Friday, March 30, 2012

Cramp Bark - Natures Remedy for Menstrual Cramping...

Cramp Bark is phenomenal, it’s my new best friend, and here’s why...

If you’re a woman then you are probably all too familiar with the monthly cramping that comes with menstruation. Different studies have estimated that anywhere between 60-90% of all woman have experienced menstrual cramps at some point in their life. Though cramping is more commonly associated with younger woman - those in their teens and twenties - It can - and does - effect woman of every age and nationality. Though cramping during menstruation is also said to reduce with age, particularly over the age of forty, and particularly after a woman has given birth this too is not always the case.

Cramps - which are characterized by a dull, throbbing pain in the lower abdomen - can range from being mildly annoying to severe and in some cases even debilitating. It’s estimated that between 10-15% of woman experience cramps so severe it interferes with normal daily activities. Severe menstrual cramping is also the number one reason for short term absence of woman from school or work. Most woman also experience other symptoms associated with cramping and menstruation, the most common of which include radiating pain in the highs and lower back, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, headache, dizziness, irritability and fatigue.

For me the pain has always been bad. Since I was twelve years old my cramps have always been awful and excruciating. Though I can’t recall ever missing school or work because of it, I’m often left feeling quite ill, and completely drained of life. I’ve been lucky enough to be spared such symptoms as dizziness, fainting and vomiting but all the other symptoms typically apply. On good months maybe only one or two extra symptoms might strike me, on bad months all of them might. No matter what I’ve done or tried in the past nothing has ever succeeded in bringing me relief. Except advil, during my period I practically live on it. Without it I’m a wreck. The pain tears through my abdomen leaving me feeling as though my guts are slowly and systematically being ripped out. It can get so excruciating that I’m barely capable of standing up straight, and move around as slow as a snail. The pain in my back is no better, it shoots through me like a bolt of lightning, and often feels as though someone is twisting a dull edged knife into the base of my spine. A lot of my ‘down time’ during those few days is spent whimpering and laying curled up in bed, waiting and hoping that the advil I just took will soon kick in.

This is not uncommon, most of the woman I know typically feel the same and also rely heavily on advil, ibuprofen or other chemical drugs during that time. However even though we have these chemical concoctions at our disposal they don’t always work. For one thing advil and other pills like it are usually only successful in masking the physical pain you experience from actual cramping. Very rarely do they actually help with any of the other symptoms that are associated with it. Fatigue, nausea, constipation, bloating, and irritability may sill leave you feeling a wreck. If that wasn’t bad enough a lot of people who take these drugs on a long term basis or very often, find that they eventually loose their potency and may end up not working at all. Other times you may be waiting for longer then the average 30 minutes for the pill to kick in, and then you might only have an hour or two of relief before it wares off again. One of the biggest problems however, and the most severe is the damage advil does to your stomach lining. Advil is a very harsh drug, and it wreaks absolute havoc on your system. It can absolutely destroy your stomach lining which in turn can give you other problems like ulcers, gastritis, indigestion, stomach pains and more. Your stomach lining can recover of course, but not if you continue to impair it with such things.

This happened to me two years ago or so. After years and years of relying on advil to save me I ended up with a ruined stomach lining and horrible stomach pain, and indigestion after every meal. I was told by my doctor that I couldn’t take any advil or ibuprofen or in fact any other over the counter medication except Tylenol for at least one year, until my stomach lining had recovered, and even then I should use such things sparingly. I had no choice but to obey, because the trouble and the pain that I was facing then was worse even then the cramps. How I got through that year without advil I simply can’t recall. I know it wasn’t through Tylenol which has never helped me much, but I think it had something to do with drinking a lot of really horrible herbal tea that tasted like celery and fennel, that produced only moderate results.

After the year was over, and my stomach lining had healed I went right back to advil, though I was more weary of it this time around, and used it more sparingly. I knew the dangers and the consequences of using it, and really didn’t want to put it back into my body, but felt as though I had little choice. Along with the advil I tried various teas and exercise in the times between dosages, none of which worked to any great extent.

