Heat - for instance, from a hot water bottle - is one of the most popular ways of treating period pains. [Photo: Bigstock]

Period pains

27 September, 2011

Almost every woman experiences painful periods at some time in her life.

Menstrual cramps are common and unlike­ly to indicate that something drastic is wrong. They can be linked to stress, tiredness, food sensitivities or to depression and other emotional problems.

Fast relief

Applying heat to the abdomen is still one of the most popular­ ways of relieving menstrual pain.


Bromelain is one of the most effective herbs for relieving pain. Feverfew can inhibit the produc­tion of prostaglandins. Black haw bark stabilises and tones the uterus, as well as having a mild sedative effect. Shepherd’s purse also exerts a normalising effect, as does chaste berry (Agnus castus).

Other common herbs to consider are false unicorn root, cramp bark, pasque flower and wild yam.


Consuming more phytoestrogens (plants which contain oestrogen-like chemicals), may help to relieve painful periods by restoring hormone balance. Very often these are taken as supplements containing such as rhubarb, alfalfa, ginseng, fennel, celery, red clover, liquorice and anise. But you can obtain what you need from a good diet.

Everyday foods with the highest phytoestrogen levels include content were nuts and oilseeds (particularly flax seeds), followed by soy products such as soybeans and tofu, cereals and breads, legumes, fruits and vegetables.

Essential oils

Rose, lavender, geranium, basil, cypress or fennel can induce a sense of wellbeing.

Try also

Chronically painful periods may be made worse by stress or emotional problems, for which hypnotherapy and counselling could be useful. Other therapies that aim to relax or tone the body, such as yoga may help. Acupuncture, shiatsu and reflexology may cor­rect underlying physical problems.