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Herbal and dietary therapies for dysmenorrhoea


Clinical bottom line

One large trial of 100 mg vitamin B1 daily provided pain relief for half of women taking it for two months.


Various dietary therapies and herbal supplements have been put forward for relieving dysmenorrhoea. Few have adequate experimental backing.


ML Proctor, PA Murphy. Herbal and dietary therapies for primary and secondary dysmenorrhoea. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2001, issue 2.

Systematic review

The systematic review had a thorough search strategy of many electronic and specialist databases. Trials had to be randomised, and could include vitamins, herbs, minerals, proteins, and fatty acids.


There little information on magnesium, vitamin B6, vitamin E, omega-3-fatty acids, or Japanese herbal combinations. These trials had few women, and had no results that could lead to any conclusion about efficacy.

One large randomised, double-blind trial from India compared vitamin B1 at 100 mg daily for two months with placebo in over 550 women. Although a crossover trial, results were from the first phase, and therefore as a parallel group comparison.

Pain relief occurred in 142/277 women taking vitamin B1 (51%), and no woman taking placebo. The number needed to treat for one woman to have pain relief was 2 (95% confidence interval 1.8 to 2.2). Those women with pain relief crossing over to placebo maintained their pain relief, at least for two more months.


The only herbal or dietary intervention for which there was any good evidence was for vitamin B1 at 100 mg daily.