
Because the best way to use vitamin D as one of your menstrual cramps home remedies is to take it consistently as opposed to only when symptoms are present, talk to your doctor about the best way to keep your vitamin D levels maintained at an appropriate level.
Keeping your body well hydrated is one of the most understated home remedies for menstrual cramps. When your body has adequate water levels it will be less likely to retain water, which causes the painful bloating often associated with menstrual cramps. Because you will want to increase your blood flow to the skin and also work to relax the muscles that are cramping, it is better to drink hot, or at least warm water. If you find it difficult to drink enough water daily, consider snacking on water dense snacks.
-Pure, filtered water
-Strawberries, celery, watermelon, cucumbers
Daily, drink 1 ounce of water per pound of body weight (150 lbs = 150 ounces). Replace regular snacks with water dense fruits and vegetables.
After extensively studying home remedies for menstrual cramps, the University of Pennsylvania found that self-reports indicated that the most effective home remedies for menstrual cramps was calcium supplements. This may be due to fluctuations that occur in a woman’s body during menstruation, which includes deficiencies in several nutrients including calcium. Calcium is available in several food sources and can also be taken in supplement form. Side effects from calcium are unlikely, but can be serious. Notify a doctor if you begin to vomit, lose appetite, or experience unusual weight loss.
-Calcium supplement that also contains magnesium and zinc.
-Foods that are rich in calcium, like dark leafy greens, cheeses, milk and yogurt.
Although it is difficult to ingest too much calcium, try to keep your intake under 2,000 mg per day.
Cinnamon may be one of the most counter-intuitive home remedies for menstrual cramps, because its emmenagogic properties encourage menstrual bleeding. While it seems like this would make bleeding and menstrual cramps worse, it appears that this is not the case. Cinnamon inhibits a blood component called thromboxane A, which helps the blood to clot. Less clotting and better blood flow results is less cramping and easier menstruation. Cinnamon in powdered form is very safe, but children, pregnant women or those with kidney or liver damage should not use cinnamon oil.
-Cinnamon essential oil
-1/4 cup of water
Drink a mixture of ¼ cup water and 15-30 drops of essential oil up to three times a day until cramping ceases.
Ginger has long been used as a natural remedy for pain, and recent studies have scientifically verified its claims as one of the effective menstrual cramps home remedies. Not only does Ginger reduce pain as well as any NSAID pain reliever, but it also reduces nausea. Side effects of ginger may include heartburn, diarrhea, or upset stomach.
-500mg Ginger capsules
Either take 500mg worth of Ginger capsules 3 times a day starting two days before the start of your period and continue for the first 3 days, or brew fresh ginger into a tea. To make a tea, boil 4-6 thin slices of ginger in water for at least 10 minutes and drink several times a day.
9. Flax Seed
Although evidence to back the claims that flax seeds can be one of many effective home remedies for menstrual cramps, some seem to suggest that consuming flax seeds regularly can not only help to relieve the symptoms of menstruation, but can also assist in keeping cycles regular. It may the presence of omega-3s present in flax seeds that slows down prostaglandins, making an easier menstruation possible.
-High quality flax seeds
Because flax seeds are easier to eat, and nutrients are better absorbed when ground, run seeds through a coffee grinder to create a powder. Add 1-2 teaspoons of the ground flax to your everyday diet.
Chewing on fresh basil leaves is possibly the quickest of the menstrual cramps home remedies, due to little to no prep time and the fact that when chewed the pain relieving benefits of fresh basil are immediately absorbed via your mouth’s mucus membranes. Basil works in much the same way as ibuprophen without any negative side effects. By blocking the prostaglandins that trigger cramping, pain is relieved. The best part about fresh basil is it is easily grown in a pot in a windowsill, making your access to fresh basil very convenient.
10-12 Fresh basil leaves
Wash the leaves with cool water, and then roll, and chew. Pain relief should be almost immediate.
The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that studies show that when compared to a placebo group, those who were given fish oil supplements experienced less pain due to their menstrual cycle, possibly due to the high content of Omega-3 fatty acids. Because Omega-3s have the potential to increase bleeding in those who are taking blood thinners, anyone using a blood thinner including aspirin should consult with a doctor before using this method.
-Mackerel, lake trout, herring, sardines, salmon, or albacore tuna
-Fish oil supplements
Both adding high quality fish such as salmon to your diet and taking fish oil supplements will be helpful in warding off menstrual cramps.
In a study done with high school girls in 2002, fennel seed extract proved more effective than an NSAID pain reliever in reducing menstration related pain. Additionally, 80% of those who had taken the fennel seed extract no longer felt tired enough to need to lie down and rest as compared to 62% in the NSAID group. Because it is possible for fennel to increase the flow of blood, anyone who has a history with heavy blood loss should be careful or even avoid using fennel. Another consideration with fennel is that its smell is very potent and can be too strong for some.
Add the fennel seeds to boiling water, and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain the seeds, and then add honey to taste. For best results drink this tea twice daily starting 2-3 days before the start of your period. Continue as needed throughout.
Next time you find yourself reaching for pain medications to treat menstrual cramping, consider instead this list of menstrual cramping home remedies. Natural remedies can be just as effective, with considerably less risk. Another great thing about them is you can use more than one for extra benefits, like drinking a cup of chamomile tea after going on a run. Do you have any experience with home remedies for menstrual cramps? Let us know with your comments!