Raise your hand if you’re popping pain meds basically every day of your period. Yeah, same.
Wish you could cut your Advil habit—at least in half? I got your back: There are actually tons of natural cures for cramps that can ease your intense aches (and save you some cash at the drugstore), sans chemicals.
Try these tactics next time the red tide rolls in.
1. Take a hot bath or shower.
Clearly, period pain is reason enough to draw yourself a steamy, sudsy bath or take a window-fogging long shower—but it turns out, that heat can be pretty therapeutic for your body, too.
“Heat brings blood flow to your pelvic area, and that helps relax the muscles causing cramps in the first place,” explains Alyssa Dweck, M.D., ob-gyn in Westchester, New York and coauthor of V Is for Vagina.
2. Make sure to stay hydrated.
It sounds counterintuitive, but drinking more water can actually help lessen bloating by keeping your digestive system, uh, running smoothly. Get even more water in your diet by adding in water-rich fruits and vegetables like cucumber and watermelon.
You can also go a step further and sip on warm or hot water, which can actually help lessen period cramps from the inside—heated beverages have a relaxing effect on muscles, says Dweck.
3. Stick on a heat wrap.
No, you probably can’t stay in the bathtub all day, though it’s definitely tempting.
Instead, Dweck suggests using an adhesive heat pad (like these ThermaCare Heatwraps, specifically for menstrual pain) that fit under your tights or jeans to provide constant uterine muscle-soothing relief for up to eight hours. It’s a brilliant update from those old electric heating pads (or—cringe—hot water bottles) you probably relied on in high school.
4. Break a sweat.
A decent sweat session cranks up production of mood-boosting endorphins, which can actually act as a natural pain reliever, says Mary Jane Minkin, M.D., clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale School of Medicine.
Even better: Exercise can also help prevent period cramps (or at least lessen them when they come along), says Dweck. “Consider ramping up your workouts the week before your period is supposed to start,” she says, for maximum benefits.
5. Have an orgasm.
Seriously, though. “An orgasm really does relieve cramps for some women,” says Dweck.
It’s not exactly clear how it works, but why not find out if you’re in this lucky club by grabbing your guy (this period-sex primer explains how to get it on without ruining your sheets) or your vibrator for a solo session.
6. Treat yourself to happy hour.
Having a glass of wine (or alcoholic drink of your choice) can help relax your body’s smooth muscles, including those of the uterus. This can ease aches, says Minkin. “In the old days, we used to use intravenous alcohol for pre-labor contractions,” she says.
Something to keep in mind, though: If you’re taking medications—for your period cramps or otherwise—make sure it’s safe to drink alcohol on them before imbibing.
7. Sip ginger or cinnamon tea.
Consuming any warm liquid can reduce cramp agony a little bit, but the secret here is the spice, says Dweck. Ginger has a long history as a natural pain-fighter, and cinnamon is considered an anti-inflammatory that helps reduce the uterine spasms that cause cramps.
Dweck also suggests trying peppermint or chamomile flavors, as they could help relieve pain, too; so if cinnamon or ginger isn’t your thing, give those teas a try.
8. Take a self-care day.
Booking a massage—complete with relaxing essential oils, like lavender—or an acupuncture appointment can help ease aches all over, so why not try it when you’re cramping? Dweck said it may provide a little more comfort. Plus, you’ll likely leave feeling zen enough not to worry about any of your problems, including pain.
9. Stick to a healthy diet.
In general, following a low-carb and low-sugar diet, along with having more fiber before and during your period can help stop discomfort that comes from this time of month, says Dweck.
Period poops are a real thing, so to keep things moving steadily (but not too fast), try to resist grabbing cookies or tons of chocolate. “All the things we crave [at this time of month], we probably shouldn’t have,” she says.
10. Unwind with a little yoga.
According to a 2017 scientific review published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, keeping up with a regular yoga practice can help with symptoms associated with menstruation.
The analysis included 15 studies of different types of yoga, from asana to pranayama and other relaxation and meditation techniques, and their affects on menstrual pain. All forms of the soothing workout included in the review led to lower pain scores.