If you suffer from menstrual cramps, you’re not alone: Studies show that as many as 80% of women experience pain during their period—a condition referred to as dysmenorrhea.
However, just because period cramps are common, does not mean that they’re normal. Indeed, period cramps are caused by an excess of a type of hormone called prostaglandins, which are released from the uterine lining.
The medical profession is largely at a loss over what causes an excess of prostaglandins in the body, with researchers suggesting a combination of risk factors, such as obesity, smoking, and chronic inflammation. This makes it difficult to get to the root cause of dysmenorrhea, causing women to seek various solutions for their menstrual cramps.
When experiencing period cramps, it is most common to reach for pain-relieving medication. However, some pain relievers have been associated with various side effects, leading women to seek alternative solutions for period cramp relief. One popular alternative remedy is herbal tea.
In this guide from Aculief, we will go over three of our favorite herbal teas for menstrual cramps, how they help with relief, and how they should be consumed.
What Is It?
Chamomile is an herb that is part of the Asteraceae plant family. This plant family includes some 2,500 species worldwide, its most notable members being the daisy flower, the chicory root, and the artichoke plant.
The chamomile flower has a green stem, yellow pistil (its center), and white petals. The flower is dried and infused into hot water for making tea. It has a mellow, honey-like flavor with notes of green apple.
Because chamomile is caffeine-free, it makes for an excellent alternative to coffee, black tea, and green tea. In addition, it is loaded with antioxidants, which protect your body from free radicals—molecules that play a role in cardiovascular disease, skin cancer, and many other chronic health conditions.
How Does It Help With Menstrual Cramps?
Primarily, chamomile is effective in supporting relief from menstrual cramps because it has antispasmodic properties. In other words, chamomile inhibits muscle contractions—which are the hallmark of menstrual cramps.
In addition, chamomile may increase levels of key neurotransmitters in the brain. Because feel-good chemicals such as serotonin drop during the premenstrual week, some people might experience an increase in depression and anxiety symptoms. This can make the subjective experience of premenstrual cramps unbearable.
However, one study found that chamomile had a clinically significant impact on depression and anxiety symptoms. While this may not necessarily relieve period cramps, it can make it easier to power through them without experiencing a significant impact on your daily life.
How To Drink Chamomile Tea
Chamomile tea should be brewed for up to five minutes—anything longer and it might take on a bitter taste. You can add honey to bring out chamomile’s flavor notes. (As a bonus, consuming honey can have a pain-relieving effect on period cramps.)
Chamomile tea is not associated with any known side effects. As such, you may drink several cups of it per day.
One study shows that consuming chamomile three times per day in the two weeks leading up to your period is effective in staving off period cramps. That said, you should always check with your health care provider before starting any herbal remedy.
What Is It?
Even though thyme tea is not one of the mainstream options for herbal teas, it is a popular option in many cultures for various medicinal uses. Thanks to its antiseptic, antibiotic, and antifungal properties, thyme has been used for centuries to treat abdominal pain, stomach upset, parasitic infections, and various other conditions.
Thyme is a herb that is part of the mint family. As such, thyme tea has a complex flavor with a grassy base and earthy notes. It is often described as a “savory” tea.
How Does It Help With Premenstrual Cramps?
Thyme is a potential antioxidant, which allows it to play a role in reducing inflammation. High levels of inflammation are associated with an increase in menstrual cramps. As such, by reducing inflammation, thyme can reduce the intensity of period cramps.
In addition, thyme contains substantial amounts of carvacrol—a compound which plays a role in calming the central nervous system. This can relieve symptoms such as irritability and make period cramps feel less distressing.
Research confirms this: One case-control study shows that those who consumed thyme tea leading up to their period were about 60% less likely to experience period cramps than those who did not consume it.
How To Drink Thyme Tea
To make thyme tea, you can use dry thyme sprigs. For one cup of tea, two or three sprigs should be ideal. Allow the tea to brew for 5-8 minutes. Because the tea has a grassy flavor, you can pair it with a slice of lemon to bring out its flavor notes.
There are currently no clinical guidelines on how often you choose to consume thyme tea for dysmenorrhea relief. Because thyme tea is generally considered safe, you can experiment by consuming it in the weeks leading up to your period to see if it has an effect. That said, it is best to check with your health care provider for guidance on the proper dosage.
Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
What Is It?
Red raspberry tea is made—true to its name—from red raspberry leaves. Unlike fruity teas, red raspberry leaf tea has a flavor similar to that of earl gray. It is full-bodied with earthy and fruity notes. It has been used for centuries as a natural remedy to help women support their reproductive health.
How Does It Help With Menstrual Cramps?
Red raspberry leaf tea contains fragarine, which is a compound that tightens the pelvic region and inhibits uterine contractions. In addition, it contains tannins—which are also found in full-bodied red wine. Tannins are associated with PMS relief, which—in addition to relieving period cramps—can also provide relief from symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.
Red raspberry leaf also contains small amounts of calcium and magnesium. A deficiency in these two minerals is associated with muscle cramping. As such, consuming them might provide relief from menstrual cramps in those who have lower amounts of these minerals.
How To Drink Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
Red raspberry leaf tea takes a bit longer to prepare. It’s recommended to brew it for 10-15 minutes.
We always recommend checking in with your health care provider for the proper dosage. However, one study found that consuming red raspberry leaf tea as often as three times per day was not associated with any adverse side effects.
Menstrual cramps can be incredibly painful and interfere with all aspects of your life. If you want to avoid taking pain relievers, then herbal teas can make for an effective alternative.
In addition, you can consider experimenting with other natural remedies for period cramp relief, such as essential oils.
Whichever remedy you choose to go with, Aculief’s blog has a wealth of information to provide you relief during your menstrual cycle.