"Fennel Seeds for Menstrual Cramps and PMS" Ninety percent of women report having painful menstrual cramps at least some of the time. Around the Mediterranean fennel seeds have been traditionally used to relieve painful menstruation. We call them seeds, but they're actually whole little fruits. Hard to create placebo seeds, though, so they used a fennel seed extract to put it to the test. The women started out with 6 out of 10 pain, but down to 4 out of 6 within an hour, all better than placebo. 52% of the women rated the fennel seed treatment as excellent, compared to only 8% of the women in the placebo group who were just unknowingly given capsules containing flour. But women don't take flour for cramps; they take drugs like ibuprofen. Mefenamic acid is in the same class of anti-inflammatory NSAID drugs, and may actually work better than ibuprofen, but it's not over-the-counter.
How did it do against an extract of fennel seeds? Most started out in severe pain, but ended up pain-free after treatment. And the fennel worked just as well as the drug class considered the treatment of choice, without the side effects of the drug, which include diarrhea, rashes, autoimmune anemia and kidney toxicity. And the drug doesn't help with the other symptoms of bad periods. You know, women can feel nauseated, too, not just in pain: out-of-sorts, weak, achy, and diarrheic. But fennel seeds seemed to help, though the control group was not given a placebo, so you don't know how much of it is the placebo effect. One downside is that on fennel women bleed about 10% more. See, menstrual cramps are caused by the uterus contracting so hard that its own blood supply is compromised. And the way we think fennel works is through muscle relaxation because it also helps with infant colic, which is thought to be due to intestinal spasms.
The advantage of fennel here, too, is the lack of side effects, unlike the drug that's used, which, they note, unfortunately can work a little too well to get your baby to stop crying by developing side effects like death. Ginger, on the other hand, is effective for cramps and reduces bleeding, when an eighth of a teaspoon of ginger powder is taken three times a day during one's period -- an eighth of a teaspoon. This is important since up to 18 million young women in the United States experience iron deficiency anemia due to heavy menstrual bleeding. The amount of blood loss was estimated using a scoring system that gives points for level of saturation and clot size. And on ginger, they went from like a half a cup per period down to a quarter cup. Ginger appears to be a highly effective treatment in the reduction of menstrual blood loss.
It's cheap -- about 6 cents a month -- easy to use and may have fewer side effects than other chemical medications and invasive approaches -- even sometimes fewer than placebo. They used lactose, milk sugar for the sugar pills, which may have caused the flatulence. Ginger may also work better for premenstrual syndrome. An eighth teaspoon twice a day of ginger power for a week before one's period yields a significant drop in PMS mood, physical, and behavioral symptoms, whereas fennel may help with PMS anxiety and depression, but not with the emotional and physical symptoms. There are other dietary interventions that can help, like a reduction in salt and animal fat consumption, something I've addressed before. Whatever works, since sometimes, evidently, PMS symptoms can lead to murder. And indeed, there are cases like Christine English who, at that time of the month, ran down her husband. Accepting PMS as a defense, she was released with one-year probation.
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