If you suffer from mild to severe menstrual cramps, you are in good company. According to some estimates, nearly 85% of adolescent and adult women experience some degree of menstrual cramps, also known as dysmenorrhea.
Yet, despite how common painful menstruation may be, it is not simply a fact of life. You can prevent, and treat, painful menstruation yourself, naturally. Using natural, sometimes ancient, knowledge and remedies, we can support our reproductive systems to work more efficiently and effectively. We have the power to take control of some factors that influence how our body and uterus work, and it's time to rise to the occasion. So next time you feel like popping a pain killer and lying in bed, consider how you can work with your body and support your cycle.
Soothe Period Pain
Below are six super effective methods for preventing and treating period pain and other forms of discomfort associated with menstruation.
1. Start with your hydration and nutrition: improve your water, vitamin and mineral uptake
Many of the symptoms of painful menstruation, including muscle cramps and headaches, are actually a result of dehydration and blood calcium deficiency. With that in mind, drink lots of water and do your best to increase your calcium intake, especially in the 10 days prior to your period. To do so, try drinking a calcium rich herbal tea for women’s reproductive health that includes nettle, oatstraw, horsetail, peppermint, dong quai and/or raspberry leaf.
In addition to increasing your H20 and calcium intake, you should focus on eating fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as focusing on whole grains. Eating celery can help to fight water retention, and foods rich in Omega-3s such as salmon can help fight inflammation. Avoid caffeine, alcohol, refined sugars, processed carbohydrates, red meat and dairy.
2. Sip on red hibiscus flower and ginger tea
At the onset of painful cramps, brew yourself a strong tea of red hibiscus flowers and fresh ginger. Simmer 9 hibiscus flowers and one tablespoon freshly grated ginger in approximately 3 cups of water for about 10 minutes. Strain, and enjoy as hot as possible. Add honey and lemon to make it extra delicious!
3. Yoni steam regularly
Yoni steaming, also known as vaginal steaming, is a practice in which a woman allows the warmth of herbal steam to permeate the exterior of her vagina. The gentle but effective herbal treatment is known to significantly reduce pain, bloating and exhaustion associated with menstruation, decrease menstrual flow, reduce dark purple or brown blood at the onset or end of menses, and regulate irregular or absent menstrual cycles. To do a yoni steam, place a bowl of hot water and yoni steaming herbs beneath your bottom such that the steam can absorb directly into your skin from below. Repeat 2-3 times per month while not menstruating. For more information on how to do a yoni steam, make sure to download the "how to" guide above.
4. Give yourself a relaxing uterine massage with essential oils
Add a few drops of therapeutic grade essential oils to about a tablespoon of a carrier oil such as sweet almond or apricot oil. Be sure to use the certified pure therapeutic grade oils to ensure the greatest benefit. Try mixing your own blend using one or more of the following oils:
Gently massage your womb space in circular motions, focusing on releasing tension and soothing the spasming muscles as you work. Breathe deeply to allow the scent to relax and rejuvenate you!
5. Apply a castor oil pack to your womb
Castor oil is extremely effective at decreasing the pain and inflammation associated with menstrual disorders, as well as decreasing or eliminating fibroids and cysts. To make a castor oil pack, soak a cotton flannel in castor oil. Wring out the towel and fold until it is in the shape of a square approximately 6 inches by 6 inches in size. Place the folded towel directly on to your lower abdomen, right between your pelvic bones. Cover with a sheet of saran wrap or plastic (to prevent mess) and then cover with a thick towel. Next, place a hot water bottle or heating pad over the towel, taking care that the heat is not so hot as to burn your skin. Relax comfortably in a reclined position for 40-60 minutes. Once finished, remove the towel and place in a plastic ziplock bag. Store in the refrigerator or freezer for future use, adding more castor oil as needed. Repeat at least 4 consecutive days per week for a month for maximum benefit. Mayan wisdom also suggests that women take a tablespoon of castor oil internally on the first day of menses to ensure a pain-free period.
6. Drink cramp relief tea of Chamomile and Pennyroyal
Chamomile has anti-inflammatory properties that help to decrease the prostaglandin production, which means it can help to reduce menstrual cramps. The leaves of pennyroyal are known to alleviate menstrual cramps when sipped in a tea. Brew a strong cramp relief tea of cramp bark, pennyroyal, yarrow, peppermint and chamomile, and drink a cup every hour until cramps subside. Please note that pennyroyal oil should never be taken internally, as it is extremely toxic, and women who are pregnant should avoid all contact with the pennyroyal plant, as it is a powerful uterine contractor.
You can live cramp free!
Typically, dysmenorrhea sufferers use non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to treat their symptoms, yet these over-the-counter pain relievers can contribute to indigestion, headaches and drowsiness, not to mention the long-term impact they have on the liver. Fortunately, there is a better way! Next time you feel menstrual cramps coming on, skip the Midol and reach for the gifts nature has provided you with to balance and restore your body.
May you continue to explore and discover the secrets to enjoying your body, and all of her natural cycles!
Sierra Brashear, MA is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner, DONA-trained doula, herbal alchemist, wellness educator and founder of Vibrant Souls yoni steams. Inspired by the rhythms and elements of nature, Sierra weaves her knowledge of Ayurveda into the products and lifestyle design programs she offers. She invites you to join her 16-week program, The Art of Fertility | Journey to Conception — to clear toxins and nourish your mind and body in preparation for an easeful conception and healthy pregnancy. Sierra is also co-founder of Cultivate Balance and Moon Bath, and lives in Boulder, Colorado.