Go Ad-Free
logoThe People's Perspective on Medicine

How to Ease Menstrual Cramps with Soap

A bar of soap or a bit of soap-scented oil might help ease menstrual cramps without side effects.

Any woman who has suffered through the pain of menstrual cramps knows that most remedies don’t help all that much. Taking to bed with a hot water bottle might be all you can manage, but it isn’t great. Anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen or naproxen can also dull the pain, but many women are tempted to exceed the recommended dose. Is there another way to ease menstrual cramps?

Will Soap Ease Menstrual Cramps?

Q. I read in your column that you can relieve leg and hand cramps with ordinary soap. Would this possibly work for menstrual cramps as well?

A. Surprisingly, the answer may be yes. No one knows where the remedy of soap for leg cramps got started, but it caught a curious doctor’s attention.

The Anesthesiologist’s Research:

Anesthesiologist Yon Doo Ough and his colleagues were intrigued by reports that soap in bed could alleviate nighttime leg cramps. They crushed Ivory soap and used gauze pads to apply the crushed soap over cramping muscles. When they found that was helpful, they tested soap-scented skin patches (SSSP). The investigators found that these helped ease menstrual cramps within half an hour (Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, July, 2008).

The oils used to scent Ivory soap have antispasmodic activity, which may explain the benefit. Dr. Ough concluded, “This SSSP is a simple and convenient treatment for menstrual cramps.”

A Reader’s Story:

One reader shared this anecdote:

“I’ve been using a small bar of soap under the sheet to counteract leg cramps. They never wake me in the middle of the night any more.

“Today I woke up with bad menstrual cramps. I broke the little bar in half and put it in my pocket. After a few minutes, I could feel the pain melting away. It was such a relief to go all day without needing pain medicine.”

We don’t know if a bar of soap will ease menstrual cramps for every woman, but the remedy is inexpensive and side effects are unlikely. To learn more about the soap remedy, you might wish to consult our Guide to Leg Pain.

Rate this article
4.6- 28 ratings
About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
Tired of the ads on our website?

Now you can browse our website completely ad-free for just $5 / month. Stay up to date on breaking health news and support our work without the distraction of advertisements.

Browse our website ad-free
Join over 150,000 Subscribers at The People's Pharmacy

We're empowering you to make wise decisions about your own health, by providing you with essential health information about both medical and alternative treatment options.