Natural Ways to Address Heavy Periods

If you are tired of ruining your underwear, changing your tampon or worried your menstrual cup won’t keep up with your menstrual flow, it’s time we chat, because you are absolutely not alone! In fact, heavy bleeding, known as menorrhagia, is one of the most common problems women report to their doctor. It is estimated to impact more than 10 million American women (that’s about 1 in 5 women).

Not only are heavy periods likely impacting your quality of life but, our menstrual cycle is an important vital sign that is worth addressing. So, although you might have started reading this article looking for an immediate “quick natural fix” for your heavy period, it’s important that we talk about why proper assessment and diagnosis is critical for long term solutions. We need to discuss why heavy periods can happen, how to know if your cycles are actually heavy and what to do about it. I will also be sharing some of my favorite natural treatment options so don’t worry I’ve got you covered.

If you are struggling with heavy periods, it is important to consult with your doctor so they can rule out potential causes including structural factors (such as polyps, fibroids or adenomyosis), coagulating related disorders (such as hypothyroidism or other coagulation issues) as well as contributing factors like anovulatory cycles (inability to ovulate). These are all extremely important factors your doctor should be evaluating for in order to address your heavy periods. This is where comprehensive testing as well as diagnostic imaging, like a simple pelvic ultrasound can help provide us with important information in order to determine the root cause of your symptoms. Remember, heavy bleeding isn’t the cause, it’s simply a symptom and it’s our job as doctors to determine why that symptom is happening.

Unfortunately, one of the major challenges associated with evaluating heavy periods is that it can be hard to quantify exactly how much blood you are actually losing and what is considered “heavy menstrual bleeding”. For clinical purposes, we often refer to heavy menstrual bleeding as a volume of blood that interferes with a patient’s physical, social, emotional, and or material quality of life. In other words, if you are missing social events due to your period, you can’t seem to leave the bathroom or keep ruining your underwent, chances are you are experiencing heavy menstrual bleeding. This type of bleeding is abnormal and even if you have experienced this since you started your period or your sister or friend also deals with this, this does NOT mean it’s not abnormal. As women, we tend to normalize our symptoms which can delay diagnosis and treatment so make sure you are consulting with your doctor.

Now, let’s say you are currently working with your doctor and you are in the process of being evaluated for potential causes of heavy bleeding, or worse, your doctor simply writes you a prescription for birth control as a temporary solution with no additional evaluation, what should you be doing now to help reduce your symptoms?

I’m glad you asked! Heavy menstrual bleeding is often linked to altered inflammatory pathways seen at the level of the endometrium. Since this appears to be associated with an inflammatory response, lowering inflammation is a valuable first step. In fact, prior to the start of your period, your progesterone levels start to decrease, this decrease, otherwise known as progesterone withdrawal, stimulates the production of a particular enzyme known as endometrial cyclooxygenase 2 (COX-2). COX-2 is an important enzyme that stimulates the production and release of prostaglandin E2 and prostaglandin F2 alpha. According to researchers, it appears that women with heavy menstrual bleeding tend to have a higher level of COX-2 enzyme and therefore more production of prostaglandins which inturn contributes to the excessive bleeding. Prostaglandin E2 can enhance the dilation of the spiral arteries found in the endometrial lining leading to more bleeding. This is why in order to address heavy menstrual bleeding we need to focus on strategies that involve anti-inflammatory factors that can inhibit COX-2 production. This is actually why your doctor may have recommended NSAIDS like ibuprofen or naproxen, as treatment options. NSAIDs are known to specifically target COX-2 enzymes. Unfortunately, although NSAIDs can be beneficial, they often carry negative side effects when used long term and are often not a permanent solution.

Natural Ways to Address Heavy Periods 

Now although addressing inflammation and specifically COX-2 enzymes can be extremely beneficial to improve your heavy periods, don’t skip seeking helping from your doctor. Again, heavy bleeding is a symptom and may be a symptom of a more serious condition so always make sure you are consulting with your doctor for a comprehensive evaluation and assessment. 

At NMD Wellness of Scottsdale, this is something we are extremely passionate about and is the reason our patients are able to get great results. We aren’t simply using a supplement as a band-aide for your symptoms. That being said, there are some, in particular two, botanicals, that have been of special interest for both doctors and researchers alike when addressing heavy periods.


Ginger, which you may think of as a culinary spice, is a flowering plant whose rhizome has been used for medicinal purposes for decades. In fact, ginger alone has been studied in adolescents with heavy menstrual bleeding and was found to significantly reduce menstrual bleeding when taken around their menses, aka during your period. (Kashefi et al., 2015). Ginger was also studied alongside the use of ibuprofen and was found to further reduce bleeding time as well as the number of days a patient experienced bleeding compared to ibuprofen alone. (Eshaghian et al., 2019).


Boswellia is another important herbal extract that has been used for a variety of inflammatory conditions including arthritis and asthma. It has even been seen to help inhibit the growth of cancer cells. This powerful herb has also been of particular interest for doctors and researchers alike when addressing heavy menstrual bleeding. In fact, Boswellia was found to further enhance the effect of ibuprofen and shorten the number of bleeding days versus ibuprofen alone. (Eshaghian et al., 2019)

Both Ginger and Boswellia are great examples of botanical treatments that can not only help with the symptoms of heavy bleeding but can also be a great integrative option even for those taking ibuprofen. Now, similar to medications, botanical treatments should always be taken under the supervision of your doctor. It's important to talk to your healthcare provider before using Boswellia, especially if you have gastritis or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), as you may not be able to take this herb. If you're taking a blood thinner or have a condition that affects blood clotting, talk to your healthcare provider before taking Boswellia.

About the Author: Meet Dr. ZenAlissia Zenhausern- Pfeiffer, NMD, FABNE, (commonly known by her patients as Dr. Zen), is a licensed naturopathic doctor board certified in naturopathic endocrinology and the founder of NMD Wellness of Scottsdale, a premier naturopathic medical practice that focuses on helping women to take a proactive approach to their hormone and fertility health. Dr. Zen has been featured as a lead expert in Forbes, Shape Magazine, and Instyle and is deeply passionate about bridging the gap between traditional and natural medicine in the world of fertility. She works with a variety of hormone related issues including PCOS, endometriosis and unexplained infertility. Her goal is to help more women get back into the driver’s seat of their own health to make lasting transformational changes to their health to bring more cute and adorable babies into this world. Read More About Dr. Zen...