How thyme tea, like its oil, soothes menstrual pain

FOR many years, painful menstruation has been fingered as one of the reasons women are forced to stay away from work. This monthly pain is also one of the leading reasons for the regular use of painkillers. But scientific evidence is suggesting remedies can take care of menstrual cramps.

Research into the menstrual cycle suggests that extracts made from such green vegetables like bitter leaf and thyme should be taken by women who experience menstrual cramp.  Experts, in a new study that corroborated thyme’s traditional use for pain management suggested that it contains chemical substances that inhibit the amplitude and frequency of the contractions of the womb.

This study showed that water extract of the thyme leaf holds back contractions of the womb of a non-pregnant mouse and can be a lead plant in the drug discovery process for the management of painful menstruation.

For the study, the dried leaves of thyme were macerated in water, and the resulting water extract was tested on the isolated mouse womb. Parameters investigated included spontaneous contractions, oxytocin-induced contractions, and high potassium chloride-induced tonic contractions.

Thyme tea, locally known as “tossign tea”, is one of the most popular herbal teas in Ethiopia used for the medicinal attribute, besides adding aroma and flavour to the tea. People have used thyme for many centuries as a flavouring agent, culinary herb, and herbal medicine.

The plant is useful as an infusion to treat cough, diabetes, cold and chest infections; and in a syrup form for digestive upset. It is also soothing for sore throat, as thyme has antiseptic, antibiotic, and antifungal properties.

The plant has been reported to be incredibly useful in cases of assorted intestinal infections and infestations, such as hookworms. Applied to the skin, thyme is reported to relieve bites and stings, rheumatic aches, and pains.  Oil from the plant can be used as a rub for aching joints or rheumatic pain, and can also be used in the treatment of athlete’s foot.

The 2020 study, in the Journal of Medicinal Food, had used mice in proestrus and estrus phases. These stages are expected to exhibit high amplitude of contractions, and this would also enable the effect of the extract being investigated to be observed.

Thyme leaf decreased the spontaneous contractions of the womb in this study, and this decrease was more pronounced at its higher concentrations. This activity, therefore, makes thyme leaf useful in counteracting menstrual pain.

In addition, a clinical study on thyme tea among young female students in the suburbs of Debre Berhan town in Ethiopia indicated that thyme tea-drinking, consumption of vegetables and fruits may probably decrease the risk of severe painful menses.


This study was conducted from December 2019 to March 2020 on post-menarche young female students aged 13 to 19 years old. They were recruited from a large study involving 1328 public school adolescent girls that investigated menstruation and menstrual hygiene management practice in Debre Berhan town and surrounding areas.

Information about thyme tea and other caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee consumptions were collected. Participants were asked whether they drank thyme tea, normal tea, and coffee in their everyday life or not.

In this study, in the journal, Adolescent Health, Medicine and Therapeutics, thyme tea-drinking showed the tendency of alleviating severe form of painful menstruation among young female students. Thyme tea consumers were 63 per cent less likely to experience painful menstruation than their counterparts.

In this study, coffee drinking tends to increase the odds of painful menstruation in young female students. Compared to those who drink coffee once per day, those who drink coffee less than once per day (or rarely per week) and coffee non-drinkers had 0.14 and 0.12 times less likely to experience painful menstruation respectively.

Previously, a randomised and triple-blind clinical trial in Iran revealed that taking of Thyme essential oil was as effective as Ibuprofen in providing fast pain relief from menstrual cramps.

Researchers at Babol University of Medical Sciences in Iran conducted the trial on 84 volunteers aged 18 to 24 and split them into three groups. One was given ibuprofen, another 2 per cent essential thyme oil and the last a placebo medicine. It was in the Caspian Journal of Internal Medicine.

Before treatment, those in the ‘thyme oil’ group had rated their pain as around 6.57 which then rapidly decreased to a 1.21 in the first cycle, then down to a 1.14 in the second. In the ‘ibuprofen’ group, their pain went from 5.30 to 1.48 and then 1.68.

Also, researchers have found that some home remedies are effective in reducing the severity of menstrual pain and spasm. In a study, researchers compared the effectiveness of ginger, mefenamic acid, and Ibuprofen on painful menstruation.

According to the 2009 study in the Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine, ginger was as effective as mefenamic acid and ibuprofen, two non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs used in relieving pain in women with menstrual pain.

Those taking ginger root powder two days before the onset of their menstrual period and continuing through the first three days of their menstrual period had the shortest duration of pain.

Research shows that compounds found in ginger may help reduce the body’s production of prostaglandins, a class of pro-inflammatory chemicals involved in triggering the muscle contractions that help the womb shed its lining.

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