Menstrual Pains
Answered by: Susan Eagles
Question from: Kathy
Posted on: February 8, 2002

I take several herbs/vitamins. One is Dong Quai. My teenage daughter has painful (cramps) menstrual cycles and I was wondering if she is old enough to take Dong Quai, or if you can recommend something better for her to take on a regular basis to help prevent and/or lessen this symptom.

Herbs should be taken to normalize menstrual function by looking at and correcting the underlying problem so that the pains eventually do not return. There are two types of menstrual pain:

"Congestive" menstrual pain starts immediately before bleeding or the first day of flow and decreases with the flow. It may be accompanied by bloating , cramping, gas, diarrhea or constipation. The pain is due to a lack of blood and its oxygen supply in the tissues and can be caused by hormone imbalance, tension, excess weight, fibroids or lack of exercise. Helpful herbs are anti-spasmodics (Cramp bark), digestive and liver support (Dandelion root, Hops or Vervain), nerve relaxants (Chamomile, Motherwort or Valerian), hormone balancers (Vitex or Black Cohosh) and circulation tonics (Rosemary or Ginger). A tea can be made by, for example, by simmering gently one teaspoon each of cramp bark (Viburnum opulus), Vitex agnus castus berries, Dandelion root, fresh Ginger root and Motherwort in 5 cups of water in a non-aluminum pot for 15 minutes. The dose is one cup, three times daily. The strained, leftover tea can be refrigerated in a covered glass container until the next day. Or the tinctures can be combined, and one teaspoon of the tincture taken three times a day. These preparations should be taken daily for 3 full months to effect a balance in the menstrual cycle.

"Spastic" menstrual pain, where the uterine is in spasm, is a sharper pain, more severe at the onset of flow. It is experienced usually in younger women who have not been pregnant, and is more likely in women under tension and stress. Herbs that are both hormone balancing and relaxing are effective: Red Clover, Hops and Dong Quai, along with Cramp bark and Valerian.

Diet considerations to relieve cramping are: restrict animal protein, (meat, milk & eggs) 2 weeks prior to menstruation, as they can be difficult to digest, adding to pelvic congestion, and because they increase prostaglandin levels which cause pain. Increasing fresh fruit, vegetables and fish in your diet will increase your vitamin and mineral intake, contributing to the reduction of menstrual pain.

Essential fatty acids should be included, as oily fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring) twice a week, Evening Primrose oil capsules (1000 mg. of a good brand, three times daily) and flax oil (refrigerated - get a good brand and watch expiry date) or freshly ground flax seeds daily. Essential fatty acids reduce pain and inflammation.

Daily exercise helps to improve pelvic circulation and relieve congestion.

Other health considerations that should be checked by your health care provider are Fibroids, which can cause heavy menstrual flow, severe pelvic pain, anemia, constipation, bladder infections and spotting between periods and Endometriosis which can cause pain a week before menstruation, lower back pain, nausea, depression and fatigue.

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