Every woman who has ever experienced painful menstrual cramps knows the importance of pain relief. For some women cramps can be mild while others experience debilitating pain that can affect their ability to work, attend school, and participate in athletics or social activities. Dysmenorrhea—the medical term for painful periods--seriously affect 60% of women and their quality of life. According to research American women miss 600 million work hours annually due to this painful condition. But researchers found that an herbal extract offers more effective relief than ibuprofen—Advil or Motrin.
The study published in the Iranian Journal of Nursing and Midwifery Research assessed the effectiveness of an herbal extract of fennel seeds which also contained vitamin E, in comparison to ibuprofen. Sixty-eight women with an average age of 21.8 were divided into two groups: 34 received the fennel extract and vitamin E while the other 34 received ibuprofen to treat their menstrual pain. After administering the remedies, the women were assessed for pain levels one, two, three, six, and forty-eight hours later. While both the fennel extract and ibuprofen showed effectiveness against the pain, there were statistical differences between the natural medicine and the pharmaceutical drug, particularly after one and two hours. The fennel extract demonstrated greater effectiveness at these assessment times as well as an overall ability to alleviate pain that was superior to the ibuprofen.
Ibuprofen is known as a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and is frequently used to treat menstrual cramps but may be contraindicated in people with gastrointestinal ulcers or sensitivity to aspirin. Some of the side effects of the drug include: nausea, dyspepsia, diarrhea, and fatigue.
Conversely, fennel is a long-standing herb with a history of use in the treatment of digestive complaints. The seeds and the extract of the seeds have science-proven abilities to improve digestion, reduce symptoms linked to menstruation, and act an anti-spasmodic. The scientists who conducted this study on menstrual cramps believe its analgesic effect may be largely due to fennel’s anethole content, since this ingredient is best known for its anti-spasmodic actions. Additionally, other studies show that anethole joins to the body’s dopamine receptors to decrease pain. Dopamine is a feel-good brain hormone that aids communication between the body and the brain.
No side effects or drug interactions have been reported on fennel. The study did not indicate a specific product or dosage used to achieve these results. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) seed extracts are readily available. A typical dosage is 1 to 2 mL three times a day. Follow the directions for use.
Alternatively, you can also make fennel seed tea by pouring 1 cup of boiling water over 1 to 2 teaspoons of slightly crushed fennel seeds and let infuse for at least ten minutes. Drink one cup three times daily. Or, you can also take capsules of ground fennel seeds.
Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the international best-selling author of the books The Probiotic Promise, 60 Seconds to Slim, and Weekend Wonder Detox, a registered nutritionist, and a board-certified doctor of natural medicine. Subscribe to my free e-magazine World’s Healthiest News to receive monthly health news, tips, recipes and more. Follow my blog on my sites HealthySurvivalist.com and DrMichelleCook.com, and Twitter @mschoffrocook and Facebook. Copyright Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD.