Chinese Herbs That Stop Painful Menstrual Cramps

By Charles Hopkins Published 01/2/2008 | Alternative Medicine
Menstrual cramps are a dreaded monthly enemy for every woman. Some women experience mild pain while some unfortunate ones have extreme pain to the point it interferes with daily life. Statistics show that approximately 50% of menstruating women have menstrual pain. 10% suffer extreme pain for a few days. If you are part of this 10%, then you are familiar with the excruciating pain felt in the pelvis, lower abdomen or back. These horrible menstrual cramps have become many women's reason to skip work, classes or household chores. As they curl up in bed, the only thing on their mind is "how do I find relief from this menstrual pain?"

If you are tired of taking drugs, why not try Chinese herbal medicine? An international nonprofit organization called the Cochrane Collaboration did a review to compare the effectiveness of Chinese herbal medicine in relieving menstrual pain compared to western drugs. The outcome positively favored Chinese herbal medicine. Although they called for better studies in the future, I believe you can trust a medical system that has over 3000 years of history.

Below is a list of Chinese herbs that can help stop menstrual cramps:

1. Dong Quai (Chinese Angelica Root)
Also known as the "female ginseng," it is commonly used to regulate the menstrual cycle and relieve menstrual cramps. It also helps to relieve menopausal symptoms, reduce PMS (pre-menstrual syndromes), improve anemic conditions and correct hormone imbalance. You can drink it as tea or cook it with chicken. Take note that the taste is strong and bitter.

2. Chuan Xiong (Szechwan Lovage Rhizome)
This herb is also a key medicinal herb when treating menstrual disorders. It improves blood circulation, promotes the flow of "qi" or vital energy and dispels wind to relieve pain. Other uses of this herb includes treating headache, heart disease, rheumatism, arthritis, carbuncles and boils. It has a pungent taste and a very strong aroma. Ancient Chinese women, dating back to the Song Dynasty, used to take this Chinese herb in the form of soup. The soup called Four Substance Decoction (Si Wu Tang) also included other Chinese herbs such as Chinese Angelica Root, Red Peony Root and Chinese Foxglove Root. They drank the soup as a tonic to relieve PMS, stop menstrual pain, strengthen the body and to look more beautiful.

3. Bai Shao (White Peony Root)
White Peony Root nourishes the blood and activates circulation. It is also used for a wide variety of gynecological problems such as vaginal discharges, threat of miscarriage, excessive menstrual bleeding, and menstrual cramps. White Peony Root can be found in a Japanese formula called toki-shakuyaku-san with five other herbs. The formula of Peony Root, Hoelen, Atractylodes Rhizome, Alisma Rhizome, Dong Quai and Chuan Xiong is said to be effective in reducing menstrual pain.

4. Yi Mu Cao (Chinese Motherwort)
Chinese Motherwort is a member of the mint family. The leaves of this herb is used to treat menstrual problems. It improves blood circulation and regulates the menstrual cycle. Herbalist also recommend it to treat anxiety and heart palpitations. The seed have also been found to benefit eyesight. Chinese Motherwort can be taken as a tea by infusing the dried herb with boiling water. If you find the taste too bitter and unpleasant, add honey or lemon to improve the flavor. this herb can also be found as a tincture. Do not use this herb during pregnancy or when bleeding is heavy.

5. Yan Hu Suo (Corydalis Rhizome)
There are two main functions of this Chinese herb: strengthen blood circulation and relieve pain. Corydalis is a relative of the opium poppy. Although only 1% in strength compared to opium, it is an effective relaxant and pain reliever. The alkaloids, specifically tetrahydropalmatine (THP) helps to relieve menstrual cramps It is usually combined with other herbs such as Pteropus and Bulrush (Shixiao San). Corydalis can be taken as a decoction, infusion, tincture or extract. You can look for it in Asian stores. Take note that this herb is not to be taken by pregnant or nursing women. Also be careful on the dosage. Some people have reported experiencing fatigue, nausea or vertigo after consuming large doses.

Except for Chinese Motherwort, Chinese herbal treatment usually combine several herbs together to address an individual's needs. It is a unique formula for each person. Mixing these herbs together to produce an effective formula is an art. Therefore, consult with a licensed Chinese herbal medicine practitioner before taking the herbs.

Chinese herbal medicine can be a bit intimidating to westerners, what with funny sounding herb names and maybe having to face a Chinese practitioner that may know little english. However, it is beneficial to trust our oriental counterparts and their years of medicinal tradition. Give Chinese herbal medicine a try today and say goodbye to painful menstrual cramps.