When pain appears at the first period in adolescents, we speak of primary dysmenorrhea. They are explained by an excessive secretion of inflammatory molecules, certain prostaglandins. Permanent or occasional, this pain is supposed to remain bearable and decrease from the age of 18 or after a first pregnancy. However, in approximately 5 to 15% of women, cramps are so painful that they can have a very negative impact on quality of life, leading to absences from school or time off work. It is therefore important not to miss secondary dysmenorrhea caused by a gynecological pathology, still too often diagnosed late: endometriosis, fibroids, adenomyosis... Fortunately, there are different natural methods to limit pain, without forgetting diet. , lifestyle, stress management... which will also help to reduce their frequency or intensity.

This article was updated on 11/01/2024

TOP 5 natural remedies

1. To act quickly when periods are very painful: tropical Basil essential oil or tarragon essential oil, in local massage with vegetable oil.
2. Take at least one week before the expected period date: borage vegetable oil or evening primrose vegetable oil to limit inflammation.
3. For its antispasmodic and regulating properties of the female cycle: lraspberry bud macerate in background treatment.
4. For its action on spasms and bleeding: yarrow as a herbal tea as a grandmother's remedy.
5. If stress tends to make pain worse: fine or True Lavender essential oil in local application or in olfaction.

Do not delay in consulting a specialist if the pain persists. A diagnosis and specific treatment will be necessary if painful periods are caused by an infection, endometriosis, fibroid, etc.

Essential oils to quickly relieve very painful periods

What are the benefits of essential oils?

Thanks to their antispasmodic properties, certain essential oils will be ideal allies for quickly relieving period pain. They contain in particular molecules which have a direct action on the smooth muscles constituting the uterus. This concerns in particular methylchavicol, or estragol, which is the majority component of essential oils of Basil and Tarragon, very often recommended against abdominal cramps. Other molecules belonging to the ester family are also known to have effects on muscle spasms, whether digestive or gynecological.

Since these molecules are otherwise relaxing and soothing, they will also act on the emotional dimension and will help to reduce painful perception. Studies have also made it possible to highlight the anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties linalool or beta-caryophyllene which is found in several essential oils which will also be interesting to use in cases of dysmenorrhea.

Which essential oils to choose?
  • Firstly, tarragon essential oil or tropical Basil essential oil are those that are most often recommended to relieve painful periods. They both contain a majority of methylchavicol around 80%. They act both on uterine contractions causing menstrual cramps, but also on a psycho-emotional level as relaxing and anti-stress essential oils. Their smell is not always appreciated, it is possible to replace them with other essential oils with similar properties, without containing methylchavicol.
  • Alternative or complementary essential oils, rich in esters and/or linalool, with relaxing, antispasmodic and analgesic properties. To be chosen according to each person’s olfactory preference: roman Chamomile essential oil, true Lavender essential oil, essential oil of Petit Grain Bigarade... or clary Sage essential oil (be careful, however, to take into account the contraindications linked to its estrogen-like effect)...
How to use them?

Dermal : dilute 1 drop of essential oil in 9 drops of vegetable oil, applying to the lower abdomen and the solar plexus. Up to 3 times a day in case of pain.

When inhaled, to act more specifically on the psycho-emotional component: 2 to 3 drops of essential oil on a tissue or the wick of an inhaler. To breathe as soon as necessary.

Hydrosols to replace or supplement essential oils

In which cases should hydrosols be preferred?
  • Hydrosols are flexible products to use, especially orally, in particular because they are less concentrated in active molecules. They are especially suitable for people who cannot use essential oils, but also to complement the action of essential oils or as an alternative when used over long periods.
  • As a precaution, hydrosols which have an estrogenic or progesteronic effect will still be not recommended in case of history of hormone-dependent cancer (example: Clary Sage, Officinal Sage, Yarrow hydrosol).
  • Hydrosols will also appeal to those who are in a hurry and don't have time to prepare herbal tea.
Which hydrosols to choose?
  • First intention, as in aromatherapy, we will favor Basil. In proportion, basil hydrosol contains less methylchavicol but more linalool than the essential oil. Antispasmodic and soothing of the nervous system, it is ideal for relieving abdominal pain, whether related to periods, poor digestion or stress.
  • In case of associated irregular cycles, it is possible to replace Basil, or combine it with yarrow hydrosol.
  • If stress, nervousness and anxiety tend to make pain worse, other hydrosols can be recommended such as roman Chamomile hydrosol or melissa hydrosol.
How to use them?

Orally : dilute 1 to 2 teaspoons of hydrosol in a glass of water, 2 to 3 times a day (or 2 tablespoons in 1 L of water, to drink during the day) from the first day of painful periods. If necessary, start 1 to 3 days before the expected period date.

Borage and Evening Primrose oils to modulate inflammation

Regulatory effects on the production of prostaglandins
  • At the end of the menstrual cycle, the natural drop in progesterone is accompanied by the production of pro-inflammatory prostaglandins type 2 (PGE2) to the detriment of prostaglandins type 1 (PGE1). It is these PGE2 which are at the origin of the contractions necessary to expel the uterine mucosa at each cycle, while PGE1 are rather anti-inflammatory, antiplatelet aggregation and vasodilator. Abnormally painful periods are thus explained by excessive production of PGE2 with an imbalance in the PGE1/PGE2 ratio.
  • To understand the benefits of Borage and Evening Primrose oils, it is important to know that PGE1 and 2 are both synthesized from omega 6, with gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) as a limiting step. Naturally rich AGL, Borage and Evening Primrose oils therefore directly provide this intermediate omega 6 which, through a phenomenon of competition, would slow down the production of PGE2 and would help to restore a better PGE1/PGE2 balance.
  • It is often written that Borage and Evening Primrose oils are hormonal regulators. According to available scientific studies, their action is more at the level of prostaglandins, also called “inflammation hormones”. From where a probable confusion, because it is not a question of sexual hormones. There are certainly interactions between these different types of hormones, but we cannot speak of a progesterone-like or anti-estrogen effect as in the case of plants such as Yarrow.
How to use them as a supplement?
  • To contribute to a better PGE1/PGE2 balance through FFA supplementation : take 1 to 2 teaspoons per day ofborage oil orevening primrose oil before meals, 1 to 2 weeks before and during the period of painful periods. Borage oil would be more interesting than Evening Primrose oil, because it contains two to three times more gamma-linolenic acid.
  • At the same time, do not forget to avoid excessive intakes of omega 6, other than AGL.. Indeed, apart from gamma-linolenic acid, omega 6 are mainly precursors of pro-inflammatory molecules including PGE2. As detailed below in the section on the role of diet, it is therefore just as important to avoid excess foods responsible for an inflammatory state, taking particular care to the omega 3/omega 6 balance.

Bud macerates to regulate the cycle and limit spasms

In which cases are bud macerates relevant?

By its more global and profound action, gemmotherapy can be interesting to use in addition to essential oils in the form of long or occasional cures, depending on the circumstances specific to each person. Certain bud macerates are known for their modulating effects on the endocrine system, for their antispasmodic or circulatory properties.

Which macerates to choose?
  • Raspberry macerate first choice for its versatility. It is best known for its regulatory action on the secretion of ovarian hormones (estrogens and progesterone) but it is also antispasmodic, with direct effects on the uterine muscle.
  • Viorne macerate can be used to reinforce the antispasmodic action of Raspberry, whether it is pain before or during periods, or even in the middle of the cycle at the time of ovulation.
  • Chestnut macerate and Chestnut macerate for their veno-lymphatic properties. They will help reduce period pain by improving circulation and limiting congestion, particularly in the pelvic region, the small pelvis.
How to use them?

For adults and adolescents: 5 to 15 drops of bud macerates per day in a glass of water (or pure), 15 minutes before a meal, for 3 weeks maximum. Start with 5 drops and increase gradually (for example: 5 drops the first week, 10 the second…). It is possible to take several buds (to be spread throughout the day) or to change buds depending on the evolution of the signs.

  • In a long course of several months : respect a rhythm of 3 weeks of intake per month followed by a week of break. Ideal for regulating the hormonal system with Raspberry macerate or for supporting the circulatory system with Chestnut macerate.
  • As a one-off treatment around the painful period, rather for Viburnum macerate: start one week before the expected date of the period.

Grandma's remedies in herbal teas

In which cases should you choose herbal teas?

Whether for their antispasmodic, analgesic or hormonal regulating properties, several plants can be used as infusions. The time of a herbal tea will also have a comforting and soothing effect, particularly appreciated during periods of painful periods. The opportunity to take care of yourself during those days of the cycle that are difficult to get through.

Which plants to choose?

Here is a selection of plants commonly recommended to use alone or in a mixture. Pay careful attention to their precautions for use, especially if they have a hormone-like action.

  • The flowering tops of Achillea Millefeuille which are antispasmodic of the muscles of the uterus, but also anti-inflammatory, hemostatic and anti-estrogenic.
  • The aerial parts of Alchemilla for its complementary action on the lining of the uterus. It is also traditionally used for various gynecological disorders such as premenstrual syndrome. Its anti-estrogenic or progesteronic mechanisms of action are quite complex and still unknown. Seek medical advice in the event of hormone-dependent cancer or diarrhea. Do not use at the same time as medication or oral contraceptives.
  • Camomile flowers, also antispasmodics, with a synergistic action on anxiety and mood.
  • Melissa leaves which have both a spasmolytic and tranquilizing action. Their sedative effects are even comparable to those obtained with benzodiazepines, while providing a pleasant lemony taste.
How to use them?

In infusion : for one cup, pour simmering water (ideally at a temperature of 80-90°C) over a tablespoon of dry plants. Cover and let steep for 10 minutes. Drink up to 2 cups per day during the second part of the cycle, starting one week before your expected period.

Take care of your diet and lifestyle to reduce period pain

Modern diet, stress, pollutants or a sedentary lifestyle are all factors that are known to promote an inflammatory state or anxiety, bring endocrine disruptors... and create a climate favorable to dysmenorrhea. Hence the importance of taking care of your lifestyle to relieve or prevent period pain.

Adapt your diet

Too often forgotten, diet can play an essential role in the intensity of period pain. In addition to the Borage or Evening Primrose oil treatment specifically aimed at regulating the PGE1/PGE2 balance, certain dietary habits can help to improve the situation or, on the contrary, aggravate it:

  • Avoid, especially during menstruation : foods and drinks that promote inflammation such as refined foods, low in fiber, too sweet or too salty, sources of “bad fats” (saturated fatty acids, grilled and fried foods), caffeinated drinks, excessive consumption of 'alcohol…
  • Maintain a good overall omega 3/omega 6 balance to regulate the synthesis of pro-inflammatory molecules such as PGE2: favor animal sources of omega 3 (sardines, mackerel, herring, eggs and meat from the Bleu-Blanc-Cœur sector, etc.) and plants (rapeseed oils, camelina oil and Nuts, oils and linseedchia seedshemp seeds…), while avoiding excessive intakes of omega 6 other than FFA (sunflower oil, overly fatty meats, etc.). Other studies show that women who regularly consume omega-3 of animal origin (EPA and DHA) suffer less from menstrual pain. EPA and DHA are in fact precursors of other molecules (PGE3, resolvins, protectins, etc.) necessary to complete the anti-inflammatory action of PGE1.
  • Cover your Magnesium needs which is involved in the synthesis of prostaglandins and participates in the processes of uterine and vascular contractions. Certain mineral waters and certain foods are known for their richness in Magnesium. As daily requirements are estimated at around 300 mg per day, taking food supplements may be considered, especially in cases of chronic stress.
  • Monitor your intake of Zinc, vitamin C and vitamin B6 which, like magnesium, participate in the synthesis of prostaglandins, but are less at risk of deficiency.
  • Don't forget to check its Iron status, especially if periods are heavy. The lack of Iron is not necessarily linked to painful periods, but anemia will be a source of additional fatigue. And cases of deficit are still underdiagnosed.
Limit the effects of stress, anxiety or depression

Several studies have shown that stress is an aggravating factor in period pain. Women exposed to a high level of stress would therefore be twice as likely to suffer from dysmenorrhea.. All natural approaches used to manage stress will therefore be useful to reduce painful periods and improve quality of life during this period. The quality of social relationships would also play an important role.

Depression and anxiety are rarely the primary cause of dysmenorrhea, but their role in the exacerbation of pain must be taken into account in a global approach. Psychological support can then prove very beneficial.

Practicing physical activity

The benefits of physical activity on painful periods are multiple:

  • Analgesic effect by the release of endorphins and improvement of pelvic blood circulation;
  • Stress reduction and improved mood;
  • Prevention of overweight and obesity which are associated with a higher risk of dysmenorrhea.

It would be enough toa brisk walk of 30 minutes per day during the first three days of your period to reduce the severity of primary dysmenorrhea. But physical activity would be even more effective against menstrual pain when it is practiced regularly throughout the cycle.

Other tips and natural approaches against stomach ache

  • Using a hot water bottle to warm the painful area;
  • Acupuncture can bring improvement in certain people, but there are not yet studies proving its effectiveness against primary dysmenorrhea.
  • Several homeopathic medicines are recommended in cases of dysmenorrhea (Bryonia, Chamomilla Vulgaris, Colocynthis, Magnesia Phosporica, Nux Vomica, Sepia, Thuya, etc.). The advice of a homeopathic doctor is necessary, because the choice is made according to the person's terrain and specific symptoms: when the pain makes the woman bend in half, if the pain radiates more towards the sacrum, the thighs or the back, in the event of associated dizziness, leucorrhoea, fatigue... if the pain is soothed by pressing on her stomach, by applying heat or cold... if the abundance of her periods is proportional to the intensity of pain...
  • Applying clay or mud poultices is practiced as part of thermal treatments to relieve painful periods or endometriosis... Concerning green clay, certain contraindications must nevertheless be taken into account, particularly in the case of the presence of an IUD or underlying pathologies. Medical advice is therefore necessary if pain persists or in the event of prolonged use.

Improving the diagnosis and management of endometriosis

It happens that the pain persists over time and does not respond to the medical treatments usually prescribed (antispasmodics, anti-inflammatories, contraceptive pills). It is then recommended to do not delay in consulting a specialist to exclude any illness that could cause painful periods (infection, endometriosis, fibroid, etc.).

Endometriosis, one of the most painful conditions, is still poorly understood and, above all, poorly diagnosed. But this is a chronic disease that can appear as early as puberty and only regress at menopause Too many women continue to suffer from it for several years without knowing it, even though “normal” pain is not supposed to be as intense or last as long.

In France, it is estimated that one in 10 women are affected by endometriosis with an almost systematic delay in diagnosis, on average of seven years. Since 2022, health authorities have finally put in place a national strategy to combat this disease including support for medical research, improved diagnosis and better pain management.


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