That news, published online today in The Cochrane Library, comes with a caution that the results need to be checked.
A team of scientists reviewed 39 studies on dysmenorrhea (painful periods) that included menstrual cramps.
Together, the studies included 3,475 women. The studies were done in China, except for one Taiwanese study, one Japanese study, and one Dutch study.
The studies used at least 21 herbs in various formulations. No particular treatment stood out.
Each patient got one of these treatments for their menstrual cramps:
- Chinese herbal medicines
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen
- Birth control pills
- Heat treatment from a hot water bottle
Based on the women's feedback, the Chinese herbal medicines were more effective than the NSAIDs, birth control pills, acupuncture, or heat treatment in easing menstrual cramps.
There wasn't enough evidence to declare Chinese herbal medicines superior to the placebo.
No significant side effects were reported. But only eight of the 39 studies tracked side effects.
The quality of the studies wasn't great. Top-notch research is needed on the topic, note the reviewers.
They included Xiaoshu Zhu, B.Med., M.Med., of the Center for Complementary Medicine Research at Australia's University of Western Sydney.
By Miranda Hitti
Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario
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