I talk to women nearly weekly who struggle with painful periods, some of them for decades. They may or may not be getting some relief from things like birth control, ibuprofen, or other painkillers, but they don’t want to be on these things anymore. If that’s you too, you’ve come to the right place.
My goal is to give you ideas to help you kick the medications to the curb once and for all. Now, you might be thinking, “Yeah right, the pain that I experience is debilitating. There is no way that herbs can help if even the strongest painkillers don’t touch the pain!” You’re right – partially. And you’d also be surprised. Herbs are powerful stuff! Just using herbs directly for your pain likely won’t be a homerun for you because a) it doesn’t get you out of the cycle of reacting to the pain month after month and b) you’ve also got to get to the underlying issue so that over time, you don’t even have pain that needs treating. So how do you do that?
First of all, if you are having painful periods (as with all hormone-related issues), you’ve got to support your liver. Your liver is responsible for processing all of your hormones as well as toxins that you come into contact with daily or that have accumulated over time. If your liver can’t keep up, you are going to have inflammation. You know what else happens just before and during your period? Your body releases a hormone called prostaglandin, which causes inflammation.
Research shows that women with dysmenorrhea, or painful periods, have higher levels of prostaglandin in their bodies. There are a number of other inflammatory markers that also may be linked to period pain, but I won’t go into all those details here. Suffice it to say, too much inflammation is never a good thing.
1. Dandelion Root
Dandelion Root is one of my favorite liver-supporting herbs. Don’t let the simplicity of this plant fool you. Dandelion root is excellent at helping to increase bile flow, which helps to flush out toxins. If you struggle with constipation, this gives hormones like estrogen as well as toxins a chance to hang out in your body longer and wreak havoc, but dandelion root can help you to go more regularly and get the bad stuff out. If you struggle with gut health, dandelion root may also be able to help you there too because it contains prebiotics. It is a potassium-sparing diuretic, meaning that while it might make you pee, it’s actually going to give you some potassium, which most Americans are deficient in. In addition, dandelion root is helpful for PMS, fibrocystic breasts, nausea, and appetite loss in pregnancy.
I prefer to drink dandelion root all by itself as tea by adding 1 tbsp to a mug and then filling it the rest of the way with freshly boiled water, covering for a half hour, straining, and then drinking it warm. You can make it stronger by simmering it in water for that same half hour. This helps to pull more of the beneficial parts out of the plant root. Or, if you really hate tea, you can also purchase it in tincture form here.
If your pain is accompanied by a dull, achy pelvic pain, a feeling of pressure or a congested feeling, and/or you have really light or difficult flow, then your pain likely stems from a uterus that needs more toning. How exactly do you tone your uterus? The short answer is that it doesn’t involve lifting weights or doing exercise (though these things are really helpful for your health in general). Herbs to the rescue here!
Motherwort not only helps to tone your uterus, but it can also help with cramping and pain. If you find that you get emotional easily, this would also be a good pick. It can have somewhat of a sedative effect for some women, so if this happens to you, you may want to only take it before bed. I’ve never tried this as tea, but word has it that it doesn’t taste very good. I own it in tincture form.
3. Cramp Bark
Cramp bark is another top pick of mine. As its name implies, it helps with cramping. (Side note: I use cramp bark for tight muscles in my neck and shoulders and even for headaches sometimes.) I use this in tincture form.
Ginger is fantastic not only to help relieve pain but also to help improve circulation, so this is a great choice for period pain. It also helps to reduce inflammation, and it helps to improve the flavor of other herbs in teas.
If your painful periods are accompanied by heavy bleeding, yarrow may be a good choice for you. It works best as a tea, so if you know you tend to have one or more heavy days during your period each month, just plan to make yourself a couple cups of tea each of those days. When I used to struggle with heavy periods, I noticed a lightening in my flow within a half hour of drinking this tea. You can also drink it throughout the month.
If your period cramps are sharp and spastic, then herbs like cramp bark and motherwort can absolutely help with stopping the spasms. But you may want to go for herbs that can directly help with the pain also, especially if it is debilitating. Corydalis is an excellent herb that has analgesic properties, meaning that it helps to directly stop the pain. It also helps with muscle spasms, making it a great fit for painful menstrual cramps.
7. Jamaican dogwood
Jamaican dogwood is a very strong herb for menstrual cramps, and it is important not to exceed the dosage on the bottle. This is a top choice for herbalists when women are experiencing sharp and nearly unremitting menstrual pain, which may even be causing them to miss work or is keeping them awake at night. As I mentioned above, there are some strong herbs available for pain, and this is one of them!
The herbs meant more to directly stop the cramps or spasms or pain can begin to work within a half hour, but you’ll need to have patience as you work on your liver health and to reduce your body’s overall inflammation so that you don’t even have the painful periods to begin with. Give this 2-3 months to start noticing big improvements.
If you still feel stuck, you can always work with me for customized support!