Every month we ebb and flow with the moon and each cycle brings different bodily changes and spiritual insights. Most of the time we love all that comes with being a woman, but when your ovaries feel like they may explode, it’s hard to remember why.
Many of us have Midol at the ready, thinking it’s our best ally in beating cramps each month. But Dr. Gersh from the Integrative Medical Group in Irvine, California says there are better ways to deal with menstrual pain (and the prostaglandins causing your cramps). Dr. Gersh, along with many other healthcare professionals, do not recommend Midol to their patients because of added ingredients like antihistamines, caffeine, and acetaminophen, which can do a number on your system.
Natural Cramp Remedies
So what are we supposed to do when we can’t uncurl from the fetal position long enough to send an ‘Out of Office’ note to HR? Here are some natural cramp remedies that will keep you comfortable and kicking butt during your period.
I know. You’d rather take a trip to hell to meet the red devil face to face than get out of bed with cramps and go for a run, or hit the elliptical. But you don’t have to run a marathon; any activity, even a energy-charged walk that gets the blood pumping will do. The whole point is to release endorphins that will help curb the prostaglandins giving you cramps.
You can use exercise as a preventative measure as well. If you track your period and you know it’s coming, make sure you get your blood flowing. Put those endorphins to work before the prostaglandins wreak havoc.
On the topic of endorphin release…what’s a better way to find that happy high than a good ol’ fashion orgasm. Whether you do it, he does it, or she does it, doesn’t matter. Orgasms are a great way to release endorphins, making you feel instantly better, and unlike exercise it can be done from the comfort of your bed. Hitting the big O also relaxes your entire body and induces sleep, so you can put the cramps to bed.
There’s nothing quite like curling up with a warm water bottle or heating pad when the cramps get out of control. The heat helps relax the contracted muscles of the uterus and provides you a warmth similar to being cradled like the sweet, sweet baby you are. So you’ll feel better physically and psychologically after a day of torment from your lady parts.
Nowadays they even have heating patches you can adhere to your abdomen and seamlessly wear to work, yoga, the market, or wherever—the world’s your oyster when your clam is feeling good.
Another way to relax the uterus muscles is through acupuncture. The purpose of acupuncture is to calm the entire nervous system and increase blood flow to internal organs. In this sense, it is also thought to decrease inflammation.
Many holistic uses of acupuncture explore psychological blockage in the body in order to relieve pain as well. If you’re open to diving deep into this theory, you may find pain relief through a mix of therapy and needle poking.
5. Massage with essential oils
Lower abdominal and lower back massages help with blood flow and relaxing the muscles, but research says adding essential oils into the mix significantly helps with pain relief. A study in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Research found the duration of pain in menstruating women who massaged with lavender, clary sage, and marjoram essential oils was reduced from 2.4 to 1.8 days, compared to those who massaged with a placebo mixture.
NOTE: When using essential oils it is necessary to dilute the pure essential oil. If you want to explore pain relief through essential oils, check out The National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy’s tips for safe usage.
6. Herbal teas
Cramp bark. It’s a thing. It’s real name is viburnum opulus and it’s used to relieve any muscle cramping. It’s best taken 2-3 days before the cramps start, but still does the job if taken on the spot. University of Maryland Medical Center says it’s most effective if you boil two teaspoons with a cup of water and drink three times a day (after checking with your healthcare professional).
New studies also show drinking chamomile tea may help with pain relief due to its anti-inflammatory properties that cause a decrease in the dreaded prostaglandin. And there’s nothing as calming as a cup of chamomile tea, candles, and a cozy book.
7. Diet change
As much as we don’t want to hear it (especially when our periods are shoving chocolate and ice cream down our throats), reducing saturated fats in our diet and increasing vegetable intake is shown to reduce cramping come that time of the month.
Some healthcare professionals believe that cramps are a sign of nutritional deficiencies. Magnesium helps regulate nerve and muscle function and is found in almonds, spinach, and many other natural foods. This nutrient is available in supplement form if you aren’t receiving enough from your diet.
Fish oil and vitamin B1 have also shown promise in reducing menstrual cramps. These supplements can be taken during your period to treat the pain, instead of as a preventative measure.