Got menstrual misery? Trade in the Advil for some willow bark and white peony, instead.
Period pain hurts. It really hurts.
And we know damn well that period pain hurts, so some supposedly groundbreaking announcement from male doctors telling us that seems entirely unnecessary and the very definition of mansplaining. (Yes, it really happened — a male professor of reproductive health recently announced that period pain is, in fact, painful. Cue a worldwide chorus of females collectively screaming out “DUH.”)
It’s a pain that’s existed for as long as life itself, so what did women do before they could pop an Advil, avoid period-aggravating foods like french fries and Coke, and curl up with a heating pad and the latest episode of Jessica Jones? “For generations women have experienced period pain and, in many cases, they’ve sought out traditional herbal remedies for pain and discomfort,” says Erika Morvay, Fusion Health Naturopath and Holistic Nutritionist.
Just keep the following in mind: if you have painful periods or are noticing any changes in your period blood, those are good reasons to chat with your provider. Also, the properties of these natural remedies are the real deal and should also be discussed with your provider before you try using them (as supplements or in tea or however you decide).
Take the oh-so-natural willow bark, for example: it contains an honest-to-goodness chemical that’s like aspirin. The herb angelica can promote blood flow and is to be avoided if you already have heavy bleeding during your periods… and so on. In other words, treat these natural remedies like you would medicine and use them safely and in accordance with your doctor’s or qualified holistic practitioner’s advice.
“Turmeric has been used for its culinary and therapeutic properties in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries,” says Morvay. “It contains an active compound curcumin, which provides anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and pain-relieving actions.”
2. Angelica and Ligusticum
While Morvay advises that ligusticum and Angelica are also used in TCM to for period pain, they can also help with regulation because they promote blood flow — so they may not be ideal if you have a heavy flow or may be pregnant.
This mineral is well-known for its myriad health benefits, including the easing of miserable menstrual symptoms. You can take supplements containing magnesium or add it to your diet via foods like brown rice, dark-green leafy vegetables, and yogurt.
It’s another way to eat your way out of period pain! Carbon-3-inositol is a substance found in “Brassica” vegetables, like broccoli, kale, cauliflower, and other healthful food options.
Ginger has so many amazing uses, I’m convinced that there should simply always be some of it in the pantry or fridge. You probably know that it can be helpful with nausea and digestive issues; it also can reduce the pain of menstrual cramps.
6. Willow Bark
Willow bark has been used in Western herbal medicine as a pain-relieving herb for centuries, and for good reason, says Morvay: “It is the active compound salicin produced in willow bark [that’s] responsible for its anti-inflammatory and analgesic actions.”
7. Tienchi Ginseng
“Tienchi Ginseng is traditionally used in traditional Chinese medicine to dispel blood stagnation and reduce bleeding, including heavy menstrual bleeding4 and can be combined with other anti-inflammatory herbs such as Turmeric, Ginger or Willow bark,” explains Morvay.
8. White Peony
Besides having a pretty name, white peony helps with regulating menstruation and easing painful cramps.
9. Fish oil
If the concept of fish oil makes you feel gaggy in your sensitive menstrual state, never fear: it can now be consumed in capsules without a hint of fishy-ness (that includes an aftertaste or the highly dreaded fish burps — EW!).
Admittedly more appealing than fish oil, right? Sip on some warm peppermint tea or apply diluted peppermint oil to your abdomen to help relieve cramps.
11. Raspberry Leaf tea
While the use of raspberry leaf tea during pregnancy is up in the air, with some saying to wait until the second trimester before drinking it as it may induce labor, it’s also known to be effective in reducing period pain.
If bloating is making you feel like a walking, talking water balloon, your instinct may not be to reach for … more water. But drinking warm or hot water can help relax those tense, pain-causing uterine muscles. Add some ginger to the mix for added benefits.
Images via tumblr.com and wifflegif.com.
Comment: What’s your favorite natural remedy for period pain?
Luisa is SHESAID's beauty writer and a New Yorker who has been writing and editing professionally since 1997, when she started working at New York magazine. Since then, her work has appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times, New York, USA Today, Family Circle, Glamour, and many more. Follow Luisa on Twitter.