Can Herbs Relieve Menstrual Cramps?

herbs for menstrual cramps

Verywell / Julie Bang

Key Takeaways

  • Ginger, fennel, and cinnamon are some herbs commonly used to soothe menstrual pain.
  • Research on the effects of these herbs is limited.
  • Natural herbs can still come with unwanted side effects and they often don't show results immediately.

People who experience severe menstrual cramps may often turn to pain relievers like Midol and Advil (ibuprofen). But some might prefer natural remedies or herbs for pain relief.

More research is needed to prove that herbs are effective in treating menstrual pain. But experts in herbal medicine have recommended ginger, cinnamon, fennel, raspberry leaf tea, and Dong Quai roots.

Saru Bala, ND, a licensed naturopathic doctor based in Phoenix, told Verywell that herbs can be an effective tool for managing period pain.

“I would definitely say try it first before you knock it. But at the same time, herbs are not a magic pill,” Bala said. “Your diet, lifestyle, exercise routine, stress levels, and sleep are also going to be more important than adding in things like herbs and supplements.”

Menstrual cramps can be caused by a variety of factors and it is not well understood why some people experience worse pain than others. Excess prostaglandins, a compound that helps the uterus contract during the menstrual cycle, may contribute to the pain. Severe pain can also be related to an underlying issue like endometriosis or fibroids.

Are Herbs Effective in Relieving Menstrual Cramps?

Ginger, fennel, cinnamon, and raspberry leaf tea are among the most common herbs recommended by naturopathic doctors to alleviate menstrual pain.

Ginger may help reduce inflammation and pain severity. Fennel, according to Bala, may also help with inflammation. Research has also suggested that fennel can help lower spasms and menstrual pain. Raspberry leaf tea may also help relieve minor spasms.

According to Avni Dalal, ND, a licensed naturopathic physician, cinnamon can help reduce prostaglandins and menstrual pain as well as heavy bleeding. A 2015 study also found that cinnamon may reduce nausea and vomiting associated with menstruation.

However, she said it’s important to work with a trusted healthcare provider to understand the preparation, dosage, and timing of herbs before taking any of these remedies. Naturopathic doctors may also recommend herbal remedies in the form of teas, tinctures, supplements, or oils.

“Just because something is natural doesn’t always mean that it’s devoid of side effects or having adverse effects with long-term use,” Dalal told Verywell.

She added that a healthcare provider can help you determine any potential interactions between herbs and other supplements or medications you are taking. Cinnamon, for example, may interact with certain diabetes medications.

Unlike over-the-counter (OTC) medications, herbs may not provide immediate pain relief. If the dosage is off, herbs can also come with some side effects. Consuming too much ginger, for example, may even lead to abdominal pain itself.

Dalal said it typically takes one to three months for people to feel the benefits of consuming herbs. But if her patients are still in pain after trying the natural remedies, she’d still recommend OTC pain relievers.

“I always tell my patients, ‘I don’t want you to be in so much pain and feel like you shouldn’t take medication,’” she said.

Other Options for Menstrual Pain Relief

In addition to herbs, naturopathic doctors may recommend other supplements or natural treatments to help with menstrual pain.

Lana Butner, ND, LAc, a board-certified naturopathic doctor and licensed acupuncturist in New York City, recommended taking an Epsom salt bath with magnesium and a few drops of fennel essential oil. She also said castor oil packs can help relieve pain. However, both of these recommendations come with the caveat that there can be adverse reactions if they are not used correctly.

Dalal also mentioned magnesium as one of the best supplements for relieving menstrual pain.

“It definitely deserves all the hype, because it does play a huge role in reducing prostaglandins and easing menstrual pain and those cramps,” Dalal said.

According to a 2017 review, the evidence that magnesium could help with menstrual pain is growing but more studies are needed to understand this correlation.

As more studies are conducted, people who experience severe menstrual pain may find additional options to relieve their discomfort. For now, experts say to speak with a trusted healthcare provider about the variety of options, such as OTC medicines, lifestyle changes, and herbs.

“The most empowering thing you can do for yourself is just to know your options,” Dalal said.

What This Means For You

While there is some research to support using herbs for menstrual pain, it's important to talk to your healthcare provider about what is right for you. If you have severe menstrual pain, it may be related to a more serious underlying condition that should be addressed.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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