Cramping in lower abdomen, sometimes with dull or sharp pains, is a very common clinical symptom, especially in women. In the mild cases, taking a deep breath or stretching your body probably will make you feel better. However, extra attention will be needed if the cramping and pains are there all the time. What’s more, if you also find that this symptom occurs frequently on your caves or toes, probably Bai Shao Yao (White Peony Root), a common Chinese healing herb, will be used a lot in your herbal remedies.
What causes cramping in lower abdomen?
It refers to muscle spasm, which is a type of idiomuscular tonic contraction. The most common types are involuntary muscular contractions on lower abdomen, calves, or toes. Sometimes it could be such a shooting pain that very often sufferers would be awakened midnight once the attack begins. In terms of lower abdomen pain and cramps in women, most of them are closely associated with gynecological disorders. The causes vary form person to person, such as inflammation, menses, ovulation, biomorphoses, tumor, pregnancy, acute appendicitis, ectopic pregnancy, mittelschmerz, or pelvic inflammatory disease. Furthermore, this symptom is very common to most individuals during pregnancy, but also have exception.
In summary, the following conditions are always accompanied with crampy abdominal pain.
- Endometriosis is one of the most common gynaecological diseases, which characterizes intense pain during periods and mild cramping right before menstruation;
- Acute enteritis features cramping pain, accompanied with dizziness, abdominal distension, and persistent diarrhea or constipation;
- Interstitial Cystitis has main symptoms like lower middle abdomen pain, often accompanied with urinary difficulty and frequent urination;
- Ovarian cyst also results in lower abdominal cramps during a workout;
- Persistent or intermittent pain would be found after abortion due to intra-uterine bleeding, incomplete abortion, perforation of uterus, or postsurgical infection;
- Menstrual cramps can cause this symptom too, which is a normal physiological phenomenon in female. It comes and goes following the rhythm of menses. So, don’t abuse pain killers and you should take them only under a doctor’s supervision if necessary.
What is Bai Shao Yao or White Peony Root?
It was recorded first in “Shen Nong’s Materia Medica”, and classified into Bai and Chi Shao Yao since Tao Hongjing. Currently, in terms of medicinal purpose, the former is mostly cultivated while the latter mostly grows in the wild.
Also known as Paeonia sterniana Fletcher in Journ. in the west, the plant belongs to Paeonia genus of ranunculus family, which has been cultivated in China for a long time. It is a perennial herb or subshrub, 50 to 80cm in height, with thick cylinder-shaped, or spindle-shaped sometimes, tuberous root, erect glabrous stem, and sole big flower at the top of cauline branches.
It is collected in Summer and Autumn when it is 3 or 4 years old, rootstalk and fibril removed, washed clean, tertia peeled, slightly cooked in boiling water till turn soft, and dried in the sun. The dried one is cylindrical, straight, in uniform thickness, 10 to 20cm long, and 1 to 1.8cm in diameter. The surface is light reddish brown or pink, flat, or with obvious vertical wrinkles and fibril scars, visible darkbrown blackspot in remnant corkbark, and crosswise lenticels sometimes. Cross section is off-white or slightly brown, with chrysanthemum-heart shaped linear texture in xylem. It is odorless, slightly bitter and sour in taste. By the way, medicinally the preferred one is thick, even, solid, powdery, and clean.
Property and indications
From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), it is bitter, sour, sweet, and slightly cold and covers meridians of spleen and liver.
Main functions are to nourish blood and soothe liver, regulate menstrual problems, mitigate the severity to stop pain, preserve Yin to hold back sweating. Main usage and indications are pain and cramping in lower abdomen, chest, and flanks, abdominal pain due to dysentery, spontaneous perspiration, night sweat, fever caused by deficiency of Yin, menstrual dysfunction, uterine bleeding, and vaginal discharge, etc.
Regular dosage is 10 to 15 grams in decoction.
Possible side effects or contraindications
Bai Shao alone is not recommended for people who are suffering from deficiency-cold due to its cold nature. In other words, it is not suitable for pains in the lower abdomen and diarrhea due to deficiency and cold in middle burner. In addition, children suffering from measles and those who are taking Li Lu (Veratrum Root) should avoid it as well.
Related herbal formulas treat cramps in lower abdomen
As mentioned, this herb treats plenty of conditions. But according to TCM theory, usually it needs to combine with other herbs to increase some certain effect while reduce some other possible risks. This is kind of art and will take years, if not decades, before mastering the rules well. Of course, there are always footprints available in some masters’ formulas, which is the short cut for beginners. Here are some representative herbal formulas for your reference.
(1). Shao Yao Tang, from Su Wen Bing Ji Bao Ming Ji, treats this symptom caused by dysentery with bloody and purulent stools. Other herbs are Dang Gui (Dong Quai), Huang Lian (Coptis Rhizome), Bing Lang (Betel Nut, Areca Seeds), Mu Xiang (Costus Root), Gan Cao (Licorice), Da Huang (Rhubarb), Huang Qin (Baical Skullcap Root, Scutellaria), and Guan Gui (Cortex Cinnamomi Cassiae, cinnamon bark);
(2). Dang Gui Shao Yao San, from Jin Gui Yao Lue (Essential Prescriptions of the Golden Coffer), is designed for the sharp pattern in women. Other herbs are Dang Gui (Dong Quai), Fu Ling (Poria), Bai Zhu (Atractylodes (White) Rhizome), Ze Xie (Water Plantain Root), and Chuan Xiong (Szechuan Lovage Root);
(3). Shao Yao Tang, from Zhu Shi Ji Yan Yi Fang (Classification of Zhu’s Experiential Prescriptions), treats flank pains in women. Other herbs are Xiang Fu Zi (Cyperus rotundus rhizome), Rou Gui (Dried Cinnamon Bark), and Yan Hu Suo (Corydalis Rhizome);
(4). Shao Yao Tang, from Sheng Ji Zhong Lu (The Complete Record of Holy Benevolence), is used for the pattern due to heart infringement by blood-Qi after childbirth. Other individual herbs are Rou Gui (Dried Cinnamon Bark) and Zhi Gan Cao (Honey-fried Licorice).