Then I discovered Cramp Bark. I’ve learned a lot of really interesting and amazing things during my Holistic Health program so far, and this month we’ve been deeply studying herbs. It was amongst the pages of my textbook that I cam across this strange sounding herb, and I am absolutely thrilled to share with you what I’ve discovered so far.

Cramp Bark - I read - is native to North America and Europe where it grows in woodlands, thickets and hedges. It was a common Native American remedy taken by the Meskwaki people for cramps and muscle tension. It is considered an effective remedy for relieving any tense muscle whether smooth - as in the intestines and uterus - or striated - as in attached to the skeleton - and works very well to relax excessive contractions of the uterus. It’s also helpful in relieving back pain, and constipation.

Though this sounded promising, and I could feel myself getting excited by the idea of it I was still very skeptical. With cramps as bad as mine I just didn’t see how it could work. It seemed impossible. However being someone who deeply wants to rid my life of all unnecessary pharmaceutical medicine - particularly advil - I thought it was worth a try. Anything was worth trying!

So I went to my local heath store last week and bought a bottle of Cramp Bark tincture. Then I read everything about it including the textbook’s directions on how to use it. My textbook recommends you take 2 tsp 3-4 times per day. Since I generally begin cramping two days before I begin bleeding, and then the first two days after I begin bleeding - for a total of four days - I took my first 2 tsp on the morning of the two days before I knew my period was to start. I won’t lie, it tasted awful, and after the first stip I could barely gt it down. It’s probably one of the most vile things I’ve ever tasted but the honest truth is it worked!

Since I didn’t feel any cramping that day I decided it wasn’t necessary to take the full dose 3-4 times a day. Instead I took the full dose twice a day. Once In the morning and once in the evening. I did the same on the second day, and by the third day as expected my period began. In fact it happened so unceremoniously and without even a nanoseconds worth of pain that I never would have realized it had started at all had I not chosen that moment to go to the bathroom. On that first day of bleeding I did take the recommended dosage 4 times, because at various points in the day I would begin to feel a slight discomfort. Worried that it would turn into full blown cramps I didn’t want to mess around with only a half dose. On the second day of bleeding I didn’t take any Cramp Bark, I’d run out actually and yet I had no cramps at all. I always have cramps on the second day of bleeding and was fully prepared to return to the health store for another bottle of cramp bark but when the cramps didn’t come I decided not to bother.

While on the first day of bleeding I did feel some minor discomfort at various points in the day it was nothing compared to what I’m used to. It was mostly a dull sort of tension and not anything even resembling an actual contraction of cramp. It wasn’t in the least bit debilitating and it always went away after I engaged in a little hip moving exercise - hooping worked wonders!

The best and most amazing part was that in addition to not having any pain or cramping I also didn’t feel tired or fatigued. I was full of energy as though it were any other day. I didn’t feel nauseous, or constipated and didn’t experience any headaches or diarrhea. My back pain too was severely diminished, almost to the point that I wasn’t bothered at all, and I was in good spirits! Not irritable and annoyed. I was comfortable, content, happy and relaxed. I breezed through the days as though nothing was different at all. I’ve always told my husband that as far as my period is concerned I don’t care one way or the other about the bleeding. That doesn’t bother me, it’s the cramps that kill me and absolutely knock me on my ass, and it’s the other symptoms too. Without all that I felt truly wonderful.

Something else I noticed is that right after I would take the tincture I could feel it working almost immediately. Unlike advil and other chemical medications where you have to wait thirty minutes, this was fast acting. After only minutes I could feel a warm fuzzy feeling spreading through my abdomen. Kind of similar to the feeling you might have if you have one too many drinks at the holidays. After that it was as if I could actually feel the muscles of my abdomen and uterus relaxing, and it may sound strange but I felt as though my uterus was calmer, more open. I was absolutely amazed by this, because as I said I was so skeptical. As much as I wanted it to work, I didn’t believe for even a second that it would, and I surely didn’t believe that it would work so well.

