Menstrual cramps are classified as primary dysmenorrhea or secondary dysmenorrhea. Your average case of menstrual cramps is referred to as primary dysmenorrhea, meaning they are due to a functional mechanism such as abnormal prostaglandin production from the uterine endometrium, especially PGF 2 alpha, increased inflammatory substances or lack of ovulation. Secondary dysmenorrhea is due to conditions such as endometriosis and/or uterine fibroids.
Menstrual cramps on or just before menses can interfere with life in such a way as to cause missed work, missed responsibilities, and is usually managed with over-the-counter, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or prescription pain medications, which can sometimes lead to over-use and even abuse.
Cinnamon is not an herb that we would normally think of as being used for menstrual cramps. None the less, these researchers conducted a randomized, double-blind clinical trial to assess the effects of cinnamon on menstrual bleeding and systemic symptoms in Iranian college aged women students suffering from menstrual cramps due to primary dysmenorrhea.
Women were selected who had moderate menstrual cramps and regular menstrual cycles. Use of hormonal contraception and pain management medications were not allowed during the study.
Thirty-eight women received a placebo and 38 received 420 mg capsules of dried cinnamon bark powder and the dose given was two capsules three times daily during the first three days of their menses.
Pain severity at several points within the 72 hours, nausea severity, vomiting episodes and amount of bleeding were recorded and evaluated. A visual analogue scale was used to determine the severity of pain and nausea.
Results: The mean pain severity score and the mean duration of pain were less in the cinnamon group than in the placebo group at all measured times. The amount of bleeding decreased significantly at 24 hours and 48 hours in the cinnamon group but not in the placebo group.
The mean severity of nausea and the number of vomiting episodes significantly decreased in the cinnamon group at 24, 48 and 72 hours and greater than when compared with placebo.
The results of this study suggest that cinnamon capsules of two capsules three times daily for the first 3 days of the menses can play a significant role in reducing menstrual pain, heavier menstrual bleeding, nausea, and vomiting associated with primary dysmenorrhea. It is not clear from this study if the product used was a standardized extract of cinnamon or plain cinnamon powder. Other prominent research on botanicals and primary dysmenorrhea have included ginger root powder and valerian root powder. A comprehensive holistic approach would be to try to address the underlying mechanisms of primary dysmenorrhea which would mean to restore prostaglandin balance within the uterine endometrium. This approach would likely include therapeutic dietary recommendations as well as higher EPA fish oils.
Jaafarpour M, Hatefi M, Najafi F, Khajavikhan J, Khani A. The effect of cinnamon on menstrual bleeding and systemic symptoms with primary dysmenorrhea. Iran Red Crescent Med J. 2015;17(4):e27032.