Naturopathic Treatment for Dysmenorrhea*

Updated: Nov 13, 2019

*Please see your health care provider, this is not for self treatment.


Dysmenorrhea is defined as painful menstruation and can be a result of dysfunctional uterine tissue, or an underlying disease such as endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)(5). Oftentimes, clients will self prescribe pain medication and anti-inflammatories to ‘get through’ the period, potentially bed bound by the pain. The pain makes it difficult to do daily tasks and prevents you from living normally during menstruation.

Dysmenorrhea is defined as painful menstruation and can be a result of dysfunctional uterine tissue, or an underlying disease such as endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)(5). Oftentimes, clients will self prescribe pain medication and anti-inflammatories to ‘get through’ the period, potentially bed bound by the pain. The pain makes it difficult to do daily tasks and prevents you from living normally during menstruation.


A large part of helping a client through dysmenorrhea is lessening the cramping and pain. The way we do that is by increasing the blood flow to help things move along, and reducing the inflammation that's present. We can also slow down cramps so they aren't as intense, and help the body release the menstrual tissue.


There are several herbs that are able to reduce the uterine contractions that cause the pain, by reducing prostaglandins (inflammatory markers) and aiding the flow of blood to the area (4). Blood flow to the area can be increased with warmth (physically, with heating pads) and with warming herbs, ginger has shown positive results for dysmenorrhea (2,4).

To treat dysmenorrhea, uterine tone must be normalised as it using herbs such as red raspberry leaf tea (Rubus idaeus) or dong quai (Angelica sinensis) (1,5). Raspberry leaf tea can be consumed all throughout the period, but watch for changes in your cycle if you're consuming too heavily.

Antispasmodic (lessens cramps) and anti-inflammatory (pain) herbs are key here to reduce pain of cramps, and emmenagogues can be used to help with the release of expired uterine tissue (especially for slow, lengthy menstruation) (5). Herbs such as Guelder-rose, Paeonia, Wild Yam can help here (1,3).

Paeonia lactiflora Flower

These can be combined with nervine herbs to support the nervous system and reduce stress, and licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra) which is anti-inflammatory and has demonstrated some antispasmolytic activity in animal studies (1). Paeonia has been shown in animal studies to inhibit prostaglandin E2 production and may be immuno-suppressive, i.e. reducing the proinflammatory response (3). The anti-inflammatory action will be important in reducing symptoms.

Guelder-rose and Blackhaw may both be used to treat dysmenorrhea as both have shown efficacy in human and animal trials. Some suggest that each is used for pain radiating to different areas (6). Analgesic and sedative herbs (Californian poppy - Eschscholzia californica) can be used as needed to manage symptoms, if necessary (5).


Nearly all of these herbs are best provided by your naturopath or herbalist, they should not be self-prescribed because there could be interactions with medication that the public aren't aware of, or they might not be the right choice when taking everything in holistically.


Other therapies that may assist a female with dysmenorrhea include massage, acupuncture, hot and cold hydrotherapy, drinking warm liquids, and kinesiology.


If you need to see someone but aren't ready to invest your money, the Think Wellbeing student clinic offers heavily discounted appointments. You just pay for the herbs and/or supplements. See their details here.


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