Nothing Should Stop You From Being Active – 7 Natural Cramp Remedies

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Menstrual cramps can put a damper on your plans for an active day, and you might find yourself tempted to use over-the-counter medications to alleviate that pain. But you can avoid the potential side effects of OTC by using a natural remedy instead.

You’re not alone. It’s estimated that 90 percent of women deal with dysmenorrhea (the medical term for menstrual cramps) at some time in their lives.

Those cramps are contractions of your uterine muscles – they’re very strong so those contractions can be quite painful. The pain starts in your lower abdomen and can spread into your low back and legs. It can last for a few hours or even a couple of days.

Over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen might help, but if used too often, they can result in liver problems, hurt your stomach or increase your risk of heart disease.

These time-tested remedies will help relieve the discomfort of cramps – safely and naturally — so you can get out and enjoy your day.

Drink More Water

Water is essential for healthy muscles and being even a little dehydrated makes your muscles more sensitive and more likely to cramp.  Start sipping on some water as soon as you can after the cramps start.

If you don’t like the taste of plain water, you can add a slice of lemon, lime or cucumber to your water.  And the water doesn’t have to be cold. Hot water with a little lemon and honey – or even a non-caffeinated herbal tea – will hydrate you and soothe your pain.

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Additionally, you can keep a cup of water on your nightstand to keep hydrated during the night and carry a water bottle with you during the day. You’ll also get water from moist foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables.

Gently Exercise the Pain Away

Even though you might be tempted to curl up in a ball and stay on the couch all day, a little physical activity may be the answer. Nothing strenuous – you just want to get your muscles moving and the blood flowing.

Be kind to yourself and take a 10-minute walk. This is especially good when the weather is nice, and you can enjoy some time outdoors. If it’s too cold or your area isn’t conducive for a nice walk, then you can stay indoors. Try dancing to some of your favorite songs.

Stretching your low back, abdominal and leg muscles may help to ease some of the discomfort, as well.  Yoga is also good for preventing and reducing the pain of menstrual cramps.

Warm and Soothe with Heat

Using heat can be just as effective as taking medication for period pain relief. If you don’t have a heating pad or an old-school hot water bottle handy, you can pour hot water into a plastic bottle and wrap it in a towel. Place it over your lower abdomen until the water cools.

Soaking in warm bath water can relieve your cramps and help you relax. Turn off the bright bathroom lights and use some candles – or bring in a small lamp. Add some essential oils or scented bath salts to the water.

Essential Oil Aromatherapy

An aromatherapy massage with the right essential oil may be just what you need. Certain scents can relax and calm you – like chamomile, lavender and geranium, while others can stimulate you, like rosemary.

A research study found that a combination of lavender, clary sage and rose oils mixed with almond oil was effective in reducing menstrual cramps in college-age women.  You can find these essential oils at a health food store – or possibly at your local pharmacy.

Give yourself an aromatherapy massage. Add 2 drops of lavender and 1 drop each of clary sage and rose to 1/5 of an ounce of almond oil. Gently massage your lower abdomen with the oil. The combination of massage and essential oils will ease some of the pain.

Cinnamon and Ginger

You may have some cinnamon and ginger in your kitchen – they’re commonly used to flavor foods. They might also help to sooth your cramps and get you feeling better.

Cinnamon’s health benefits are due to the combination of natural compounds it contains and it’s ability to ‘warm’ the body. Ginger has been shown to reduce the pain of menstrual cramps and can help reduce nausea.

Make a soothing cinnamon tea by placing a cinnamon stick in a cup and adding hot water. Let it steep for about 10 minutes. Remove the stick and drink the tea.  You can also make a similar tea with ginger – steep a few slices of fresh ginger in hot water for ten minutes. Each of these teas can be sweetened with a little honey.

Valerian Root

Valerian root has been used as a medicinal herb in ancient Rome and Greece. It’s used to treat nervousness and insomnia. Valerian also has an antispasmodic effect that makes it a good natural remedy for menstrual cramps. One research study found that taking 244 milligrams per day for three times a day was effective for women who had dysmenorrhea.

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Valerian root doesn’t appear to have any side effects, but you should speak with your doctor if you’re taking any medications for depression or anxiety.

