There’s not much worse than menstrual cramps. And if you’re like me and have suffered from severe menstrual cramps, then you really understand how vital it is to do everything you can to manage your menstrual pain.
Much of what I do as a fertility dietician is helping women and men understand how their food can impact their fertility. But the broader umbrella of fertility is reproductive health in general. And thankfully, I’ve personally been able to use what I’ve learned about anti-inflammatory herbs to help my own menstrual pain, as well as that of my clients.
So, here are the 3 herbs and supplements that help menstrual pain, and yes, I’ve tested these out personally and can attest to their effectiveness!
Chamomile tea is so much more than just a calming tea to drink before bedtime. I recommend drinking a cup of strongly brewed chamomile tea (use two tea bags in an eight-ounce mug) every few hours during the worst day of your period. In this case, there really isn’t too much of a good thing, so don’t worry about overdoing it.
Chamomile relaxes and soothes muscle, reducing inflammation, and reducing menstrual bleeding. A recent study shared,
“[Menstrual pain] is a common problem among females in their reproductive age which is caused by increased production of prostaglandin in the endometrium as one of the leading causes. Chamomile extract ceases the production of prostaglandins.”
Prostaglandins aren’t a bad thing—in fact, they’re necessary for blood flow, the formation of blood clots, and the induction of labor. However, as you can probably guess from all those constrictive functions when you have an excess of prostaglandins, you feel menstrual cramps.
So drinking your chamomile will make you feel more than relaxed and snuggly. It actively reduces the cramp-inducing lipids in your muscles.
Since we’ve already been talking about prostaglandins, this is the perfect segway to mention the next supplement that helps with period pain. You’ve probably heard that Omega 3s are good for your heart, but did you know why? Omega 3s also reduce excess prostaglandins, helping the blood to be able to flow more freely through the heart and circulatory system.
And this is the same effect you experience when having period pain and taking Omega 3s. Omega 3s help blood flow and prevent cramping caused by prostaglandins.
One fascinating study compared two groups of young women. A group was given a daily dose of fish oil and the other was given ibuprofen during the time of their period when they felt pain. Over months, the women taking fish oil as a preventative measure reported lower pain than the women taking ibuprofen to treat the pain.
You can also get omega 3 naturally from food during your period by eating fresh wild-caught fish like sardines, trout, or sockeye salmon.
Ginger is another herb that reduces menstrual pain in very similar ways to Omega 3s. Studies have shown that it is just as effective as some over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicines at treating menstrual pain. The study analyzed the data from a number of other studies and concluded that ginger was as effective a NSAID, and much more effective than a placebo.
And of course, ginger has the secondary benefit of reducing nausea, if that’s a symptom you experience during the beginning of your period.
Ginger can be taken in the form of a pill (I recommend at least 500 mg per day) or by drinking real ginger tea. If you opt for the tea-bag version, make sure you read the label to make sure ginger is the main ingredient for full effectiveness. Many teas and bottled drinks say they have ginger flavor, but there isn’t much actual ginger in them. Personally, I find clients have better success when drinking real ginger root tea. Take the root, cut into about 4-6 1/2 inch chunks, and steep in 2 cups of boiling water for over 5 minutes.
Try These Supplements for an Easier Period
While there is mounting clinical data to support the efficacy of chamomile, Omega 3s, and ginger in reducing period pain, there may be more.
Other honorable mentions:
Another herb that is associated with reduced menstrual pain is fennel. There aren’t many notable clinical studies so far about fennel and period pain, but the theory is that fennel also relieves muscle spasms. You can most easily find fennel in teas, although it can also be a supplement.
Lastly, many women report improvements in menstrual cramps when drinking cinnamon tea and clove tea. One study demonstrated that cinnamon can reduce pain and menstrual bleeding, however more studies are needed. I will add a personal antidote here that cinnamon/clove tea and chamomile have been the most effective herbal remedies for me when I am on my period!
The remedies that have the most research behind them however are the ones I covered in this article—chamomile, Omega 3s, and ginger. Give these supplements a try and let me know if they help!
Disclaimer: Nothing in this article is to be taken as personal medical advice. Only use these supplements at your own risk or after consulting a medical professional.