Presented in partnership with Lunapads.
I’ve had my period for more than half my life.
You’d think that after that many years I’d get used to it. But nope, each month when I’m greeted with my period, I look down and am completely horrified that my own body would disrespect me like this.
Periods are like those rude members of your extended family who come over uninvited and overstay their welcome. Periods don’t care about the plans you have scribbled down in your planner.
A beach day with your girls? Too bad.
That white sundress you wanted to wear this weekend? HA. Tough luck, maybe next time.
But worst of all is the pain. No matter how many times I’ve had my period, the cramps are always the very worst part.
In the last few years, I’ve noticed a certain kinship among all of the period-having individuals around the world and after harassing my own friends and family to get honest and real about their periods, I’m amazed at what I learned.
1. Drink tea – lots and lots of tea.
This is a hack that my grandmother herself would cosign. My grandmother is quintessentially Jamaican in the way that she believes tea has the power to cure all ills. When I would complain about a headache, she’d say, “Just drink some tea.” It’s a tradition that originates from Jamaica and Southeast Asia.
Stomachache? Yep, you guessed it, more tea. The hotter the better.
Even now I find myself reaching for the kettle at even the earliest signs of sickness. And when I’m on my period?
Well, the bloating, gas, headaches, cramps, and general ickiness of my menstrual cycle is no match for a nice steaming cup of ginger tea.
2. Drink cerasee leaves, because they’re our bitter savior.
It truly pained me to add this to the list, not because it doesn’t work but because to most Jamaicans (or at least the ones with working tastebuds) cerasee is infamous. It’s a remedy that’s been passed down from generation to generation.
Cerasee is a plant that produces a fruit known as bitter melon. While bitter melon is an ingredient in many Chinese and Indian dishes, in Jamaica we boil the plant down into a tea. Cerasee is hailed as a magic herb and can soothe a list of ailments, including menstrual cramps.
The downside, of course, is that it’s the single most bitter thing you will EVER drink.
3. No cold food until after your period finishes!
Some women believe that chowing down on ice creams and freezing glasses of juices are a sure-fire way to take your cramps from bad to worse. My friend can attest to this – she might be of Pakistani descent, but originally got this from a Chinese friend. It’s a tradition that originates from Pakistan, India, and China.
They believe these cold foods force the muscles near your ovaries and uterus to tense up and exacerbate your period pains. So for the next cycle, try putting down the pints of Ben and Jerry’s and stick to warm, rich foods only!
Aren’t rich, broth soups and meaty stews are more comforting when you’re feeling under the weather, anyway?
4. Comfort your body when it needs you most with reusable pads.
I went to college at what many would consider a “hippie school.” People walked to classes barefoot and spent their free time smoking rolled cigarettes in front of the Humanities building, and playing hacky sack and ultimate frisbee out on the quad. So during my sophomore year, when my friend Sarah told me she used reusable pads instead of tampons, I brushed it off as just another quirky hippie thing. It’s a tradition that originates from all over the world.
But, then I tried these pads from the OG period underwear provider Lunapads… and reusable pads are awesome. Unlike disposable pads, they are super comfortable and don’t feel like you’re wearing a swampy diaper all day. The best part? You can save money and the environment at the same time.
5. Get your fill with a mug of the original golden milk.
Turmeric is the latest gentrified spice (uhh turmeric lattes anyone?) but some of us have been reaping the health benefits for centuries.
Turmeric, known for its distinct yellow color, is mainly found in curries and stews across Asia and the Caribbean. But this bold ingredient also boasts anti-inflammatory qualities, which is perfect for getting rid of even your most stubborn cramps. It’s a drink that originated in India and Pakistan.
For a hack that comes directly from a friend’s Indian mother, mix turmeric with milk and honey for a soothing, pain-relieving drink.
6. Popeye it all the way up with tons of delicious spinach.
This was something my best friend, Kerrie, and I had in common. I guess you could say it originated with vegetarians?
Whenever my period comes, I feel the need overcompensate for all that blood loss by eating tons and tons of spinach.
I’ve been a vegetarian for the last ten years and so spinach has the iron that my body needs and craves during my time of the month.
An entire bag of spinach sautéed in some butter and garlic, that I eat ravenously in one sitting…that’s TOTALLY healthy, right?
7. You can always time your cycle with the mighty moon.
Another friend, Samantha, told me that syncing her own cycle with the moon’s phases was something that allowed her to feel soothed and grounded. I know what you’re thinking: this sounds completely hokey, and that the kind of person who believes in linking their own biological processes with the moon probably also believes in horoscopes and finding meaning in planets and stars. It’s a medicinal process, actually, that originates in China.
But different people find comfort in different things, and that deserves to be respected.
Syncing your cycle with the moon is also known to have been linked to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the concept of Qi, vital energy which moves the blood throughout the body.
Periods don’t always have to be an entire week of endless misery, and this is one simple hack can help you find a bit of peace amidst the pain.
8. Go high tech with your period using some dope period tracking apps.
I only started using period-tracking apps within the last three years, and honestly, I can’t believe it took me so long.
I spent so many years completely winging it!
I’d feel the cramps and bloating in the days leading up to the Big Day but with no real system of tracking it, many times I’d go to the bathroom only to be greeted with the worst surprise ever. Not to mention, I’d get tons of grief from my gyno because she had no way of knowing if my cycles were normal.
