If you’re among the ~90 percent of people with periods who endure at least one bothersome menstrual symptom each month, you’ve probably tried a lot of things to make your period better. We know that struggle, and how hard it can be to find something that’s safe and actually works.
Because most people reach for pharmaceuticals like ibuprofen, Midol, or prescription meds to ward off period symptoms, it may be tempting to conflate “natural” with “less effective.” We were skeptical, too. But after combing through the research on natural options for period problems, we’re convinced nutritional and herbal supplements can play a pivotal role in improving your period.
Supplements nourish and support your menstrual health, rather than just mask its symptoms, so your period becomes easier with each cycle. And an important bonus: unlike the drugs we’ve grown so used to, they’re nearly devoid of side effects.
After a lot of digging, science led us to these five natural solutions.
Ginger For Cramps and Nausea
Ginger is like nature’s ibuprofen. In fact, ginger has gone head-to-head with ibuprofen in clinical studies, and was shown to be just as effective as ibuprofen at relieving period cramps quickly.1,2 Both ginger and ibuprofen reduce inflammation by quenching the inflammatory molecules called prostaglandins that build up in the uterus and trigger cramps in the first place. Some researchers prefer ginger to ibuprofen because it’s gentle on the body, without being gentle on cramps. It’s also a time-tested nausea remedy that can help settle the stomach and calm cycle-related queasiness.
Vitamin B1 for Cramps
Vitamin B1 is a VIP of muscle contraction and nerve signaling. Because period pain involves the muscular and nervous systems, vitamin B1 plays a big role in period pain management. Large, well-designed clinical studies involving hundreds of menstruating people show that supplementing with potent doses of vitamin B1 can make cramps less intense and happen less often, without any reported side effects.3,4
Vitamin B6 for PMS Mood Swings
Vitamin B6 helps make the neurotransmitters serotonin and dopamine (i.e. “happy chemicals” in the brain that regulate mood, motivation, and cognition). While scientists don’t know exactly what causes PMS, a leading theory is that it’s a temporary serotonin deficiency caused by the hormonal fluctuations at the start of menstruation. This means it’s important to supplement with lots of vitamin B6 (more than even the healthiest diets can provide) during your luteal phase—or the menstrual phase right before your period, when PMS tends to show up. Some researchers have even pitted vitamin B6 against prescription medication for PMS, and showed it was just as effective at improving the mood.5
Magnesium for PMS Mood Swings, Bloating, Migraines, Cramps, Back Pain, Insomnia, and Stress
Dubbed by some naturopaths as the “miracle mineral for periods”, magnesium offers relief from a host of period problems—with fast results. It helps reduce inflammation, regulate sleep, improve the function of hormones, soothe the nervous system, and calm the body’s stress response.
Low magnesium levels have been linked to period cramps, PMS, and menstrual migraines. Thankfully, in studies that followed magnesium-deficient people over time, their symptoms went away as soon as they corrected the deficiency with magnesium supplements.6.7 Magnesium can be helpful for those who aren’t deficient, too. Studies show it works for mood changes, back pain, and bloating, even in people who already have healthy magnesium stores.8,9,10
Saffron for PMS Mood Swings, Sadness, Irritability, Headaches, Cravings, and Muscle Aches
Saffron is a vibrant red-orange spice that packs a big antioxidant punch. And it’s not just easy on the eyes; clinical studies show saffron is a safe and effective alternative to antidepressant drugs for depression.11,12 While the goal of supplements should never be to cure, treat, or prevent any disease, including depression, this research supports saffron’s historical use as a powerful mood-lifter. In research looking at saffron in people with PMS, they had less PMS-related irritability, headaches, cravings, and muscle aches after supplementing.13,14
Supplements are better taken together
Each of these solutions work in slightly different ways to solve period problems, and everyone’s period is unique. Relying on just one solution may not be enough to relieve your symptoms. It can be most effective to use more than one of these supplements together, and tackle the issue from multiple modes of action.
