Medical Herbalist, Natasha Richardson (Forage Botanicals) share her top 5 natural tips for relieving period pain.
“Period pain used to run my life. Each month I’d experience a day of excruciating pain and I was always thankful that it was just that one day. The trouble was that I’d spend the rest of the month, worrying about the pain! When will it come? What if it happens while I have plans? Will I be able to cope? My periods weren’t that irregular, but even just having to keep your schedule clear for 3 days each month is pretty damn tricky in this modern world. I can’t begin to imagine the social implications of more painful conditions like endometriosis (a condition where endometrial tissue grows where it shouldn’t, causing severe pain among other symptoms).
My pain was never diagnosed as endometriosis, but I was always open to that. I just decided I’d rather try to conceive first before having a laparoscopy (a procedure where a fibre optic instrument inserted via the abdomen). My pain wasn’t bad enough to warrant the potential scar tissue and fertility implications of said procedure. Thankfully I was able to naturally conceive which means it was unlikely I had endometriosis. Mine was just something called ‘primary dysmenorrhea’. It simply means period pain caused by something unknown.
The problem with period pain
As the cause isn’t known, there isn’t much that can be done by a doctor aside from painkillers. But not everyone is happy taking those. Sadly, many people don’t even get their period pain checked out and if they do, are simply told they have to ‘put up with it’. In the UK it takes someone with endometriosis an average of 7.5 years to get their diagnosis. 7.5 years of agonising pain. 7.5 years of sick days and cancelled plans.
Period pain needs to be taken more seriously by doctors, as well as patients. We shouldn’t just assume it is part of having ovaries. I have learnt through many years of my own pain, and over 10 years’ experience treating other women in my practice, that there is so much more than painkillers which can help. Here are just a few.
Medical herbalist tips for period pain
Keeping the muscles hot helps to lessen pain, you can now get pads which stick onto the area under your clothes and stay warm for 8 hours, they’re brilliant. A discrete version of a hot water bottle. I love that I can wear them at work without anyone knowing.
Essential fatty acids help reduce pain because they help to combat the inflammation caused by the prostaglandins women with period pain have. It’s thought that some women just produce more prostaglandins, or possibly we are more sensitive to them. Either way, getting a fish oil or vegan essential fatty acid oil is great. I use Wiley’s fish oil.
On the matter of inflammation, sugar is inflammatory, and I’ve noticed that if I manage to avoid it almost completely I can really reduce the pain I experience. The only downside for me is I find I have to cut it out completely to make a real difference. Reducing it helps but only a little. Consider just how much sugar you’re having and give it a go. I’d recommend the 8 weeks Sugar Detox by Sarah Wilson.
Period pain is caused by the cramping of the uterine muscles. If we can reduce the amount of baseline tension we are holding onto, the easier our cramps become. Herbs such as chamomile, skullcap and cramp bark are great. You can also use essential oils like Lavender, Marjoram and Peppermint in a little base oil and applied to the skin.
Take time to yourself
Giving yourself a day to be quiet when you’re due on or in the first day of your period can make a massive difference to your experience of it. A lot of the tension I had during my period could be relieved, and the pain with it, if I was able to sit indoors with a movie, hot water bottle, a cup of tea, and absolutely no interaction with real-life people. I realise this is a luxury for most, but if you can take the time out, your body will love you for it!
If you have tried some of this advice before or try them after reading this article I’d love to hear you get on. If you have any questions you can post them below.
Natasha is currently crowdfunding for a vegan moon-time balm which is applied to the abdomen during your period. Hop over to support it here and help improve the natural options available for these common problems. Want to hear more from Natasha? Follow her Instagram here.