5 Natural Remedies for Period Aches and Pains That Actually Work

Next time you have menstrual cramps, give one of these natural remedies a try.

When it's that time of the month, most people who menstruate can bet on bloating, sore breasts, headaches, irritability, and mood swings galore. But for many of us, migraines and menstrual cramps can accompany our periods as well, especially in those first few days. Not only are these symptoms uncomfortable, but they can be severe enough to confine you to bed completely.

Why You Get Menstrual Cramps

More than half of people who menstruate experience one or two days of some period pain each month, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).

As unpleasant as menstrual cramps are, they play a vital role during your period. The uterus is comprised mostly of muscle cells whose main mode of activity—like any muscle—is to contract, Joshua U. Klein, MD, chief medical officer and reproductive endocrinologist at Extend Fertility, told Health.

When blood and tissue shed during menses, an inflammatory reaction that provokes contraction of the uterine muscle occurs, which causes menstrual cramps, said Dr. Klein. "In order to limit the amount of menstrual bleeding, uterine contractions 'clamp down' on blood vessels called spiral arteries that feed the uterine lining," said Dr. Klein.

Natural Remedies for Menstrual Cramps

Birth control, hormonal treatments, and over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen can help alleviate period aches and pains, but natural remedies can help, too. Here are five to consider next time you're experiencing cramps.

Heat Therapy

Remember when you had menstrual cramps in high school? Maybe someone recommended a heating pad. Applying heat to the lower abdomen or lower back using a heating pad, heat patches, hot water bag, towels, or hot water bottle is helpful.

Superficial heat increases blood flow to the area, which helps to flush out pain-producing substances like prostaglandins, said Orlando-based ob-gyn Christine Greves, MD, a fellow of the American Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology. (Need a new one? We like the PureRelief XL Heating Pad, $50 on Amazon.)

Dr. Greves noted two randomized controlled trials to test the performance of heat- and steam-generating (HSG) sheets for relief of menstrual cramps and compare them to ibuprofen for treating period cramp pain. The trials found that topical heat therapy can be equally, if not more, effective for menstrual cramps than over-the-counter pain medication.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are thought to help fight inflammation and pain in general, and period cramps could be no different. The source could be important, though, said Dr. Greves.

Omega-3s help to keep your vision healthy, reduce the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, and improve arthritis. In addition, research suggests that omega-3s might also be effective at controlling menstrual pain.

In one study, a group of women with painful periods took 1 capsule of omega-3 fish oil or a placebo daily for 3 months. One group of 47 women was given a daily omega-3 capsule for 3 months and then a placebo for three months. The other group was given the placebo and omega-3 capsule in reverse. Every participant was allowed to take 400 mg of ibuprofen whenever the cramps were too painful to handle.

The study found that both groups took fewer doses of ibuprofen when they were taking the omega-3 supplements. The researchers concluded that the supplements appeared to significantly reduce the amount of pain the patients suffered..


This powerful plant boasts anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe painful menstrual cramps. Two of ginger's components, gingerols and gingerdiones, work to inhibit leukotriene and prostaglandin synthesis, decreasing period cramping pain, said Dr. Greves

However, very few scientific reviews have looked at the effectiveness of ginger for pain duration and severity. In one 2021 meta-review, previous research comparing ginger with a placebo and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in women with menstrual cramps was analyzed. The researchers found that ginger and NSAIDs were equally effective in pain severity.

You can add fresh or dried ginger to your food, try ginger chews or sip on ginger tea to try out the benefits of the plant.


Cannabis for pain relief goes back 5000 years, when Egyptians used it to treat neuralgia, headaches, and toothaches. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a substance derived from the cannabis plant but does not produce psychoactive effects.

Although more studies on CBD oil for menstrual pain are needed, Daniel Clauw, MD, professor of anesthesiology at the University of Michigan, told Health that it wouldn't surprise him if CBD oil helped ease period cramps, since "it does act as a weak anti-inflammatory, not unlike nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, which are the most commonly used treatments for this type of pain."

A meta-review of studies on using CBD for pain relief found that, though there have been multiple studies showing patients found relief of joint pain, fibromyalgia pain, migraines, and spinal pain from CBD, no studies were found specific to menstrual cramps. The researchers concluded, however, there were adequate studies to support acute and chronic pain relief.

There are several forms of CBD products available. The most common forms of CBD include oils and tinctures, creams and lotions, capsules and pills, edibles, and vaping.

Cannabis may or may not be legal for medical or recreational use depending on the laws in your state. The effects of cannabis vary from person to person and depend on many variables, including type, dosage, frequency of use, and interactions with current medications. If you are interested in using cannabis in any form, discuss it with your healthcare provider or pharmacist. Unlike prescription medications, cannabis purchased from dispensaries and recreationally is not regulated by the FDA.


Studies on the connection between diet, exercise, and menstrual pain are limited, but other studies have found that women who partake in regular physical activity experience less pelvic pain overall.

One such study in Japan compared women who exercised for more than 30 min for two days a week with women without an exercise regimen. The exercise group had significantly lower scores for a measure of what researchers called menstrual distress. The researchers concluded that exercise habits might reduce the severity of menstrual symptoms, including cramping, and could help to develop a non-drug coping strategy.

Another meta-analysis looked at the effects of low-intensity exercise (stretching, core strengthening, or yoga) or high-intensity exercise (Zumba or aerobic training) on menstrual pain. The study found that exercise, regardless of intensity, performed for about 45 to 60 minutes each time, three times per week or more, may provide a clinically significant reduction in menstrual pain intensity.

Research shows that yoga can help with a variety of pains and aches. One 2019 Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice meta-analysis showed that yoga is an effective intervention for alleviating menstrual pain in women with menstrual cramps.

A Quick Review

Menstrual cramps can range from uncomfortable to outright debilitating. These five natural remedies are proven to help relieve cramps without medication. As with any matter involving your health, check in with your healthcare provider before starting any supplement or natural remedy.

Dietary supplements are minimally regulated by the FDA and may or may not be suitable for you. The effects of supplements vary from person to person and depend on many variables, including type, dosage, frequency of use, and interactions with current medications. Please speak with your healthcare provider or pharmacist before starting any supplements.

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10 Sources
Health.com uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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