“Pain is not a punishment, pleasure is not a reward.”~Pema Chödrön
Menstrual pain is a common complaint that I hear when working with women. It’s sad to say but many women make the assumption that it’s normal and there isn’t much you can do about it. While it is common and widely accepted, it’s not normal to have pain each month that ranges from mild to debilitating. Fortunately, it is possible to have pain free cycles.
Some of my top recommendations for this are acupuncture and herbal medicine, which work great as a pair. However, it’s also really helpful to include self-care and natural remedies in your regular routine.
While this list is far from exhaustive, it’s a list of what’s tried and true for me personally and for women that I’ve worked with. Some of these solutions focus on immediate relief, while others offer slow and steady healing. All are valid and useful.
This list gives you options, so you can discover what works for you. It’s easier to break the cycle of taking over the counter pain medication (tylenol, ibuprofen, etc) if you have something else to try. Many of the natural solutions that I’ll share with you today offer both quick relief and when used over time can begin to really shift the underlying cause of cramping. Win-win.
Here are some of my favorite natural solutions for menstrual pain
1. Yogi Tea’s Woman’s Moon Cycle tea: This blend is packed with some of my favorite herbs: fennel, ginger, red raspberry leaf and dang gui (aka dong quai) to name a few. This is a great blend to start drinking in the week leading up to your cycle. Try up to 3 cups daily. You can continue to drink it during menstruation as well.
The blend is both warming and nourishing. Dang gui is a commonly used herb in Chinese Medicine to treat women’s health issues. Red raspberry leaf is a great uterine tonic due to it’s rich magnesium, potassium and micronutrient content. Ginger is anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and warming. This tea is very beneficial and it’s delicious. I find myself drinking it occasionally throughout the month.
2. Essential Oils: Essential oils can be used in a diffuser or topically as you approach your period. It’s important to use high quality oils. I recommend Young Living, Doterra or Snow Lotus. I’ve found those brands to be really effective. Now for the oils, a few of my favorites for menstrual cramps are: clary sage, fennel, marjoram, frankincense and lavender. Some blends to try out are Dragon Time by Young Living and Cramp Ease or Moon Cycle by Snow Lotus, each of those contain many of the oils listed above. You can mix a few drops of one of these oils with a carrier oil, like coconut or jojoba oil, and then gently massage over your uterus or low back. If you prefer to use essential oils directly without a carrier oil just be sure to do a small test patch on your skin first.
3. Magnesium supplement: If you have menstrual cramps and other muscle tension throughout the month, adding magnesium can help. Most people are deficient in this essential mineral due to low levels of magnesium in the soil, which result in low levels in the food that we consume. There are lots of good options out there for magnesium, both orally and topically. I like Natural Calm, which is a powder that you simply add to water and drink. Consistency is key with this one. Taking this daily can restore magnesium levels and decrease tension and pain in the body. Start with half a teaspoon and work up to two teaspoons per day. See if you notice a difference after a month or more of consistent use.
4. Aloe vera juice + toasted cumin seeds: This natural remedy comes from Ayurvedic medicine. You roast one teaspoon of cumin seeds in an un-greased pan until they smell pungent. Be careful not to burn them. Chew the cumin seeds slowly once they are cooled and then follow with one tablespoon of organic aloe vera juice. According to Ayurvedic medicine, this works for all constitutions. If you want to give this a try, start taking this daily up to 10 days before your period. Cumin is a great digestive aid that is also antispasmodic. Aloe vera juice reduces excessive heat in the body, which can show up as inflammation.
5. Gentle movement and adequate rest: In a time where sitting for long periods of time is fairly common, it’s important to be sure you’re moving your body in some way daily. This can be yoga, walking, hiking, swimming, biking, dancing or really anything else you can think of to get moving. It’s best to vary your activity intensity throughout the month, with higher intensity activities closer to ovulation and lower intensity during the pre-menstrual and menstrual phases. It’s important to move, yet you have to strike the right balance with adequate rest and relaxation. Both too little movement or too much intense activity can cause stagnation in the pelvis. Listen to the signals that your body is giving in regards to how to find the balance. This goes for throughout the month, and it is especially important during your bleeding time. Try both rest and gentle movement to help ease any pain.
6. Cramp bark (viburnum opulus): Cramp bark often comes in tincture form and can be used for a few days leading up to the beginning of your period as well as during. It’s known for it’s anti-spasmodic properties, as well as reducing nervous tension and aiding in blood flow to the uterus. Try taking 1 dropper-full a couple of times a day for a few days leading up to menstruation and then until cramping subsides. I recommend Wise Woman Herbals brand. This particular herbs works well in conjunction with other Chinese Herbal medicine.
Let me know what’s worked for you! Also, as a word of caution, many of these should not be used if you are trying to conceive or think you may be pregnant.
Essential Oils Desk Reference 4th Edition Compiled by Essential Science Publishing
Ayurvedic Remedy for Menstrual Cramps by Barbara Loomis
East/West Protocols for Dysmenorrhea, Part I By Craig Williams, LAc, AHG