Now that I finally have the app, there’s no turning back for me. There are no more surprises and these apps are great for keeping tracking of any irregular symptoms or inconsistencies.
9. Your hot water bottle is your best friend, soulmate, and partner for life.
This hack is nearly universal.
From Nigeria to London, India to Trinidad & Tobago – my friends unanimously agree: hot water bottles are awesome if painkillers aren’t quite your thing, but cramps aren’t either. They’re nice and natural and they’re perfect for hugging against your body while you’re taking that well-deserved nap. And if hot water bottles aren’t enough, try heating pads. They’re like hot water bottles taken to the next level.
Personally, I prefer heating pads because they stay warmer for longer and best of all, I don’t have to refill them and waste precious water.
The less work I have to do while I’m on my period, the better.
10. Chew ginger like a badass, even if that stuff’s raw.
I have an aunt who chooses to bypass the mug and hot water and gets her ginger fix directly from the source.
She takes a small paring knife to carve away the tan outer skin and then just pops a piece into her months. She’s been doing it for years and she swears by it.
Honestly, I cringe in disgust and terror every time I watch her crunch down on a raw nib. But if you’re a badass like her and want to go hardcore with your period remedies; go for it. It’s a global remedy, but it grosses me out. Oops.
11. Treat yo’ self…to some cozy underwear.
When I’m on my period it’s impossible for me to feel sexy. I am bloated and cramp-ridden. My lower back aches and I’ve probably broken out with at least one hormone-induced pimple. For the next seven days and I am mainly just over it.
The very last thing I want to do is have to put on a pair of skimpy underwear. So, my hack is this: don’t.
Instead, get yourself a pair of period underwear from Lunapads!
I too was skeptical about the concept at first. But then I got my very first pair and it changed everything. Gone are the days of my suffering through my period in stringy, lacy, silky torture devices. The reusable period underwear from Lunapads come in different styles, colors, and they include an absorbent gusset and/or removable liner. They are super practical and, more importantly, they are comfy as hell.
12. Rub Vicks everywhere it hurts. Including the places where you think it might hurt soon.
Armed with just a cup of tea and jar of Vicks Vapor Rub, a West-Indian grandma has everything she needs to conquer the world. Or at least she has all she needs to defeat the germs plaguing her grandchildren. My grandma used to lather my chest and face in this stuff at the very first sign of sniffles.
After chatting with my friend Jalayne, whose family is from Belize, I discovered that many of her cousins have carried this ointment, that was a childhood staple, straight into adulthood.
For them, rubbing and massaging Vicks directly onto the lower stomach area is the key to banishing those pesky cramps.
13. Plus, don’t forget to enjoy some bissy.
This is another popular herbal remedy from my Jamaican family.
The bissy nut (cola nut) has roots in West Africa and just as its name suggests, it was once listed as an ingredient for Coca-Cola. Bissy nut is another wonder-ingredient that’s grated down into a powder and then boiled into a tea.
This period hack is way better than cerassee (the horror!!!) but still definitely not my favorite.
14. Take a long, hot alcolado bath, and get some serious cramp relief.
By definition, alcolado is rubbing alcohol that’s been infused with various plants and essential oils (i.e. bay rum, eucalyptus, camphor, peppermint, etc).
Technically, it is also considered an aftershave. But Caribbean people have a history of finding creative uses for all kinds of product. In fact, alcolado can be found in the medicine cabinet in homes across Puerto Rico and mothers and grandmothers alike swear by it.
Though the smell might be deemed overpowering to some, a generous amount of this potent solution poured into a bathtub is the cure for any body aches and pains.
Period cramps included.
15. Attack those cramps directly with a sesame oil massage.
When it comes to the best massage oils, sesame oil might not be the first one that pops into your head.
But, you might just be doing your period cramp-ridden body a great disservice. This period hack comes from another friend of Indian descent. When she has cramps, her mother gives her a sesame oil massage.
This distinct oil is rich in a mineral called linoleic acid and possesses anti-inflammatory qualities (which as we learned, is key for relieving those pesky cramps). In fact, sesame oil has been a key component in Ayurvedic treatments along across India.
16. Be proactive about your pain – no matter how that looks.
It’s only within recent years that I’ve learned that the key to most of these hacks is doing them before your period starts.
Taking the painkillers, drinking the teas, wearing the period underwear, and loading up on extra vitamins and nutrients. All of these things are most effective when you start doing them the week before your cycle begins.
Your body needs the fortification well ahead of the Big Event. Which is why being super diligent and using your reusable pads is even more important.
17. Eat all the chocolate, ALL OF IT. NEVER STOP.
I mean…this is a given, isn’t it? I don’t even have a country for this one, it’s universal.
18. Grin and bear it, folks. Grin and bear it.
I think most of us have accepted that having a period comes with a least a little bit of discomfort.
After interviewing my friends, the resounding consensus was, “periods suck, but we deal with them the best way we know how and carry on with our lives.”
As much as we’d love to hide away and curl up in bed with our favorite snacks, we accept that we have responsibilities and that life must go on.
And with acceptance comes enlightenment… or relief… or something. That’s totally a thing, right?
Periods aren’t ever going to be anyone’s favorite time of the month. But getting your period is like being a part of a global experience. That’s definitely an experience I can get behind – when I’m not dealing with cramps.