Menstruation is the term used for the natural monthly cycle of periods in the female body. Periods are when the unfertilized eggs are ejected out of the reproductive system along with blood and several other tissue cells. This flow happens once a month. The flow is profuse on one particular day of the month. However the discomfort of the periods could generally last for three days.
The female reproductive system is indeed marvelous. Every month the ovaries produce one egg which is deposited in the fallopian tube. The uterine wall known as the endometrium thickens and there is increased blood circulation in the entire reproductive system. This is all in preparation of a pregnancy. However, if the woman does not get pregnant, then all these things need to be expelled from the body. This is known as the period. Once the expulsion is done, the ovaries produce a new egg and the cycle continues for another month.
Women may face several difficulties during their menstrual flow. There is increased moistness in the vaginal area, and there could be infections. Women could have fevers, extreme pain in the groin area, giddiness, nausea and vomiting, etc. In some women the effects are more aggressive than others. And the most worrisome thing is that the symptoms could recur month after month. The biological term for menstrual problems is dysmenorrhea.
In Ayurveda, menses (i.e. the flow of the menstrual period) is considered to be the excess pitta which flows out of the body. It is called as Raja. Hence the menstrual flow is also called as Raja Pravritti. Though menstruation is a typically pitta phenomenon, effects on the vata and the kapha are also seen. Some women have insomnia and mood swings during their periods. This is vata vitiation. Some women gain weight. This is kapha vitiation.
(1) Useful Herbs in the Treatment of Menstruation
b) Asafetida (Ferula fetida)
Asafetida is known to increase the secretion of the female hormone, progesterone. Thus it facilitates menstruation. Using asafetida gum fried in ghee and mixed with goat’s milk and a spoonful of honey for a month can reduce the pains during menstruation and also make the flow reduced.
c) Asoka (Saraca indica)
The bark of the asoka tree is given to women who experience extreme blood loss during menstruation due to leucorrhea or uterine fibroids. The plant has a stimulating effect on the uterine wall and the mucus layer in the reproductive tract.
d) Bamboo (Bambusa bambos)
Bamboo acts as an emmenagogue which stimulates menstruation. Its leaves are prescribed for this purpose. Regular consumption of the leaves of the bamboo is prescribed to promote and regulate the menstrual flow.
e) Bloodwort (Achillea millefolium)
The hot infusion of leaves of the bloodwort is taken as an emmenagogue. A decoction of the herb can correct irregular periods. The herb also yields an oil which can be used in the treatment of female reproductive disorders.
f) Chicory (Chichorium intybus)
Seeds of chicory are prepared into a decoction to treat problems of obstructed menstruation.
g) Dill (Anethum sowa)
This fragrant herb is efficient in stimulating menstrual cycles. It helps women who have delayed periods to get their periods on time. Young anemic girls are prone to spasmodic menstruation, which can be quite painful. A decoction of dill is prepared with the leaves of parsley to treat such problems.
h) Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Cold climates can sometimes cause painful and irregular periods. An infusion of ginger sweetened with sugar is taken for correcting such problems.
i) Henna (Lawsonia alba)
Henna is a cooling agent. Suppositories of its leaves are made and placed in the vagina for women who have problems of excessive menstruation.
j) Hermal (Peganum harmala)
The hermal is a little-known herb, but in Ayurveda it is prescribed regularly for menstrual problems such as painful menstruation and irregular periods.
k) Indian Aloe (Aloe vera)
The Indian aloe is a stimulant of the uterus. Hence it is given in cases of painful menstruation.
l) Indian Spikenard (Nardostachys jatamansi)
The jatamansi is a very popular Indian herb used in the treatment of painful and irregular periods.
m) Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus)
Lemon grass is used in painful and difficult menstruation. It can be taken in the form of a tea.
(2) Dietary Treatments for Menstruation
The following dietary tips are beneficial to women who have painful or irregular periods:-
1 Avoid all constipating foods, especially in the last week of the menstrual cycle. This includes fried foods, sour foods and protein-rich pulses.
2 Fish is a good dietary indication for painful periods. Fish contain omega-3 fatty acids which help to ease the spasms during menstruation. Meat, poultry and dairy products must be avoided.
3 Among vegetables, white pumpkin, papaya, drumstick, snake gourd, bitter gourd and cucumber are good for dysmenorrhea. Potato, yellow pumpkin and eggplant must be avoided.
(3) Ayurvedic Treatments for Menstruation
Kumari is the drug of choice for menstrual problems in Ayurveda. This is nothing but the aloe vera plant. It is taken in the form of Kumarasava in a dose of six teaspoonfuls twice a day. There is a special preparation called as the Raja Pravartani vati, which contains aloe and asafetida as its main ingredients. This medication is taken in the form of pills – two of them twice a day a week before the periods are due.
(4) Home Remedies for Menstruation
1 Fry asafetida in ghee and add a teaspoonful of it to buttermilk. Have this once a day in case of dysmenorrhea.
2 Mix some sesame seeds in a glassful of water. Drink this twice daily when you have menstrual pains.
3 Have salads with boiled beetroot in them, or have beetroot juice.
The following exercises help in reducing the pain of menstruation:-
a) Take a firm chair and stand behind it holding your hands firmly on the chair’s back. Lift one heel and then the other. Continue this for about ten minutes. You can also do knee-bends.
b) Lie on your back on a firm bed. Fold your legs and bring the knees up to your chin. Repeat this ten times.