Home page Forums What’s a good herb for…? Topical herbs for menstrual cramps?

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    Kristin ReedKristin

    I personally love using topicals, and I was curious if there are any good choices to help with menstrual cramps? I understand that hormonal balance is a huge, multi-faceted issue and I’m working with an acupuncturist to find more balance. But for acute symptoms, any thoughts or recommendations? Thanks!


    Hi! I’m glad you’re working with an acupuncturist to deal with the cause of the cramping. Did you know? Food sensitivities and allergies can also contribute to menstrual cramps. Something to think about. Doing a diet diary for a month might give you some clues.

    One of my go-to’s, when I had periods – thankfully past that now! – was cottonwood leaf bud oil. The resin from the leaf bud of the majestic cottonwood tree, aka Balm of Gilead, has a celestial scent like none other. One of my favorite activities is walking along river banks, taking in the scent of the cottonwood. It’s the leaf buds we gather from fallen branches after winter windstorms that we use for medicine.

    Cottonwood leaf buds contain tannins, as well as anti-inflammatory and fever-reducing salicylates. The resins, flavones, and terpenes in the leaf buds and bark possess anti-fungal and antimicrobial properties. An oil or salve made from this resin can bring relief to pain caused by swelling, arthritis, strains, and general muscle pains, including menstrual cramps.

    I have a cottonwood bud salve recipe in my Wild and Beautiful, Naturally! book, and full instructions for the diet diary. AND you’ll find directions to make the cottonwood oil in both the book and in my article Plant Medicine Made Easy. https://cedarmountainherbs.com/plant-medicine-making-tutorial/

    But wait, there’s more! ha ha ha! Heather will be teaching how to make medicinal oils in an upcoming herbal lab. https://cedarmountainherbs.com/herbal-labs/ for more info.

    Thanks so much for posting! Welcome and big love to you!

    Hope this helps!

    Kristin ReedKristin

    Thank you so much for the welcome and the wonderfully informative response! This is perfect timing because I actually just filtered out and bottled up a fresh batch of cottonwood bud oil. What luck! My first batch ever. 🙂

    And thank you for the tip on the diet diary! This is something I am very well aware of and have been working on for ages… Making lots of great progress with ups and downs. My body likes to find new things to react to every now and then! I was in such a severe state of imbalance for so long, with many systems out of order, so it has been a long journey with lots of twists and turns. Haha! But the detective work is what it’s all about! Slowly nudging myself ever closer towards balance. 🙂

    Heather BrunoHeather Bruno

    Yes! So important to figure out what some underlying causes may be. I feel for you-I used to get severe cramps so I know how awful it is.

    I will just add something that was SUPER helpful to me…and what got me interested SOLD on herbal medicine because it worked waaaay better than any pharmaceutical I had used:

    Lemonbalm tea with willow bark tincture in it.

    Willow bark contains salicin, a glycoside found primarily in the bark. Our bodies metabolize salicin and convert it to salicylic acid in the liver and intestines. And so, unlike aspirin or other NSAID pain relievers, there are no adverse effects on the gastrointestinal mucosa. The effects of this different metabolic pathway also means that even though it may take longer to feel the effects, the analgesic and anti-inflammatory effects of willow can last longer and and be more effective in the long-term. It is seroiusly one of the best things I know for pain and inflammation! And it smells good-just sayin’!

    Lemon balm (also smells good!) is a relaxing nervine and an anti-spasmodic-so it helps your body to relax and let go of tension and anxiety so that the willow bark can get in there and so it’s job even better. And it’s so bright and uplifting-it just helps you feel better emotionally when you are dealing with all the stuff!

    Also self-care was important, so all the adjunct therapies-every body is different but it can be helpful to hear what has worked for others! For me it was a heating pad, epsom salt baths and funny movies.

    A friend of mine, and her daughter, swear by Viburnum opulus, also known as crampbark. I think the name says it all-haha!

    I hope you find something that helps at least in the short term to give you some relief!

    By the way, if you are interested, I will be teaching a Wildcrafting Intensive on willow March 20th! We will be learning all about willow, how to identify it, harvest it and create lovely, effective remedies in a gorgeous spot along the Snoqualmie river! Willow was one of the first herbs I learned to wildcraft… because it was the herb that got me into herbalism! The class should be up on the website soon-it would be great to meet you!

    Kristin ReedKristin

    Ooooh, thanks so much for sharing Heather! I will definitely have to try that out.

    I just saw the willow class posting and wanted to sign up. Now I definitely will! I was trying to decide between the nettle harvest and willow, but I think willow is calling my name more. Oh my goodness, it’s so hard to pick! haha

    Heather BrunoHeather Bruno

    Oh sweet! I just saw you signed up for willow, Kristin (giant smile on my face)! I know what you mean-I want to take everything I can too. By the way, though, my Herb Lab topic on 2/19 is going to be… NETTLES!

    Kristin ReedKristin


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