So if the pains and discomforts of which I speak are familiar to you, and like me you’re searching for an alternate way to relieve your menstrual symptoms free of the aid of chemical medicine I urge you to give Cramp Bark a try. As I said before it tastes awful, really it’s just horrendous and to me tasted like bark flavored whisky but it is absolutely worth its weight in gold. I don’t care how bad it tastes, it worked for me, and I’m going to continue using it, because it’s far better then the alternative.

You can find Cramp Bark at health food stores, and some herbalists may also have it or you can always order it online from reliable herbal sellers and even Amazon. I personally buy the Herb Pharm Cramp Bark Tincture, it's about $9.99 for 1 ounce. You can get it online at Amazon, from Whole Foods, or Health Food stores. I've also read that the Full-Spectrum Cramp Bark by Swanson Premium is good, but haven't used it personally. Though i'm thinking about picking up a bottle because I like the idea of taking capsules better then I do tasting the awful tincture.

However - and this is important - please use caution, and consult your physician before using. Particularly if you’re on any kind of medication or suffering from any disease. I am not a medical doctor, I can't treat, diagnose, or prescribe anything to you. It is important that you do your own research, follow the proper recommendations and talk to your doctor, Naturopath, or herbalist if you have any questions or concerns. Also keep in mind that just because this worked wonders for me, doesn’t necessarily mean it will for you. Also, while cramp bark has not been found to cause any adverse side effects or reactions when taken at the recommended dosage, some people have reported symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea when taking Cramp Bark in large doses. Large doses being 60 drops or more hourly. Cramp Bark should also not be taken by people who have a sensitivity to Aspirin.

Also keep in mind that Cramp Bark has been poorly researched by the Scientific Community, and so not all effects may be known. If you take it and experience severe adverse reaction you must discontinue use and consult your doctor before taking again. Cramp Bark should not be given to children and should not be taken by pregnant or nursing mothers. I have read - and have heard some personal accounts - that Cramp Bark can help with labor pains, but DO NOT take cramp bark when you are in labor unless you have the okay from your Doctor or Naturopath first!!! I cannot stress this enough.

If you do try it, let me know what you think and how it worked. I really hope this has been helpful I know I’m totally over the moon about it myself. As always happy and healthy living to you!


  1. Great post, terrific information! You say it helps with the back pain, I suffer from a herniated disc in my lower back, I also have been living on Advil for several years because of a on and off knee I am suffering from the same kind of tummy troubles you mentioned...I have quit the Advil and other pain meds for about 5 days now, slowly starting to feel a little better. So my question for you is. Do you think this bark would work for any back pain or only back pain that is associates with monthly periods? Open to any of your suggestions! Thanks, S.T.

  2. Cramp bark is used to relive muscle tension in general and can help with back pain for sure but
    For joint pain and inflammation Devil’s Claw and White Willow are recommended. Both are anti-inflammatory, and white willow is actually what was used to treat this sort of pain before aspirin was invented. You could take pills of either, or make a decoction (sort of like a tea) using one or both of the roots. Also it’s best to stay away from acid forming foods like red meat, oranges, tomatoes and spinach as they can cause inflammation.

  3. Kyleigh's comment is right on point as white willow and aspirin both have elements in it which convert to salicylic acid (the active compound associated with pain relief and reducing inflammation) once they are inside the body.

    So willow bark works for all discomforts we associated with menstrual cycle symptoms. Although it's a good idea to also have your estrogen levels checked because it's a good idea to get to the source of those monthly miseries rather than simply putting a band-aid on the symptoms.

    BTW, I hadn't heard of spinach being an inflammatory food, where did you read about that?

  4. Hey, thanks for the comment. I read about spinach being acid-forming in the Natural Health Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine by Andrew Chevallier. It’s in the back under the section about herbs suggested for joint pain. I have read that foods containing oxidates are not good for people with arthritis, so perhaps that’s why it was listed there.

  5. Have you ever had a laparoscopy to find out if you have endometriosis? Because when cramps are so bad that it interferes with your life, it means something is wrong. :(

  6. Thanks for the suggestion Missy but I don't have Endometriosis. Though my cramps are often bad I wouldn't say they really interfere with my life. I still do things like go hiking, and biking, and I go to work and all of that. Some months I have no cramps at all, and it seems to be getting better as I get older, and depending on how my diet is.

  7. Crampbark works for any cramping muscle pain, I think feverfew is the best anti inflammatory herb and the cure for migraines. I use the tinctures a dropperful under the tongue and they act like an injection right into the blood stream FAST! Honestly for back aches muscle sprain I make a rosemary/lavender rub that works well and smells wonderful or a lobelia rub works well too.

  8. It's true, Cramp bark works great for any cramping muscle pain. I've never used Feverfew though i've read plenty about it. I'll have to try the tincture next time i'm in need of an anti-inflam, or headache relief.

    I grow both Rosemary and Lavender in my garden, they're great for so many things!

    Thanks for the suggestions!

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    1. I was going to say the same thing! This is the first time I have visited this blog. I was taken by surprise at how well put together it is and well written.

  10. Thank you for your compliments Sakib, I'm glad you've been enjoying my articles, and the blog.

  11. I have endometriosis and nothing so far has helped to get me out bed during my periods. I tried cramp bark recently and it works wonders. It stopped most of my stabbing contraction/ cramping pain by far. I won't say it took all of my pain away but it did eliminate a lot of it that comes from the cramping. This is a life changer for me. Highly recommend it.

  12. That's wonderful that it works for you! I really like it, and I've recommended it to several other friends who've found it to be very helpful as well.

    You're right that it's a total life-changer I'm amazed more people are not aware of it.

  13. Cramp bark made me vomit?

    I basically lived on ibuprofen every menstruation because my cramps have always been so horrid. I can't do anything during the first two or three days of menses. I found out last month that I have stomach ulcers (big surprise), so this is my first period without pharmaceuticals

    This is my first time trying cramp bark. I took two regular doses per day on the two days leading up to my period without any trouble.

    But when I started bleeding and the actual cramps came, I took a full dose in the morning and I threw up violently about 10 minutes later. I was curled up on the bathroom floor unable to move for a couple hours because the cramping was so bad and I was still quite nauseous.

    However, it is now 5 hours after all that and I have NO cramps and I feel fine. (this is kind of a miracle because generally I can't get out of bed for at least two full days after my bleeding starts unless I take well above the recommended dosage of ibuprofen. So perhaps it did end up helping in the end, even if the beginning was awful.

    The bottle of cramp bark tincture I have from St. Francis Herb Farm says to take 0.7 to 1.2 ml in a little water on an empty stomach.

    Maybe I should have food with it next time I take a dose? I don't want to give up on this because I literally -can't- take ibuprofen anymore. Have you ever had nausea when taking cramp bark? any suggestions on how to avoid this?

    Thanks in advance
    --Amanda B

    1. I have never experienced Nausea or Vomiting with taking cramp bark, and I've had quite a few friends get turned onto to it too since I started using it, also without these effects. However I have read that Cramp Bark can cause this kind of reaction - as well as others in people who have a sensitivity to aspirin.

      Cramp Bark has also been reported by a few people Nausea, Vomiting, and Diarrhea with large doses - 60 drops or more taken hourly.

      It's possible that it just doesn't agree with you, or if you're on any medications at all, or have any other illnesses that could be a cause. It might be best to ask your doctor or naturopath about it, particularly if you are on medications.

      I Hope that helps, if you have any other questions let me know!

    2. Hi Kyleigh, Thanks for your reply.

      I'm not on any medications or anything, perhaps I am just sensitive to cramp bark. I've never taken any aspirin before so I would have no idea if I was sensitive to it. I tried cramp bark again this month at a lower dose and it seems about 10 minutes after I take it, I get a little dizzy and a bit of a headache and it doesn't really do much for my cramps.

