Can ginger, mint and honey relieve menstrual cramps?

If you regularly suffer from menstrual cramps or pain, you are not alone. About three quarters of menstruating people will experience dysmenorrhoea during their reproductive life. But what causes this pain?

Primary dysmenorrhea (the occurrence of menstrual pain and cramps without a condition such as endometriosis) is usually associated with an increased production of endometrial prostaglandins. Prostaglandins have a hormone-like effect on the uterus, causing it to contract by constricting the blood vessels that supply it. This helps to shed the menstrual blood during menstruation. 

A release of too many prostaglandins, also called hypersecretion, causes abnormal contractions that lead to abdominal pain. Pain relief is often provided by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, because they act as prostaglandin inhibitors. The same effect is thought to occur with ginger, honey and mint when they were compared to mefenamic acid and ibuprofen in randomised clinical trials.

Even though the studies compared the ingredients separately and with a very specific intake, eating these foods on the days before and during menstruation is suggested to have a pain-relieving effect - without the unpleasant side effects that NSAIDs can cause!

Relevant studies:

Farahani, Ë. L. A., Hasanpoor-Azghdy, S. B., Kasraei, H., & Heidari, T. (2017). Comparison of the effect of honey and mefenamic acid on the severity of pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea. Archives of gynecology and obstetrics, 296(2), 277-283.

Masoumi, S. Z., Asl, H. R., Poorolajal, J., Panah, M. H., & Oliaei, S. R. (2016). Evaluation of mint efficacy regarding dysmenorrhea in comparison with mefenamic acid: A double blinded randomized crossover study. Iranian journal of nursing and midwifery research, 21(4), 363.

Shabani, F., Chabra, A., Vakilian, K., Bioos, S., Bozorgi, M., Ayati, M. H., & Nejatbakhsh, F. (2020). The Effect of Ginger-chamomile Sachet with Honey on Primary Dysmenorrhea and Associated Symptoms: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Controlled Trial. Current Women's Health Reviews, 16(4), 348-358.

Shirvani, M. A., Motahari-Tabari, N., & Alipour, A. (2015). The effect of mefenamic acid and ginger on pain relief in primary dysmenorrhea: a randomized clinical trial. Archives of gynecology and obstetrics, 291(6), 1277-1281.

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