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Women's Health & Homeopathy - Dysmenorrhea: Menstrual cramps

Throughout life all women are impacted by the balance of health in their female organs and hormone systems. Our menstrual regularity, its flow and comfort level, the effects of hormone levels at differing times of the month, susceptibility to vaginal infections, infertility, miscarriage, complications of pregnancy, diseases of the female organs (pelvic inflammatory disease, salpingitis), overgrowth of tissue (endometriosis, fibroids, ovarian cysts, warts, cancer), and then the hormonal changes of menopause all go into the individual health story of each woman. From the onset of menstruation to its cessation and beyond, a woman's body speaks out and sometimes needs balancing.

     No woman should have to experience menstrual pain every month, or painful breast tenderness, or mental irritability that is so noticeable that her family and friends know her cycle dates as well as she does. When a woman can't believe the spiteful things that are coming out of her mouth during the week before her period is due, it is time for a constitutional remedy chosen by a professional homeopath. If headaches are a predictable part of a woman's month, again prevention is the best remedy by getting a constitutional before the next cycle is too far gone. When a problem recurs monthly, it has become chronic and needs a more deep-acting approach than an acute remedy can offer.

     Every woman should know that homeopathy can be useful in each of these conditions and not feel limited solely to the prescription or surgery that her OB/GYN has recommended. It takes assertiveness, confidence and a good team of supportive health professionals (conventional and alternative) for a woman to navigate her way through a gynecological medical problem. 

     One common female malady which almost every woman has experienced is dysmenorrhea, which is menstrual pain or cramps. When the similar homeopathic remedy is administered in the appropriate potency, it will feel like a pain-relieving, muscle relaxant drug has just gone into effect. Why not just take a pain relieving, muscle relaxant drug? Well, actually that is not such a bad idea if one or two tablets of an over-the-counter medication like Motrin or Tylenol will do the trick (though certainly a homeopathic remedy is preferable). Then you can call your homeopath and make an appointment to get a constitutional remedy meant to prevent the cramps from coming at all next month. But there are many women with cramps so severe that they need to take large doses of strong pain relievers every few hours for several days, and they are incapacitated during this time as well. Then, drug toxicity is a real concern, not to mention suppression. So let's explore dysmenorrhea remedies and their corresponding crampy ladies.

     Many of the most effective remedies have overlapping symptoms which are classic or typical dysmenorrhea symptoms; but each woman will have different pain sensations, different areas affected, different aggravating and ameliorating times of day, times of cycle, and of course, different moods. Tuning in to these individualizing details, and especially any peculiar symptoms, will ensure that you have collected the symptoms needed to find the similar remedy. 

     The remedy I have found most useful during an acute case of menstrual cramps is Magnesia phosphorica, one of the 12 "cell salts" of Schussler, sometimes referred to as "Homeopathic Aspirin." This remedy is known for relieving spasm, neuralgia and cramping anywhere in the body, including earache, toothache, stomach ache and muscle cramps in the legs (Cuprum). I have experienced its uterine cramping relief firsthand. What happened for me was simply realizing in 10 minutes that I didn't have cramps anymore. There is anecdotal evidence that all potencies from the lowest to the highest have worked well. I have found high potency Mag phos (1M) to be of greatest and speediest help in painful menstrual cramps, with only 1 to 3 doses needed. Trying different potencies may be necessary to find the effective potency for you. Dissolving the dose of Mag phos in warm water and sipping is noted by many authors to enhance its effect. The modalities of Mag phos, which are amelioration from warmth, bending double (Colocynth) and pressure, are fairly classic dysmenorrhea symptoms and so are useful only as a comparison with other remedies with more unique symptoms (like Chamomilla's aggravation from heat and hypersensitivity to the pain). A menstrual flow which is stringy or membranous is associated with the Mag phos symptom picture.

     Another remedy known to relieve severe acute dysmenorrhea is Chamomilla. This woman's cramps would be labor-like and so distressing that she might roll around restlessly, moaning. Anger would rise easily and she would be intolerant of noise and interference during the pain. Her abdomen would be tender and heat would aggravate her symptoms. Diarrhea is common. A woman who needs Chamomilla would seem to be over-reacting dramatically because she is hypersensitive.

     Nux vomica's menstrual cramps should be discussed here as this remedy's irritable mood and hypersensitive behavior might lead you to compare it with Chamomilla. Nux vomica and Chamomilla also share urinary frequency and weakness during dysmenorrhea, but Nux can be differentiated by its pain in the lower back, nausea, and constipation. Nux would be more chilly and seek warm applications, where Chamomilla would be aggravated by heat.

     Colocynth can be differentiated from the other remedies by its need to bend over or bring the knees up to create pressure on the abdomen, which ameliorates the pain. Viburnum has pains which extend into the thighs and, like Pulsatilla, is better once the menses are flowing. Pulsatilla and Sepia are classic female remedies that can help every female problem known, when given to the appropriate constitutional type. 

     Patricia is a woman whose symptoms exemplify another remedy. When she called me she was in bed due to her excessive flow of bright red blood, and severe bearing down and throbbing abdominal pains. Her daughter shared with me that her mother looked flushed, her skin felt hot and she yelled out in pain after the bed was jarred. Patricia described a dragging sensation in the lower abdomen, perhaps due to congestion of blood. Belladonna is the remedy that helped Patricia when she took a dose of 200X every 30 minutes for three doses.

     Because she had had a very heavy flow the month before, we got together soon after this episode to find a constitutional remedy to balance Patricia's whole person. Menorrhagia is profuse bleeding (flooding), which can contain large clots, or bleeding which continues for over seven days. This can be caused by hormone imbalances, fibroids, endometriosis or pelvic infection. Consistently heavy periods can lead to iron-deficiency anemia. Other remedies used for acute menorrhagia are China, Ipecac, Phosphorus, Sabina, Crocus, and Secale. I believe that many a hysterectomy could be prevented if women were treated with homeopathy and other alternatives for this problem.

     A surprisingly effective remedy that everyone has in the spice rack of their kitchen, cinnamon, can be used in an emergency to slow down hemorrhagic bleeding. Although conventional medical care should not be delayed, a pinch of cinnamon powder can be hand-potentized by diluting it in a small bottle and shaking vigorously (succussing), then pouring out all but a few drops and diluting again and shaking—continue to 6 or more times and then sip the final dilution every 5 minutes to stop very heavy vaginal bleeding (or nosebleed or any hemorrhage). Boericke has a short proving of Cinnamonum and I found it in Allen's Keynotes under comparisons in Secale. Dr. David Wember taught me this cinnamon trick which he learned from an old-timer homeopath. Remembering this use of cinnamon could come in very handy in an emergency!

     A leading women's health teacher and herbalist, Susun Weed, feels that many female menstrual difficulties are due to our non-stop American lifestyle. She encourages women to take the cue from their bodies and retreat (as Native American women did when they went to the "moon lodge" during menstruation) or otherwise slow down during this time. We must respect the moon cycle and its rhythm in our body. When we run the body like a machine, the vital force is sure to feel the stress. Dr. Christiane Northrup, MD, suggests that lifestyle and undealt with emotions may be a partial cause in women's diseases. We must acknowledge that health maintenance includes "inner" emotional work, as well as diet, pap smears, and breast exams. Stress is a major cause in the derangement of the vital force, and even the right remedy cannot cure if the emotions are continually suppressed.

     In the months to come, I hope to be covering many women's health problems and the homeopathic approach to treatment.

About the author:

Lia Bello, an RN, Family Nurse Practitioner, and founder of the Homeopathic Nurses Association, resides and practices in Questa, New Mexico. She conducts courses for health professionals and lay people around the country and can be reached at (505) 586-1166 or e-mail: