Friday, December 08, 2006

Natural and Herbal Relief for Menstrual Cramping and PMS

Many women throughout the world experience painful menstruation, severe cramps, and PMS (pre-menstrual syndrome) on a regular and ongoing basis. It can affect the workplace, family life, and for some women it can even be debilitating. Some women do not experience any significant symptoms, others suffer many symptoms such as PMS as early as two weeks prior to starting their period, as well as during menstruation. Some experience symptoms such as cramps (from mild to severe), bloating, constipation, headaches, mood swings, lower back pain, fatigue, nausea, and insomnia. Young women and teens should know that these symptoms have no effect on childbearing or sexual function, and should be treated with sympathy and care.

Over-the-counter medications may "mask" the symptoms, but often these medications can be harmful and have proven to cause unwanted side effects and needless exposure to chemicals and additives. While there is no cure for painful menstruation, women have suffered "the curse of Eve" for thousands of years, there are quite a few natural remedies and herbs that can relieve the symptoms with great results. Poor diet and lack of vitamins can cause these symptoms to be much worse, and often lead to craving foods that enhance the severity of PMS and cramping. Some women even report that the use of tampons during the first day or two can cause cramps to worsen.

Keeping the hands and feet warm and dry can prevent worsening of the menstrual symptoms, avoid cold water if at all possible. A heating pad placed on the abdomen and lower back can provide a great deal of relief for pain, and often prevent the severe cramps that some women suffer. Stay off the feet as much as possible. It is important for women to get enough calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin E and B-6 in the diet or through supplements, although it should be noted that vitamins do not produce instant relief of symptoms, but do much to prevent the severity of symptoms if the body is properly nurished over a period of several months.

Many herbs have been used for centuries to relieve menstrual symptoms, and can quickly reduce the severity of pain and other symptoms. Many women swear by evening primrose oil, others use combinations of herbs such as black cohosh, pennyroyal, bayberry, and small amounts of lobelia in tea, and drink small amounts every few hours. Parsley is excellent to relieve water retention when used in small doses, and can be easily and inexpensively made into a tea by using one teaspoon of dried parsley per cup of water. (It can be purchased in the produce department and dried, or it can be purchased in dried herbal form in your local health food store.)

Red raspberry leaf is a uterine tonic, and works to strengthen the uterus. Tea can be taken freely throughout the menstrual cycle, and tones the muscles and walls of the organ. Cramping is somewhat caused by contractions of the uterine wall, in much the same way pain is caused by contractions during labor and childbirth. In days of old, women often made a douch (external use only) from a tablespoon of lady's slipper and 1/2 teaspoon of lobeliea to one quart of water.

Certain foods can cause an increase in the severity of pre-menstrual symptoms, as well as menstrual cramping. Care should be taken to avoid giving in to cravings for chocolate, coffee and caffiene, milk (use green leafy vegetables for calcium sources), refined sugars, and high fat foods, all of which can cause symptoms to be more severe.

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