      I'm super sad that my body doesn't like cramp bark, I wanted it to work so bad. I'm working on changing my diet and other lifestyle habits to try and ease the cramping. So far nothing has really had any effect. But I guess it usually takes up to 6 months for changes to happen. I'm following a book "quit PMS" by Lauren Geertson, her book can be found here for those who are interested.

      I've had an ultrasound done and they say they're nothing wrong with me. Hopefully this diet change can help me out.

      I just wanted to write this so that if anyone else has this issue with cramp bark they can know they're not alone in it

    3. I'm sorry it hasn't worked for you, that really sucks. Unfortunately not all herbs will work the same on all people, but there are other ones you could try. Raspberry Leaf is suppose to be a big help, but honestly it never worked much for me.

      As far as diet goes I find that if I eat cleaner, and only whole foods with an emphasis on grains/beans and using avocados for fat that cramps seem to be less severe. I also just recently read that Flaxseed can help with cramping and so i've been using it regularly though there isn't much research on this that I can find, and i'm not 100% positive on how it's effecting me yet. I need more time with it.

      If I come across anything else i'll let you know. =)

  14. I just read your symptoms. Mine are exactly the same times 100. I bleed enough for 7 wemen. My lips and finger tips turn white. Pain down my legs. I can feel the contractions (as if having a baby every month) vomiting, nausia, dizzyness and more. Front labor cramps, back labor cramps. I bled out one year and the doctors insisted I miscarried. I said it's my cycle. They said no one looses that much blood on their cycle. I said I do and have since I was about 13. They came back and said your not pregnant and never was pregnant. I said really? So I'm asking where is the best place to order online? Dr. Just called me a mystery and prescribed me motrin 800 and vicodin (had to take together) and sometimes that doesn't work. I'm identical to you. Astronomical pain for me 2 to 4 days before I start. Then out come the adult heavy duty adult diapers. I go through about 7 to 10 in a 24 hr period, completely full and leaking out. I'm so excited I found your words but I want (need) a safe place to purchase.

  15. Wow, I'm so sorry, I can't even imagine that kind of pain. That's horrible. I had a friend in school who had a similar experience each month as far as the bleeding is concerned. It was a full week's worth of exactly what you describe. I've always been lucky in that my period only lasts about four days, and the flow is moderate-light.

    As far as where you can buy Cramp Bark - I typically get mine at Whole Foods. I buy the Herb Pharm Cramp Bark Extract it's about $9.99 for one ounce. However, if there isn't a Whole Foods near you then you could buy it on Amazon. Also there are other brands of cramp bark out there, but this is the only one I've tried so far.

    I hope it helps you!!

  16. Hi Kyleigh, I hope you are doing well when this comment/question reaches you.
    I noticed you wrote this post a while ago. I am wondering if you still take cramp bark for your pain? If so, have you noticed any other effects, good or bad, from taking it? I'm thinking about taking it, as I have a mystery pelvic pain that's constant. My doctors have not been able to figure out what's causing it, and, of course, I'm on high doses of Ibuprofen to simply relieve the pain. I don't like taking it all. Well, I like the pain relief but not the idea of just taking it from now on (smile but seriously)...
    Thanks & Please Advise, Estelle

  17. Hi Estelle, Thank you, i'm doing well. I do still take it when the pain is bad, but I seem to have less pain these days. I try to do other natural things around that time of the month. For instance taking maca, and eating flaxseed which are both suppose to help. Maybe they do and that's why i've had less pain. I plan to do another post on these kind of natural remedies when I have more experience with them.

    As for the cramp bark, I myself have not noticed any additional effects other then what i've listed here, in this post. I've also never experienced a bad reaction to the stuff, though some other people have.

    If you are looking for something more natural so you don't have to use Ibuprofen all the time, it's worth a shot. If you try it out let me know how it works for you!

  18. Glad you found something that can help you a bit. I hate seeing you in so much pain!