What Helps Menstrual Cramps? Skullcap & Cramp Bark Tincture Recipe!
Have you ever had cramps that end your day before it starts? Those cramps that come on before or during your menstrual cycle? My cramps pretty much incapacitate me… or did. I’m sure most women know exactly what I’m talking about, right? Those cramps that make you irritable and snappy with everybody, whether they’re right, wrong, or indifferent?
Well, I’m going to share something with you that has made a dramatic difference in my life around THAT time of the month. You won’t believe it unless you try it. It’s become so popular with the women in my family, I have to make a large batch and bottle it for everyone.
When writing this post, I asked my husband how many women within our family he thought I was supplying this tincture to and he replied “all of them… I think!” It’s that popular and effective, just like the elderberry has become a staple in my herb cabinet.
If you want to know what helps cramps, here you go!
The two herbs that I’ve found help cramps for me are skullcap (scutellaria lateriflora) and cramp bark (viburnum opulus). Running a household comes with anxiety for almost everyone and skullcap is just one of those things you don’t want to be caught without. Cramp bark is a wonderful uterine sedative that works fantastically to stop menstrual cramps in their tracks.
How do these herbs compliment each other?
Well, if you’re ever crampy, cranky, and need a nap, this skullcap & cramp bark tincture should fix you right up!
Common Names: Hoodwort, Mad-Dog Scullcap, Blue Scullcap
Constituents: tannin, fat, bitter principles, sugar, bitter glycoside, scutellarin, volatile oil, flavonoids, resins, baicalin, baicalein, GABA, glutamine, ascorbic acid
Actions: anti-spasmodic, nervine, sedative
Skullcap gets its name from the helmet-shaped purple flowers it’s adorned with in the spring.
Skullcap is a great primary tonic for the nervous system and has historically been used for the treatment of multiple ailments of the nervous system, such as seizures, mania, epilepsy, and even simply tension caused by stress. In a study involving rodents with acute seizures, American skullcap was found to have anticonvulsant activity.1
“[r]elieves anxiety and stress; strengthens a depleted nervous system” – David Hoffman in Medical Herbalism, p582
If you’re often overstimulated and overworked, this is a great remedy.
Always get skullcap from a reputable vendor, such as Mountain Rose Herbs or Starwest Botanicals, as it can be found to be adulterated with American germander (Teucrium canadense), European germander (Teucrium chamaedrys) or Chinese skullcap (Scutellaria baicalensis) if not obtained from a reliable source. While Chinese skullcap has been used in Chinese herbal medicine for centuries, germander in any form is hepatotoxic (toxic to the liver).2
Common Names: Black Haw, Rose Elder, Snowball Tree, Red Elder, Guelder Rose
Constituents: resin, tannin, valerianic acid, viburnine
Actions: anti-scorbutic (used to prevent or cure scurvy), antispasmodic, nervine, nerve sedative
Cramp bark has long been used by Native Americans for things such as nervous debility, convulsions, cramps and spasms of all kinds, palpitations, and many female complains like menstrual cramps, as a uterine sedative, and even internal hemorrhaging.
Don’t take crampbark if you take blood thinners or are pregnant.
- 1 part skullcap
- 1 part cramp bark
- 100 proof vodka
- Mason jar with lid
- Amber glass bottle with dropper
- Amber glass bottle with lid (if you make a lot)
- Canning funnel
- Funnel that fits the glass bottles
- Put your herbs in the size jar that you want to make; don't pack it too full, because the herbs will absorb some of the alcohol and swell. Use the canning funnel, because without it, it will be hard to keep things tidy.
- Leave about an inch or two of room at the top of the jar.
- Cover the herbs with vodka until they float slightly off the bottom of the jar.
- Put the lid on the jar firmly and shake.
- Place in a dark cabinet away from heat and shake at least once a week for two weeks.
- Place a funnel into the bottle. Pour the liquid from the jar through a fine mesh strainer into the funnel.
- If you made extra, store it in an amber glass bottle with a simple lid, not a dropper.
- Label the tincture with the ingredients (including the alcohol used), the date it was bottled, and how long it aged.
- Personal note: I let my tinctures age at least 6 weeks for more effectiveness; the longer the herbs macerate in the alcohol, the better. Some people age echinacea tincture for over a year!
- Do not take this before driving, operating heavy machinery, or doing anything considered dangerous. It will make you sleepy.
Personal anecdotes: I’ve used this personally instead of ibuprofen and acetaminophen for menstrual cramps, but there were a couple of times that I was out of town and forgot my tincture at home. Using the OTC pain relievers was my only option, so I took it. Both times I remember that they worked fine at getting rid of the pain caused by the cramps, but I also remember being extremely sore in my abdomen for several days during and afterward. I didn’t experience the soreness while taking this tincture. You may or may not experience the same thing.
If you don’t want the sedative effects, you can skip having the skullcap in this tincture and only use cramp bark. If you only have issues with nervous tension and aren’t having cramps or spasms, you can leave out the cramp bark. I haven’t tried them separately myself. Both of these herbs are useful as single herb tinctures.
Have you ever used either of these two herbs? Or do you have another alternative that works for menstrual pains? Share this with your friends and leave a comment below!