• Virginie, Naturopath

Willow bark and period pain

I’m always excited when scientists are studying plants to relieve pain as pain, whatever the cause, is often debilitating for many people and decrease quality of life.

A very well known and unfortunately very common type of pain is experienced every month by a lot of women: dysmenorrhea or period pain. Did you know it can affect 80-90% of women of reproductive age (18-28 years of age)? The cause of this phenomenon ranges from high levels of prostaglandins (PGs) to other factors such as genetics, stress, and different body types.

Many of the women experiencing period pain will use NSAID drugs such as ibuprofen or Ponstan but we all know they can have serious side effects and it has prompted many research on more natural alternatives.

Willow bark (salix alba) has been traditionally used to relieve pain for thousand of years. However there are few studies on its effect on dysmenorrhea leading to the present study designed to evaluate its effect on this condition and compare its effectiveness to mefenamic acid, a NSAID and a standard treatment for pain.

The results were great:

- it showed that willow bark is more effective than mefenamic acid to control period pain.

- Willow bark was also better at reducing the frequency of symptoms such as abdominal and back pain, breast pain, headache, vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea, cramp, fatigue, muscle stiffness and fainting.

- When taking willow bark, 77.39% of people experienced no symptoms (wow!) and 22.18% only had mild symptoms.

- In comparison, with mefenamic acid, 44.58% of students had mild symptoms and 28.12% experienced moderate symptoms.

- Finally treatment with mefenamic acid was significantly more likely to be associated with clotting than use of willow bark.

Researchers attribute the effect of willow bark on dysmenorrhea reduction to its ability to inhibit the activity of prostaglandins and the best part is that none of the women studied had any adverse effects!

So if period pain is an issue for you, why not try willow?

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