Natural health: Period pain and taking flower essences – Irish Examiner

Q. My friend finds that taking aspirin during her periods really helps with the pains and cramping. Is this because it thins the blood?
I was also wondering if white willow bark would help as a natural aspirin alternative.
A. There isn’t a straightforward answer to your question, as there are a number of variables to consider.
If your friend suffers from heavy or prolonged bleeding during menstruation then aspirin may not be the best choice as it might increase bleeding.
This is not a blood thinning issue, rather a disruption to the blood clotting process.
Interference with the normal clotting of the body may cause extreme blood loss and in rare cases can be fatal.
However, if her bleeding is normal without large or excessive clotting, then aspirin may not cause any increase in blood loss.
A study carried out some 30 years ago looked at 90 women with ‘normal’ menstrual cycles. They were asked to take no pain relief at all for two cycles.
They were then were given either two 325mg aspirin tablets, acetaminophen, or a placebo four times daily for the first 24 hours of their next two cycles.
Total menstrual loss, number of days of flow, cramping pain, and headaches were analysed for each group and the results indicated no change in flow volume or pattern at all.
What the results did indicate was that both the aspirin and the acetaminophen were effective in reducing cramping pains.
It may be worth suggesting that taking the aspirin just for day one of her cycle, as per the above study, could be just as effective as taking it for each day of bleeding if she wishes to continue with aspirin.
There is indeed a link between aspirin and white willow bark, as it contains an alkaloid which is converted to salicylic acid — the active ingredient in aspirin.
The problem often comes when an active constituent is isolated from the herb as a whole, as there are so many components that play a role in the effectiveness of medicinal plant remedies (not all of which have been uncovered).
Along with white willow bark, meadowsweet, wintergreen, balm of Gilead, and epilobium (willow herb) are all botanicals that can help as a herbal aspirin alternative.
Combine any of the herbs with mint or ginger for a pleasant tea which can be sipped throughout the day for pain relief.
You can also use the herbs as a relaxing bath infusion (¼-½ cup of herb for a full bath), as they are absorbed effectively across the skin while it is warm and wet.
One of the most effective natural remedies to relieve pain and cramping associated with menstruation is evening primrose oil (EPO).
EPO is a rich source of gamma-linoleic acid (GLA), a prostaglandin that works as a natural anti-inflammatory and counteracts the painful cramping and lower back pain caused by inflammatory hormones.
Efamol Pure Evening Primrose Oil contains a third more GLA than most other EPO supplements available, and since the GLA content determines the effectiveness it is worth choosing a high quality brand.
Take one 1000mg capsule three times daily with food for 12 weeks, then reduce the dosage to just one capsule daily.
Q. What exactly is in a flower essence remedy?
A. If you had a flower essence tested, the results would show that the bottle contains alcohol and water.
Flower essences are usually made by steeping wild flowers in a crystal bowl filled with spring water.
This is left to potentiate in sunlight, then diluted down many times and preserved in an equal quantity of brandy.
This type of remedy works on what is called vibrational healing — largely addressing emotional and spiritual imbalances in order to trigger physical healing.
It is believed that the most effective method of taking flower essences is to place four drops under the tongue up to four times daily. If the situation is acute, then you may take the remedy every five minutes or when you feel the need to.
Often a crisis situation only requires a single dose. You can also add the essences to creams, sprays, baths, compresses, or massage oils.
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NOTE: The information contained in this column is not a subsitute for medical advice. Always consult a doctor.
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