I hope that you’ve been able to see that PMS and menstrual cramps, along with any other menstrual irregularity that may be bothering you, are all tied together. Symptoms do not exist in a vacuum, by figuring out which pattern most resembles our current state of being, we are able to address the whole body more effectively than one symptom at a time. Sure, there are times when no matter what we do those individual symptoms are a huge nuisance (like menstrual cramps)! That’s why I offer long term options like diet and lifestyle factors, as well as long-term herbal options, and short term options for when you need help the most.
To review, we have four patterns that we’re discussing in relation to menstrual cramps:
Qi Stagnation is kind of like “roaaaaarrrrrr, I am stuck, get me out now or get outta my way!!!!” – it is frustrating, lumpy, and irregular.
Blood Stagnation is more akin to “you ain’t moving me, don’t you even think about it, oh heck no. You will be keeled over in pain before you think about moving me” – it is very painful, lumpy and fixed.
Cold Stagnation is “I’m going to freeze you out, you aren’t going to be able to do anything about this because I’m frozen inside of you, I’m so cold, I’ve turned part of you into an iceberg. Warming me up isn’t going to do jack” – it requires heat, but heat isn’t always enough, because it is so cold, it is sore, scanty and bright.
Blood Deficiency is “maybe, I don’t know, I don’t think I have it in me to do this. No, no, I’m too tired, I’m dizzy, I’m spent, I’m all wrung out, I just don’t have it in me” – it is dull, needs pressure to be relieved, and is a huge drain on the body.
Whether you suffer from Blood Deficiency, Qi Stagnation, Blood Stagnation or Cold Stagnation type cramps, what you eat is a major impact in how you feel from month to month. Refer back to the PMS post on diet for the foods to eat and foods to avoid for optimal Qi and Blood flow. In short: eat whole foods, lots of leafy greens, eat lentils, beans, whole grains, fish, grass-fed humanely raised organic meats, cooked vegetables; avoid nuts, nut butters, dairy, turkey, fried foods, alcohol, caffeine (especially coffee and sodas), sugar/sugary foods, processed/refined foods. Why no nuts, nut butters or dairy? Well, because the Liver needs to work harder to process these foods, and when our Liver function is imbalanced (resulting in Qi and Blood Stagnation) we are unable to properly assimilate these foods – they lead to further congestion and stagnation. I recommend avoiding juicing or eating raw foods as well – they are a drain on the body’s digestive capacity when most of the time we are trying to ramp up the digestive capacity (aka metabolism) through eating these foods.
Here are my favorite Internal Remedies for Menstrual Cramps!
If you have cramps, and are unable to eat anything at all, I recommend miso broth with vegetables. Here is a recipe that I use often:
1TB miso paste (I like mellow white miso paste, try a bunch of different ones to find your favorite)
2TB cold water
1 scallion, sliced into 1/4″ rounds (optional)
2c boiling water
1/2c frozen peas – thawed
1 strip of nori seaweed – cut into fine shreds
- Put the miso paste into a bowl, whisk the water into the paste until it is smooth
- Put the peas, scallions, and nori into the bowl of miso paste
- Pour the boiling water over the miso and vegetables
- Stir until all are incorporated evenly
- The boiling water cooks the peas through without overcooking and ruining the miso
Qi Stagnation, Blood Stagnation:
Cramp bark tincture
Cramp bark (Viburnum opulus???) is a premier antispasmodic – it is ideal for when you feel like your body is trying to squeeze your insides out of you, or like you have a pulled muscle. It is warming and circulating in addition to its antispasmodic properties – if you tend to run hot (meaning: heat tends to worsen your symptoms, or make you feel not optimal in general), carefully monitor your response to cramp bark. As always the best option is to work with an herbalist one-on-one who can give you recommendations suited exactly to your needs.
Take 30-60 drops 3x/day starting 1 week before menses are due to begin.
Cold Stagnation Tea*:
Whether you suffer from Cold Stagnation or lack of heat, including a cold, sore lower back, watery loose diarrhea before menses with heat improving menstrual cramps and a cold lower abdomen; this tea is sure to warm you up.
1 cinnamon stick
4 slices fresh ginger (or 1/2tsp dried powdered ginger)
1/2tsp fenugreek seeds (fry them in a frying pan with a little salted water until the saltwater is evaporated first, may be left out if unable to find)
1tsp fennel seeds
1 green cardamom pod, crushed
1TB goji berries
- Bring 2 cups of water to the boil with the fenugreek, fennel seeds and goji berries to the pot
- Let cook for 15 mins
- Add the ginger, cinnamon stick, cardamom pod to the pot
- Turn off the pot
- Let infuse for at least 20 mins.
- Strain then drink
An “all-purpose” menstrual cramps tea for Qi, Blood, and/or Cold Stagnation patterns:
Chamomile/Ginger Tea *
- Place 1oz chamomile and 4 slices of fresh ginger (about 2mm thick) into a jar, pot, or other container with a lid (1oz of chamomile is about 2 large handfuls)
- Pour 1pt/250mL of boiling water over the herbs
- Cover and steep for 20 mins.
- Strain, then drink while hot.
- You can re-steep the tea up to two times, with weaker effects each consecutive time.
Note: you can eat the chamomile and ginger slices – I like the strained flowers and ginger slices on top of poached pears. Try it! It satisfied the desire for sweet we often have during our periods, the chamomile provides the soothing minerals we need, while the ginger provides the heat to keep everything moving, warm and easy to digest.
If you have Blood Deficiency:
Add 1TB each of goji berries and raisins, and then molasses to taste and steep with the chamomile and ginger tea from above, for the full 20 minutes. The goji berries and raisins are great eating after the 20 minute steep period – they get nice and soft, and are easier to digest than in their dried state.
*All of these teas may be drunk twice daily (1 cup per “dosage” – so 2 cups/1 pint per day) in the week prior to your period starting, then as needed while you have pain.*
The above suggestions are based on easy-to-find herbs and spices in your local health food or herbal shop for menstrual cramps based on particular patterns, or combinations of patterns. If you try these options for three months and see no results, please contact me to determine whether or not working together is a good match for us.