Nutritional and Herbal Therapies for Dysmenorrhea

Nutritional and Herbal Therapies for Dysmenorrhea

Dysmenorrhea, or pain associated with menstruation, is extremely common, occurring at least occasionally in almost all women. Pain is most often characterized by uterine cramping and lower back discomfort. It usually begins just prior to or at the onset of menstruation, and may last from a few hours to a day or more. This condition can range from mildly inconvenient to temporarily disabling. By adhering to the following nutritional guidelines and taking certain supplements and herbs, however, you many be able to reduce the pain and discomfort of dysmenorrhea.


  • Increase intake of essential fatty acids (found in cold-water fish, nuts, and seeds).
  • Reduce intake of saturated fats (found in meat and dairy products).
  • Eliminate refined foods, sugar, and foods that contain methylxanthines (such as coffee and chocolate).
  • Increase intake of fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains.


  • Magnesium (400 mg per day) and vitamin B6 (100 mg per day), when taken throughout the menstrual cycle, can promote hormone production and relaxation. During menstruation, higher doses can be used (magnesium: up to 600 mg per day; vitamin B6: up to 300 mg per day) for pain relief.
  • Vitamin E (400 to 800 IU per day) can help to improve blood flow to muscles.
  • Omega-3 oils (1,000 to 1,500 mg one to two times per day; found in flaxseed, borage, and evening primrose oil) can help reduce inflammation and promote hormone production.
  • Niacinamide (50 mg twice a day) can reduce pain. Begin seven days before menstruation and continue throughout. Taking rutin (60 mg per day) and vitamin C (300 mg per day) at the same time may help to increase the effects of niacinamide.


Herbs can be used as dried extracts (capsules, tablets, powders), teas, or tinctures. Teas should be made with 1 teaspoon herb per cup of hot water. Steep covered 5 to 10 minutes for leaf or flowers, and 10 to 20 minutes for roots. Drink 2 to 4 cups per day. Tinctures are preparations made from alcohol (or water and alcohol), containing an herb strength of 1 part herb to 5 parts solvent or 1 part herb to 10 parts solvent.

  • Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) and black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa) reduces pain; take 30 drops of tincture for each one, twice a day.
  • Red raspberry (Rubus idaeus) tea strengthens uterine tissue.
  • Cramp bark (Viburnum opulus), black cohosh, Jamaica dogwood (Piscidia erythrina), and wild yam (Dioscorea villosa) can be used together in equal parts tincture to relieve pain and cramping. Use 20 drops every half an hour for four doses, then as needed up to eight doses per day for seven days.

Be sure to talk with your physician or pharmacist to best determine which herbal or nutritional supplements are for you. Some supplements should not be taken if you have certain medical conditions or are taking particular prescription medications.


Integrative Medicine Access: Professional Reference to Conditions, Herbs & Supplements. Newton, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.

Review Date: September 2000
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

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