Make Cramp Bark Tea

The name ‘cramp bark’ says it all. The plant is native to Europe, northern Africa and northern Asia. It’s been used traditionally as a remedy for both menstrual cramps and arthritis pain.

Cramp bark is available at health food stores as a dietary supplement or as dried leaves. Make a soothing tea by steeping 2 teaspoons of cramp bark leaves in 1 cup of boiling water for 15 minutes.

Whew – What a Relief, but What About Next Time?

The best things you can do to prevent cramps include eating a healthy diet with lots of fruits and veggies and hydrate yourself properly. Stay active, but make sure you get time for rest and relaxation, too.

If your cramps continue to get out of control every month, or they’re accompanied by other symptoms like dizziness and vomiting, you should see your healthcare provider for advice.

Now, before we wrap up–I’m curious about your thoughts and experiences. Have you found relief from any of these tips in this past? Or are there things that have worked for you that we left out?

Feel free to comment below. I know this is a more personal topic, but we’re super eager to hear what you have to say and anything you can share with us! Thanks so much.




Last updated: Wednesday, March 26, 2014
  • Ly

    Hi, great article! Do you have any tips as well for balancing your hormones naturally after quitting birth control?

    • jessica

      Yeah I am interested in this too! I stopped birth control and I have horrible cystic acne from hormone imbalance. I’ve drastically changed my lifestyle: exercising more, eating clean , cut out sugars and dairy, and I’ve been drinking about 15 (20 oz) bottles of water in addition to the detox and green teas. I feel great and my acne has definitely improved. I know that what I ate was a reason for my horrible acne all over my body because I break out the day after a cheat day when I do break down and want a slice of pizza or take out. But it’s not gone and doctors keep telling me to get back on birth control and spironolactone (which helped 100% in the past) but I don’t want to keep putting chemicals into my body. I want to keep going the holistic way- so any advice on what to do…and how to balance hormones is greatly appreciated. :-)

      • Adriann

        I am interested in this too. I am considereing stopping birth control pills as well after being on them almost nonstop for 12 years. I am sooooo scared my cystic acne will return and that my periods will be horrible again. I am trying to really clean up my diet before I go off the pill to help make the transition easier, but I am not sure that will be enough.

    • Emma Yoder

      OMG! I just stopped birth control yesterday because i gained 5 lbs on just my first pack! I am trying to find a chinese herbalist to balance hormones but no luck so far… ill continue to look.

  • Nadia

    I have been suffering from cramps all my “period” life!! Sometimes it was so bad, I missed school and work!
    Pregnancy changed that..but the second pregnancy made it all come back X10!!
    I don’t believe in medication, so I recently found a tea (with all the ingredients mentioned) and it really helps.
    I also know that I don’t drink enough water, so that’s one I will add to my To-Do list!
    Thanks for this article! I’m saving it!

  • pacia

    Since I was 10 years old, I have been someone who has always had bad cramps, migraines, and other symptons, such as fatigue, acne, during menstruation. Ever since I started juicing, changing lifestyle to incorporate more water, vegetables, sleep, and exercise, and minimizing dairy and gluten (sometimes it’s just hard to resist, but I try), along with more vitamin supplements, since I am significantly deficient in vitamin D, iron, and B12, it has changed… I can happily say that I do not feel nor suffer through the same negative symptoms. I took quite a bit of adjustment and patience on my part, as well as those around me, but in the end, it was well worth it.

  • Cici

    The heating pad is amazing! I use that all the time and it helps so much. I have heard that heat will make you bleed more though so be prepared for that.

  • Yvonne

    I have used cramp bark before but in a pill form and it was a gamble as to if it would work. Sometimes it did great but other times, not so good. I haven’t heard to try valerian root so I will definetly do that.

    Thanks for this blog. It hits all women at some time in their lives so this will be helpful to all!

  • Emma

    I am dying for your advice about how to naturally balance hormones after going off the pill. I stopped taking Yasmin a few months ago and have experienced itchy but oily skin and scalp, pimples and weight gain. I don’t want to go back on the pill as it caused me depression and daily headaches and extreme tiredness for years until I made the link myself, not once did my doctor ever suggest it could have been the pill causing these issues!