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Herbs for cramps.

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That's menstrual cramps, not muscle cramps.

There's a few choices for killer cramps:

  • Peony root (Paeonia sp.). Dig up a simple-flowering, preferably red, peony in fall, tincture some of the oblong bulblike roots you find, and put the rest back to flower for you next year. 10-15 drops as needed help some (but not all) ladies with really bad cramps. (fresh root tincture, 1:2 95 %).
  • Cotton root (Gossypium sp.). Dig up root, tincture all of it (not just the rootbark - that's a waste of good herb). 10-15 drops as needed help some, but not all, ladies with really bad cramps. (fresh root tincture, 1:2 95 %)
  • Angelica root. I've given recently dried Angelica archangelica root to ladies with endometriosis. You don't mess around with making tea of these slices, you chew on one. The cramp is gone like [snap] that. Endometriosis cramps are the worst there are. It's not "oww, this hurts", it's "... and then they said I went all white, and next thing I know I wake up here with you asking me if I'm OK." Angelica stops the cramp before you faint from the pain.
  • Calamus (Acorus calamus), a "super angelica". Chew on a bit of root when that cramp hits.

Note, angelica root tastes vile. None of my ladies ever wanted more than the 1-ounce (30 ml) glass jar of root slices they got on their first visit. A little goes a long way, and you really don't take it unless you need it.

Not that peony root, or, for that matter, cotton root, taste any better. And calamus root is usually much too strong to be what you'd call tasty.

Other things for cramps: discontinue coffee and other stimulants. Help the liver. Stop smoking...

If you can get both black haw (Viburnum prunifolium) and cramp bark (Viburnum opulus) you could make Hayden's Viburnum Compound. Michael Moore has a recipe in his Formula booklet (.txt / .pdf):

  Black Haw (Viburnum prunifolium) 1.5 ounces
  Cramp Bark (Viburnum opulus)     1.0 ounce
  Trillium (dried)                 1.0 ounce
     (OR Cotton Root Bark)        (1.0 ounce)
  Dioscorea (Wild Yam)              .5 ounce
  Skullcap (recently dried)         .25 ounce
  Cloves                           1.0 ounce
  Cinnamon Bark                     .75 ounce
  Orange Peel                       .5 ounce

Go for the full recipe on his site.

Michael calls it the queen of cramp remedies; it's pretty much cramp herbs + digestive aromatics.


ok i know that angelica and dong quai (angelica sinensis) are somewhat energetically different, but i've got lots of dong quai on hand, and not so much angelica. though i've heard not to use dongquai during menses, as it can increase bleeding. I'm gonna give it a whirl...any thoughts on dongquai for cramps? I watched a friend suffer last month at a party and finally go home and silly me left my herb first aid kit at home. But the host had some of my tea that contained dong quai. I wish i would have tried that. But seeing how i've also got loads of wild cotton growing round me here, i'm gonna give that a whirl too, *breaks out that little bottle of tincture hiding in the back*

ooh... there are so many good cramp herbs...

For menstrual cramps, I usually blend stuff with Cramp Bark... with Black cohosh if the cramps are dull, congested, achey; with Wild Yam if the cramps sweep over the woman in waves, with Mugwort or motherwort if the menses are scanty or lacking, or juts Cramp Bark and Angelica as an all purpose remedy. But Cramp Barks really effective throughout the body, and shouldn't be pigeon-holed.

Lobelia's really good for muscle cramps that are just dreadful... matt wood uses the word "torsion", and I think that's pretty accurate. Wild Yam on its own is specific for gall bladder cramping, but covers most of the abdominal organs.

I really gotta try that peony...

Darcey: haven't tried dong quai for cramps, but as you say, it can increase bleeding. Dunno if the archangelica does that, but anyway, it's great for cramps - and I can grow it in my garden. Recent root only, older root (say, 3 years in the jar) has lost much of its zing.
So try the dong quai and tell us about it?

See, jim, I don't have cramp bark (or wait - Viburnum opulus? That one I have ... but it's not all that common in the wild, seeing that we're short on decidous forests), black cohosh, or wild yam. I'll give the motherwort a try; I don't like to give mugwort to anybody because it gave me horrible nightmares a few years ago.

Well i certainly will attest to cramp bark and black cohosh. They've done wonders for me in the last few months. I got relief almost right away (20-30 min) of taking a wineglass full of water with 2 droppers of crampbark and one with valerian and black cohosh, after feeling a bit like passing out for most of the day while working.

so I find this a bit interesting because we use cotton root to cause cramps and they work very well to do so-- I guess if someone has a boggy uterus that is not efficent in dumping that irritating blood that it would work to increase the contractility/tone of the uterus and in that way reduce pain.

as for angelica we use it to help deliver a retained placenta and I have never found it to reduce pain or cramping either.

the viburnum formula we have used and formulas like it and I could highly recommend it-- if you are going to do a simple either viburnum prunifolium or opulus work well one has a bit more over all muscle relaxant but I have used them interchangeably

to break down the formula it contains smooth muscle relaxants, increases uterine tone as a balance as well as increase circulation , a sedative and

Sharon: (Your comment got cut off, dunno why.) Fascinating data, thanks! What form of angelica do you use? Chewed dried root works instantly for cramps.
Sharon, Darcey: And with all those comments I'll add the viburnum to my repertory.

angelica arguta-- the kind in Idaho
but have bought a tincture that was made from a variety in California

what do you think about using osha instead? I have been considering it because we are a bit bare as far as angelica goes here where I live.

A friend gave me marshmallow root tea after an early miscarriage and it worked really well.

Sharon: I expect any Angelica would do. So tincture, eh? I haven't tinctured angelica, and it's possible that it's different depending on the mode of administration.
About the osha, sorry, can't help, we don't have that, and most importantly, I don't have that. I wish I did, though.

Pamela: interesting, thanks! I take it the marshmallow helped with the cramps after your miscarriage?

heh, well it isn't angelica....and my experiments this month failed, mostly because i couldnt' stand it anymore, and i had a fever and a lung infection at the same time.... i was kind of out of it already.
what did work....
lobelia tincture (acetic tincture 50% alochol/50% vinegar) rubbed right on the skin above uterus, and 2 drops under the tounge....
will try again this month with the angelica, perhaps cotton, and maybe dong quai as many things to try!