Dysmenorrhoea (Painful Periods)

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Finding a good herbalist

Much of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist or truly holistic practitioner to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here

The chemistry of pain

An especially painful period, also called 'dysmenorrhoea', obviously affects a great many women, often severely. Most of the pain is caused by a lack of oxygen to the tissues, in turn caused by cramping in the uterine muscles These cramps themselves are the result of substances called 'prostaglandins' that occur through hormonal changes that are happening to bring about the period.

Prostaglandins are powerful chemicals, in some women they are already in circulation by the time ovulation has occurred and they can be experiencing pain long before their period starts. Changing levels of prostaglandins can also give rise to other symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, fatigue, disturbed bowel function, sensitivity to noise or light, and headaches. Fortunately, there are several traditional herbal medicines that will help if used correctly; more below.

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First aid for dysmenorrhoea

The three main causes of dysmenorrhoea are; PMS, endometriosis, and fibroids, they are discussed later because treating the cause takes careful thought and time. To begin with, to give some 'first-aid' relief, there are several approaches that have been seen to help a great many women right away.

Cramp bark

The first treatment for help right now is the herb Cramp bark, which earned its name for being really very good at helping relieve cramps, if used correctly.

There is an art to using many herbs in a way that yields their virtue and this is certainly true of Cramp bark. This is described in more detail in the page devoted to Cramp bark but, in summary, it's about using small and frequent doses until the woman is palpably feeling both its relaxing and its pain-relieving properties, more about it here


Botanical drawing of Viburnum opulus (Cramp bark)

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Herbal 'Astringents'

For periods that are painful, heavy and flooding there is an ancient technique to help ease the period using a class of herbs known as 'astringents'.

Three of the best of all astringent herbs are Shepherd's purse, detailed info here, Lady's mantle, more here, and Raspberry leaf, more here


Alchemilla vulgaris (Lady's mantle)

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Heat & Ginger

All women know that applying heat may help with a painful period and will have tried for herself whether using heat, for example via a hot water bottle or wheat bag, has relieved her cramps.

If you are a woman who definitely benefits from heat then you should also try taking a strong dose of Ginger to see if this helps things further and in a more lasting manner. If you take enough Ginger to really feel it in your core, you may get a substantial amount of relief from pain. Ginger is safe, easy to get and easy to use, more details including some Ginger tea recipe suggestions here


Zingiber officinale (Ginger root)

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Magnesium

For some women, taking extra magnesium can make a marked difference to dysmenorrhoea however, it appears that a person either rapidly responds to magnesium or they don't and the only way to know is to try and see.

200mg of elemental magnesium per day is the level you would need to take to do a trial of this, If you do feel that you respond well to magnesium then you should consider adding more magnesium-rich foods to your diet because minerals, like vitamins, work best in their most natural form.

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Deeper causes and their treatments

Premenstrual Syndrome

The premenstrual syndrome (PMS) obviously affects a great many women and for some their primary issue with PMS is one of very painful periods.

PMS is such a major cause of dysmenorrhoea that it is extremely common for women to be prescribed the oral contraceptive to simply stop ovulation.

Most PMS is triggered by oestrogen levels that are rising too high in relation to progesterone but there are other ways to effectively help this without using hormonal drugs, more here

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Endometriosis

One study using the surgical technique known as laparoscopy, to investigate the lining of the womb, showed that nearly two thirds of young women with painful dysmenorrhoea had some degree of endometriosis.

Endometriosis is also obviously profoundly affected by hormonal levels and many of the strategies for treating PMS are just as likely to help in this area as well.

Also note that, if you have a marked tendency to a bloated abdomen over and above what happens premenstrually, then you may need to consider the possibility that you have something called 'dysbiosis', i.e. an overgrowth of bad bugs in your body, which can be a key driver for endometriosis itself, more on the subject of dysbiosis here and a detailed article on endometriosis here

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Fibroids

For treating painful periods associated to fibroids, it is especially recommended to look into using the berries of the herb Vitex, more info here, and the leaves of Lady's mantle as mentioned above, more here

Likewise, the suggestions in the article on PMS linked above about reducing oestrogen are likely to help fibroids, sometimes referred to as 'oestrogen-bubbles'

Small fibroids that are associated to excess bleeding and dysmenorrhoea have been seen to respond very well to herbal medicine but but if the fibroids are too large to have a realistic hope of shrinking then surgical options should also be considered if they are available, this is discussed further here

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Constitutional Health Note

Finally, you might benefit from learning about your constitution to know what kind of foods, herbs, exercises etc. will work especially well for your health in general.

There is a brief introduction to the subject here and a more detailed section on working out which constitution you are here


Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!

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© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd