Also indexed as:Painful Menstruation
A woman’s monthly cycle may include several days of pain and discomfort due to cramps, also known as dysmenorrhea. How do you find relief? According to research or other evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful.
  • Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
  • Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
  • For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.

Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by some in the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.

For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.

360 mg daily3 stars[3 stars]
Supplementing with magnesium may help keep uterine muscles relaxed.
Fish Oil
Refer to label instructions 2 stars[2 stars]
A fish oil supplement containing EPA and DHA may help prevent menstrual syndromes.
250 mg four times per day, beginning at the start of menstruation and continuing for three days 2 stars[2 stars]
In a double-blind trial, ginger powder was as effective as anti-inflammatory medication (mefenamic acid and ibuprofen) in relieving symptoms of dysmenorrhea.
Krill Oil
2 grams daily for one month; after that, 2 grams per day beginning eight days prior to menstruation and continuing for two days after the start 2 stars[2 stars]
Women who took krill oil had improved abdominal pain and reported using fewer pain relievers for menstrual pain than those who took fish oil in one study.
60 mg per day 2 stars[2 stars]
Preliminary research and double-blind research has reported that pycnogenol may reduce severe abdominal and back pain during menses.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
200 mg daily throughout menstrual cycle; for cramps: 100 mg every two to three hours 2 stars[2 stars]
The niacin form of vitamin B3 has been reported to be effective in relieving menstrual cramps in 87% of a group of women supplementing with it throughout the menstrual cycle.
Vitamin B3, Vitamin C, and Rutin
200 mg niacin daily, 300 mg vitamin C daily, and 60 mg rutin daily througout menstrual cycle; for cramps: 100 mg niacin every two to three hours2 stars[2 stars]
Supplementing with a combination of vitamin B3, vitamin C, and the flavonoid rutin resulted in a 90% effectiveness for relieving menstrual cramps in one study.
Vitamin E
400 to 600 IU of vitamin E a day for five days, beginning two days before menstruation2 stars[2 stars]
Taking vitamin E beginning two days before menstruation may help prevent severe pain.
Refer to label instructions 1 star[1 star]
Açaí is a traditional remedy for dysmenorrhea, and there is preliminary evidence that some anthocyanins found in açaí may help with dysmenorrhea symptoms.
Black Cohosh
Refer to label instructions 1 star[1 star]
Black cohosh has a history as a folk medicine for relieving menstrual cramps.
Blue Cohosh
Refer to label instructions 1 star[1 star]
Blue cohosh has been used traditionally for easing painful menstrual periods. Women of childbearing age using this herb should stop using it as soon as they become pregnant.
Refer to label instructions 1 star[1 star]
Muscles that are calcium-deficient tend to be hyperactive and therefore might be more likely to cramp. Calcium may help prevent menstrual cramps by maintaining normal muscle tone.
Refer to label instructions 1 star[1 star]
A constituent of corydalis called tetrahydropalmatine appears to heave pain-relieving and sedative effects. It has shown to be effective for painful menstruation.
Cramp Bark
Refer to label instructions 1 star[1 star]
Cramp bark has been a favorite traditional herb for menstrual cramps. It may help ease severe cramps that are associated with nausea, vomiting, and sweaty chills.
Dong Quai
Refer to label instructions 1 star[1 star]
Dong quai has been used either alone or in combination with other traditional Chinese medicine herbs to help relieve painful menstrual cramps.
False Unicorn
Refer to label instructions 1 star[1 star]
False unicorn was used in the Native American tradition for a large number of women’s health conditions, including painful menstruation.
Refer to label instructions 1 star[1 star]
An herbal formulation known as toki-shakuyaku-san combines peony root with other herbs and has been found to reduce cramping and pain associated with dysmenorrhea.
Refer to label instructions 1 star[1 star]
Some practitioners report success using topical progesterone cream for dysmenorrhea.
Refer to label instructions 1 star[1 star]
Vervain is a traditional herb for dysmenorrhea.
Vitamin B1
Refer to label instructions 1 star[1 star]
Vitamin B1 appears to relieve dysmenorrheal in cases of vitamin B1 deficiency. It is not known whether supplementing would relieve the condition in women who are not deficient.
Vitamin D
Refer to label instructions 1 star[1 star]
In a double-blind trial, women with dysmenorrhea received a placebo or a single administration of a large amount of vitamin D, which appeared to significantly diminish menstrual pain. This should only be done under doctor supervision.
Refer to label instructions 1 star[1 star]
Clinical reports from Germany have suggested that vitex may help relieve different menstrual abnormalities associated with premenstrual syndrome, including dysmenorrhea.

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2018.