It’s that time of the month again, and you curl up in a fetal position gritting your teeth against a million expletives while something traipses around inside your stomach with all the grace of a baby elephant. Perhaps a less dramatic way to put it would be that menstruation is the monthly discharge of blood from the uterus and vagina due to the breakdown and reformation of the uterine walls in preparation for a new egg. But that says nothing about this monthly process’s ability to drive women insane with the cramps, headaches, nausea, and irritability that it brings. From early puberty up until her late fertile period, a woman, on average, will undergo 400 menstrual cycles and that’s 400 chances for a potential menses complication. Here are some herbal remedies you can make easily at home in order to tackle menstrual symptoms:
1. Chamomile (matricaria chamomilla): Chamomile is a daily-like plant with white tear-shaped petals surrounding an egg-yolk yellow bulb. Traditionally used to soothe stomach aches and cramps, chamomile contains terpenoids (bisoprolol, matricin, chamazulene) and flavonoids (apigenin, luteolin) and is an anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic agent. This nervine and mild sedative is particularly effective in dealing with the anxiety, nervous tension, and irritability that come with menstrual cramps, and can induce a restful state of body and mind. Chamomile extract is best ingested as tea during menstruation. Here’s how to make a simple cup of chamomile tea:
- Set a pot of water to boil and add 1 heaped teaspoon of dried chamomile.
- Let it steep for 10-20 minutes, until the tea takes on a radiant golden color.
- Pour in a cup and add sweetener (honey or lemon) as desired before drinking.
It is advisable to drink 2 cups a day during the week leading up to your period in order to get the full benefits.
2. Cramp Bark and Black Haw (Viburnum opulus and iburnum prunifolium respectively): Because these sister herbs have the ability to relax smooth muscles like the uterus and intestines, they are probably the most effective for reducing uterine spasm and cramping. Moreover, they’re quality nervine and mild sedatives, and have been proven to be safe to combine. Cramp bark and black haw are useful for menstrual cramps, PMS, post-partum hemorrhage, heavy menstrual flow management, threatened miscarriage etc. Many prefer them over NSAIDs because unlike NSAIDs, they don’t come with the risk of liver damage. They’re best taken for menstrual pain relief in the form of a decoction:
- Boil 1 cup of water and add 1 tsp of root bark to it
- Simmer at low heat for ten minutes.
- Sweeteners may be added before drinking.
It is advisable to strain ½ cup 3 times a day or every 3 hours, as required.
3. Dong Quai (Angelica sinensis): Another suitable option for reducing menstrual pain symptoms would be this traditional Eastern herb. It is often the “female ginseng” because it has been used for thousands of years for gynecological disorders such as menstrual pain, recovery from childbirth or illness and fatigue or low vitality. A powerful female tonic, dong quai tonifies and strengthens the uterus by regulating hormonal control, improving uterine tone, and improving the timing of the menstrual cycle. Its general effect on circulation has given it quite the reputation as a blood tonic, too, and can be useful for pale menstrual flow. Dong quai works by stimulating blood flow to the pelvis and can be used to help women who have trouble menstruating resume regular menstrual flow. Its relaxing effects are as good as that of chamomile, and it is also a great hormonal balancing herb. Since it is used to encourage blood flow, women who menstruate heavily are advised to stay away from this herb. Here’s the recipe for the traditional dong quai and red dates tea (although, really, the red dates are optional):
- Lay out the ingredients: 3 slices of dong quai, 2 bowls of water, 8 pitted red dried berries, 1 flat tbsp of goji berries (wolfberries)
- Rinse the ingredients thoroughly with cool water and pour them in a clay pot with two cups of water.
- Cover the pot with a lid and heat moderately until it boils.
- Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until there’s enough liquid for 1 cup.
- Serve as is – the taste should be a mix of sweet and mildly bitter ginseng-y flavor.
Try out the above remedies and enjoy a week free of menstrual ailments! Ingredients for the above recipes can be found at your nearest local grocery store.
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