While you could take each of these supplements individually, you don’t have to. De Lune makes menstrual health supplements that target period cramps and PMS using high-potency blends of all the best evidence-based nutrients and herbs. You’ll find therapeutic doses (whenever possible, the exact same doses used in the studies) of ginger and vitamin B1 in De Lune Cramp Aid, and vitamin B6, magnesium, and saffron in De Lune Steady Mood, along with other nutrients and herbs clinically shown to relieve period symptoms.
About De Lune
De Lune is a menstrual health company that’s lifting the period burden by setting a new standard for happy, healthy menstrual cycles. We provide natural relief from period cramps and PMS with high-potency nutritional and herbal solutions. Our unique, effective formulations are simple and easy to use, every day or as needed. It’s your period—not a problem.
Want to learn even more about holistic strategies for naturally painless periods? Check out our free ebook here!
1. Ozgoli, G., Goli, M., & Moattar, F. (2009). Comparison of effects of ginger, mefenamic acid, and ibuprofen on pain in women with primary dysmenorrhea. The journal of alternative and complementary medicine, 15(2), 129-132.
2. 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.
3. Gokhale, L. B. (1996). Curative treatment of primary (spasmodic) dysmenorrhoea. The Indian journal of medical research, 103, 227-231.
4. Zamani, M., & SOLTAN, B. F. (2001). Evaluation the treatment effect of vitamin B1 in primary dysmenorrhea.
5. Sharma, P., Kulshreshtha, S., Singh, G. M., & Bhagoliwal, A. (2007). Role of bromocriptine and pyridoxine in premenstrual tension syndrome. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol, 51(4), 368-74.
6. Stewart, A. (1987). Clinical and biochemical effects of nutritional supplementation on the premenstrual syndrome. The Journal of reproductive medicine, 32(6), 435-441.
7. Facchinetti, F., Sances, G., Borella, P., Genazzani, A. R., & Nappi, G. (1991). Magnesium prophylaxis of menstrual migraine: effects on intracellular magnesium. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 31(5), 298-301.
8. Ebrahimi, E., Motlagh, S. K., Nemati, S., & Tavakoli, Z. (2012). Effects of magnesium and vitamin b6 on the severity of premenstrual syndrome symptoms. Journal of caring sciences, 1(4), 183.
9. Fontana-Klaiber, H., & Hogg, B. (1990). Therapeutic effects of magnesium in dysmenorrhea. Schweizerische Rundschau fur Medizin Praxis= Revue suisse de medecine Praxis, 79(16), 491-494.
10. Walker, A. F., De Souza, M. C., Vickers, M. F., Abeyasekera, S., Collins, M. L., & Trinca, L. A. (1998). Magnesium supplementation alleviates premenstrual symptoms of fluid retention. Journal of Women’s health, 7(9), 1157-1165.
11. Akhondzadeh, S., Fallah-Pour, H., Afkham, K., Jamshidi, A. H., & Khalighi-Cigaroudi, F. (2004). Comparison of Crocus sativus L. and imipramine in the treatment of mild to moderate depression: a pilot double-blind randomized trial [ISRCTN45683816]. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 4(1), 12.
12. Kashani, L., Eslatmanesh, S., Saedi, N., Niroomand, N., Ebrahimi, M., Hosseinian, M., … & Akhondzadeh, S. (2017). Comparison of saffron versus fluoxetine in treatment of mild to moderate postpartum depression: a double-blind, randomized clinical trial. Pharmacopsychiatry, 50(02), 64-68.
13. Beiranvand, S. P., Beiranvand, N. S., Moghadam, Z. B., Birjandi, M., Azhari, S., Rezaei, E., … & Beiranvand, S. (2016). The effect of Crocus sativus (saffron) on the severity of premenstrual syndrome. European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 8(1), 55-61.
14. Agha‐Hosseini, M., Kashani, L., Aleyaseen, A., Ghoreishi, A., Rahmanpour, H. A. L. E. H., Zarrinara, A. R., & Akhondzadeh, S. (2008). Crocus sativus L.(saffron) in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome: a double‐blind, randomised and placebo‐controlled trial. BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 115(4), 515-519.