glass of peppermint tea on a grey cloth placed onto a wooden table with peppermint leaves scattered around the glass

Our top 5 remedies for painful periods

While menstrual cramps can be painful, you can take many routes to relief and get rid of the pain. We've given you our top 5 remedies to help you get through the monthly visit.

1. A hot water bottle

This is more than just an old wives’ tale. A soothing hot water bottle placed on the abdomen or lower back can work wonders for period pain. Not only does it promote feelings of comfort and relaxation, topical heat can actually block the effect of chemical messengers that cause your body to detect pain. Researchers from University College London discovered that if heat of over 40° is applied to the skin near where it hurts, your pain receptors can actually be switched off as your heat receptors activate instead. This decreases the transmission of pain signals to the brain. 1 Make sure you use a hot water bottle cover so it doesn’t get too hot. You could also use a microwaveable rice bag.

2. Exercise

It might be the last thing you feel like doing when those cramps hit, but exercise can actually help to relieve them. Even if it’s just getting away from your desk at lunchtime for a brisk walk, you will benefit from the endorphin rush and it will take your mind off that nagging pain. Exercise helps psychologically too and will promote a sense of wellbeing as well as helping you to sleep better at night.

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3. Peppermint Tea

Menstrual cramps are caused by contractions and spasms of the uterus as it expels its lining. Not only can this be painful, it’s also responsible for nausea and diarrhoea some women experience around their time of the month. The active ingredient in peppermint tea is menthol, which is an anti-spasmodic and can calm your cramps from within by soothing the internal spasms 2. You could buy peppermint tea bags or brew fresh peppermint leaves in hot water, crushing them first to help release their potent oils.

4. Cinnamon and ginger

Much like peppermint, there are active ingredients in some spices which can might be able to help alleviate the symptoms of a painful period. Both cinnamon and ginger are widely used as digestive and anti-nausea aids, and both also have anti-spasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties. This explains why they seemto work so well to ease some of the most common symptoms of dysmenorrhea, which is the term for problematic and painful menstruation.

A great way to enjoy the benefits of these delicious spices is to add them to your cooking and brew them in hot water to make hydrating teas.

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5. Dark chocolate

The chocolate cravings some women get around the time of their period are more than a myth. Dark chocolate is rich in magnesium, a nutrient which is lost during menstruation. Magnesium is a mineral which helps turn the food we eat into energy, as well as playing a role in the transmission of nerve impulses. Studies show that ensuring you have enough magnesium can help significantly reduce premenstrual symptoms, when in combination with vitamin B6. 3

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While it’s true that other foods are also high in magnesium, such as spinach and lentils, the positive associations many of us have with treating ourselves to chocolate can boost our mood and comfort us when we might not be feeling our best. Unfortunately for fans of milk chocolate, it doesn’t have anywhere near as much magnesium in it, plus it’s very high in sugar. Try adding cacao powder to smoothies or raw food desserts for a magnesium-rich chocolate hit without as much sugar.

Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
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