The best new way to cure wicked menstrual cramps

May 19, 2014 at 3:15 p.m. ET
Image: YelenaYemchuk/iStock/360/Getty Images

Nothing says fun Friday night like curling up with your heating pad and jumbo maxi pad. OK, maybe not. PMS cramping has ruined more than a few fun nights out I'd planned. Up until now my go-to treatment had been Midol but a new study found that using thyme oil — yes, the same thyme found in your Italian seasoning blend — worked better for treating PMS pain than regular painkillers did.

Essential oils are all the rage these days but the science hasn't caught up to most of the claims yet, so I'm often a little skeptical when I hear of miracle cures happening from rubbing a little oil somewhere. But a triple-blind study published in the Caspian Journal of Internal Medicinefound that thyme oil worked better for reducing cramps than ibuprofen.

The researchers divided women who had a history of terrible cramps (dysmenorrhea) into three groups: The first group got ibuprofen and a placebo oil, the second got a placebo pill and thyme oil and the third group got placebo everything. Not surprisingly the placebo group did not feel better. But the subjects reported greater relief from the thyme than from the ibuprofen. But the best part is the next month the ibuprofen group reported the treatment worked less well than the first time while the thyme group reported it worked even better.

Thyme was so effective for wicked cramps because of its analgesic and antispasmodic effects, the researchers explained. It also has fewer side effects than traditional over-the-counter painkillers. Ibuprofen is generally considered to be pretty safe but a study last month linked it to digestive disorders including inflammatory bowel disease, irritable bowel syndrome and leaky gut syndrome.

If you want to give ingesting thyme oil a shot — and what do you have to lose, burps that taste like Italian bread? — the study used 25 drops of essential thyme oil diluted to only 2%, meaning it was diluted with another oil. It also should be noted that just because something is natural doesn't mean that there are no side effects. As always, be careful and ask your doctor if you feel off.

Cramps are Mother Nature's curse for having a uterus so it's about time she gave us something to cure them, right?

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