(Painful menstrual cramps)

See also:

Premenstrual Syndrome


Muscles require magnesium in order for them to relax, so low magnesium levels often result in muscle cramps. Research has supported the notion that the muscle-relaxing effects of magnesium are helpful for menstrual cramping. In one double-blind trial, 50 women with primary dysmenorrhoea were given either magnesium or a placebo. After a 6 month period 84% of the magnesium group reported a decline in the severity of their symptoms. The mechanism for this action was thought to be related to the inhibition of inflammatory prostaglandins combined with the muscle relaxing and vasodilatory effects of magnesium.


The vasodilating effect of niacin may be effective in reducing the severity of menstrual cramps in women with dysmenorrhea. In a study of 80 women, with dysmenorrhea severe enough to require bed rest, about 90% of the patients were relieved of their menstrual cramps by the administration of niacin. Other studies have confirmed that the most successful regime commences 7-10 days prior to the beginning of the period with lOOmg morning and evening, increasing to lOOmg every 2-3 hours during cramping. Additional vitamin C and bioflavonoids may be helpful as these help to improve the vasodilating effects of the niacin. Dosages may need to be increased to maintain the flushing effect. Preliminary evidence suggests that niacinamide may also be helpful.

Omega 3 fatty acids

Research suggests that omega 3 fatty acids may be helpful in preventing menstrual cramping. In one study 37 women aged between 15 and 18 years with dysmenorrhea were given either a fish oil supplement or a placebo for 2 months. Those in the fish oils group experienced a significant reduction in their symptoms compared with the placebo group.

Dong qua!

Dong quai is a traditional Chinese herb used in a variety of ‘female complaints’. Research has shown dong quai to be an effective analgesic. This combined with its reported ability to improve circulation and promote muscle-relaxation enhances its potential benefits in conditions such as menstrual cramps.


Dysmenorrhoea Summary

Nutrient/Herb Typical intake range

Magnesium (1)

Niacin (2)

Omega 3 fatty acids (fish oils) (3)

Dong quai (1% ligustilides) (4)

200 – 600mg per day

100 – 500mg per day (build up slowly)

1 000 – 3000rng per day

1 00 – 300rng per day

Reduce/avoid Increase


Refined carbohydrates

Processed foods

Caffelnated beverages


Trans/hydrogenated fats

Complex carbohydrates



Nuts and seeds

Oily fish

Whole grains


Lifestyle Factors

Take regular exercise

Maintain a healthy weight

Avoid smoking – including passively

Maintain optimal digestive health

Avoid stress and practice relaxation techniques


1. High doses may cause loose stools. Those taking heart medication should use magnesium under supervision from a Doctor.

2. High-dose niacin in any form should be avoided in those with pre-existing liver disease (or elevated liver ezymes) or gal! bladder disease, unless under medical supervision. Long-term, highdose niacin or inositol hexanicotinate should be avoided in diabetics unless medically supervised.

High-dose niacin should be avoided in cases of pregnancy, peptic ulcers or gout unless under medical supervision. Taking high-dose niacin with alcohol, beta-blockers, mccamylamine or pargylinc may cause severe hypotension (low blood pressure}.

3. Do not take in conjunction with anticoagulant medication

4. Do not use during pregnancy or lactation. Do not use with Warfarin or anti-coagulant medication.