According to Hildegard of Bingen medicine, most ailments can be addressed using some combination of diet, herbs and spices. Though many of her cures are preventative, or slow-working by nature, Hildegard had several herbal remedies to address painful menses. Many of Hildegard’s herbs may be taken in the form of a soothing tea to resolve discomfort. Teas using herbal blends are especially effective to reduce menstrual cramps. Herbal teas can help with short-term, acute discomfort as well as long-term relief.
Hildegard’s 9 Herbal Remedies for Painful Menses
(1) Vitex Agnus-Castus (Agnus, “Monk’s Pepper”)
The active ingredients in Monk’s Pepper, iridoids and diterpenes, are credited with lowering prolactin in the blood. Agnus-castus has been known since the middle ages for relieving painful menses and remains an active herbal remedy for women in Germany today. Clinical studies with extracts of agnus-castus confirm its use for premenstrual syndrome (PMS), breast pain (mastalgia), and other menstrual discomfort.
Agnus-castus extract is one of the most studied herbal remedies in gynecology. It is generally well-tolerated with very few side effects. Ideally, we find it best to use a professionally prepared product for consistency in dosage and for the benefit of all active ingredients. Directions for use, and intake vary based on each product recommendation.
The yarrow plant uses have proven effective against cramps and abdominal discomfort. The essential oils and flavonoids contained in yarrow have a muscle-relaxing effect, which are particularly effective for cramps related to painful menses.
Yarrow is effective in the form of tea or when used in a bath, as a topical solution. For use in a bath, use a cup of yarrow (fresh or dried) along with a quart of boiling water, and allow to steep for approximately 10 minutes. Strain the mixture into bath water at 98-99 degrees Fahrenheit, and rest for a duration of 10 minutes in the bath.
Chamomile has muscle-relaxing and soothing effects. This is an effective ingredient in several tea blends designed to reduce cramps and the treatment of menstruation difficulties.
(4) Silverweed (argentina anserine)
This medicinal plant has long history in women’s health because of its efficacy in relieving cramps and discomfort in the uterus and intestines. Prepare tea using 1 teaspoon of silverweed with 1 cup of hot water and boil for 10 minutes. Then strain. Drink 1-3 cups daily.
(5) Birch and nettle leaves
Birch and nettle leaves are mild diuretic and used as part of a blend to prevent water retention.
(6) Borage Seed Oil or Evening Primrose Oil
These oils contain high amounts of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA), an omega-6 essential fatty acid that is also found in black currant. GLA supports the formation of anti-inflammatory substances in the body. Take two teaspoons of borage seed oil or evening primrose oil daily, either alone or as an ingredient in a salad dressing.
(7) Lavender and Lemon Balm (Melissa)
Lavender and Lemon Balm are proven means for balancing the effects of mood swings. These may be taken as a part of a tea to reduce cramps, or topically, as a part of a warm bath.
(8) Cimicifuga (Sheng Ma)
This Chinese herb is recommended for minor ailments related to painful menses, menstrual cramps, and discomfort.
Take 1 teaspoon with 1 cup of hot water, and allow ten minutes to steep. Take 3 cups per day. We recommend using a prepackaged product, which can be found online in tablet, liquid, or extract (alcohol extract) forms. Sheng Ma should not be taken by women with breast cancer.
(9) Lady’s mantle herb
Lady’s mantle is traditionally also used for the treatment of menstrual cramps and painful menses. This herb has a relatively high proportion of tannins, which have anti-inflammatory properties. For a cup of tea, use 2 teaspoons of lady’s mantle with 1 cup of hot water and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Drink 1-3 cups, daily.