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 Herbal Medicine: Dysmenorrhea  
Cyclic pain associated with menses.

Dysmenorrhea is painful menstruation and is the most common of all gynecologic complaints, and the leading cause of absenteeism of women from work, school, and other activities. In addition to identifiable pathological causes, number of constitutional factors may lower pain threshold thus appearing as worsening dysmenorrhoea. Common factors include anemia, an increase in obesity, chronic illness, overwork, stress in general, diabetes, and poor nutrition. Two forms of dysmenorrhea can be identified:

  1. Primary dysmenorrhea not related to any definable pelvic lesion. This usually begins with the first ovulatory cycles beginning in most cases before the age of 20. Primary dysmenorrhea is associated with nausea in 50% of patients, vomiting in 25% of patients and stool frequency in 35% of patients. The pain is low and crampy recurring in waves that probably correlate with uterine contractions. The pain usually occurs a few hours before bleeding, comes to a peak intensity within a few hours, and dissipates within 1-2 days. It generally occurs over the midline, and is relieved by the onset of good menstrual flow.

  2. Secondary dysmenorrhea related to the presence of pelvic lesions secondary to organic pelvic disease such as endometriosis, salpingitis and PID (pelvic inflammatory disease), post surgical adhesions, etc. Secondary dysmenorrhea begins up to a few days before menstruation and lasts several days after the onset of flow. Often it is lateralized to one side, and it does not characteristically peak and diminish as clearly or quickly as primary dysmenorrhea. It's onset is later in life in women who have not had primary dysmenorrhea, however it can be superimposed onto a pre-existing case of primary dysmenorrhea. The I.U.D. may cause such pain problems.

Actions indicated for the processes behind this disease :
Anti-spasmodic herbs will ease the muscle spasms that are the immediate cause of pain.
Nervines will help associated psychological tension or anxiety.
Diuretic remedies would be indicated if the dysmenorrhoea was of a congestive nature accompanied by water retention.
Uterine Tonics provide the basis for any healing work in this body system..
Hormonal Normalizers would be indicated if the diagnosis suggests a pivotal contribution by hormonal imbalance.

System Support :
This will depend upon the diagnosis of cause.

Specific Remedies :
As there may be different underlying causes for this all too common problem, a number of remedies have been called `specifics'. Remedies that are of value in the whole range of etiologies are :

Cimicifuga racemosa Dioscorea villosa Scutellaria spp.
Viburnum opulus Viburnum prunifolium

One possible prescription for Dysmenorrhea :

Viburnum prunifolium
Scutellaria spp.
Cimicifuga racemosa
equal parts 5 ml taken as needed

This supplies the following actions :
Anti-spasmodic (Viburnum prunifolium, Scutellaria spp., Cimicifuga racemosa)
Nervine (Viburnum prunifolium, Scutellaria spp., Cimicifuga racemosa)
Uterine Tonic ( Cimicifuga racemosa)

One possible prescription : Dysmenorrhea associated pelvic lesions
Viburnum prunifolium
Dioscorea villosa
Cimicifuga racemosa
equal parts 5 ml taken three times a day

This supplies the following actions :
Anti-spasmodic (Viburnum prunifolium, Dioscorea villosa, Cimicifuga racemosa)
Nervine (Viburnum prunifolium, Cimicifuga racemosa)
Uterine Tonic ( Cimicifuga racemosa)

The addition of Dioscorea villosa will provide a more reliable anti-spasmodic impact if a physical problem is present. This prescription will support but not replace whatever treatment is necessary for the underlying problem.

Broader Context of Treatment :
Dietary and supplemental approaches are well known, but unnecessary if the appropriate herbs are used. Psychological issues can be fundamental here. Low tolerance to the sensation of uterine contraction may be learned behavior. If mothers never complained of painful periods, only 6.8% of daughters complained of dysmenorrhea, conversely 29.6% of daughters of dysmenorrheic mothers also had the symptom. However other studies dispute this association. (Of course! This is the joy of statistics for the Ph.D. candidate.)
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 About The Author
David Hoffmann BSc (Hons), MNIMHWhilst working in conservation and lecturing in ecology and the eco-crisis for the University of Wales, David Hoffman became convinced that to heal the world, to embrace planetary wholeness and responsibility for it......more
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