Women with primary dysmenorrhea, or painful cramps, generally rely on pharmacology when it comes to relieving their symptoms. However, taking pain-relieving drugs on a monthly basis does not come free of side effects.
Alternative methods to treat dysmenorrhea could help its sufferers manage their symptoms in a safer and more natural way. The oil extracted from olives contains oleocanthal, a compound that suppresses prostaglandin production. Prostaglandin release is thought to trigger period cramps and painful uterine contractions.1
The aim of this study was to compare the effects of extra virgin olive oil for treating symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea to those of ibuprofen.
This single blinded, crossover clinical trial recruited 60 female students between the ages of 17 and 30. They were diagnosed with moderate to severe primary dysmenorrhea.
Students were divided into two groups and underwent the following treatment regimens over the span of six months:
Group 1 received 25 mL of extra virgin olive oil daily for two months, starting two weeks before period onset. Then, they completed a 4-week washout period, during which they did not receive any treatment. After that, they were given 400 mg of ibuprofen three times daily for the first three days of their period.
Group 2 received a similar treatment in the following order: they first started with ibuprofen for two months, followed by extra virgin olive oil treatment for two months.
Visual Analogue Scale (VAS) questionnaires were filled out to assess pain severity.
Pain severity differed significantly between the groups before and after the intervention, averaging 6.7.
After the intervention, pain severity decreased more significantly in the olive oil group (to 1.1) than in the ibuprofen group (to 3.8).
Participants consuming olive oil did not report significant side effects.
What Does this Mean?
This study has shown that olive oil can relieve dysmenorrhea symptoms better than ibuprofen, positioning it as a valuable alternative to non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs).
As such, researchers recommend considering extra virgin olive oil as a food supplement for relieving symptoms of primary dysmenorrhea. Such safe and natural solutions can not only relieve symptoms without harmful side effects, but also dramatically improve quality of life of its sufferers.
- Der Pharmacia Lettre, The impact of extra virgin olive oil on primary dysmenorrhea in comparison to the ibuprofen, 2015
- Mayo Clinic. (2020). Menstrual cramps. Retrieved October 28, 2020 from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menstrual-cramps/symptoms-causes/syc-20374938