Women with menstrual cramps are often offered either non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or oral contraceptives. Many women, however, find that this treatment does not work or they can not take the drugs, and more women would prefer a non-drug alternative.
Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) has been used for centuries in China, being used in public hospitals to treat unexplained cramps that occur during menstruation (primary dysmenorhoea). A team of Cochrane Researchers has found evidence that CHM may provide one possible form of treatment.
This evidence came from studying 39 randomised controlled trials that together involved 3,475 women. CHM gave significant improvements in pain relief when compared to pharmaceutical drugs. It also reduced overall symptoms. The research revealed that CHM was also better at alleviating pain than acupuncture or heat compression.
"All available measures of effectiveness confirmed the overall superiority of Chinese herbal medicine to placebo, no treatment, NSAIDs OCP, acupuncture and heat compression, and, at the same time, there were no indications that CHM caused any adverse events," says lead author Xiaoshu Zhu who works at the Center for Complementary Medicine Research at the University of Western Sydney, Australia.