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Extra Virgin Olive Oil More Effective than Ibuprofen in Treating Menstrual Pain
article published on 06/05/2016

Daily doses of extra virgin olive oil taken two weeks prior to the menstrual cycle is more effective at reducing pain severity than common NSAID ibuprofen.

Moderate to severe menstrual pain, otherwise known as primary dysmenorrhea, is a common problem for women of all ages. However, it is more common in the teenage years than among women 25 years of age and over.

Menstrual pain results in loss of school and work hours, along with personal and social relationship issues. Therefore, chemical treatments such as the oral contraceptive pill and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen are commonly used to relieve pain symptoms. Unfortunately, chemical treatments do come with side effects, which some people cannot tolerate and which may not be a viable long-term option for young women.

In a single-blinded crossover trial, published in Scholars Research Library, sixty female students between 17-30 years who suffered moderate to severe menstrual pain, with a pain severity above four on the VAS score, were evaluated over six consecutive periods. The first month established the baseline VAS score, with each group undergoing two different interventions for a period of two months, with a four-week washout period in the middle of the trial.

Group one took 25 mLs of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) for two months, starting the dosage two weeks before the beginning of each menstrual cycle. After the four-week washout cycle, they were given 400 mg ibuprofen three times per day during the first three days of menstruation. Group two received the same treatment but in opposite terms, ibuprofen during the first two cycles, then EVOO for subsequent cycles after the washout period. Pain severity data was logged for the first three days of each of the menstrual cycles.
There was no difference in pain severity between groups at baseline, an average 6.7 VAS score. However, the difference in pain severity was significantly different during the interventions, decreasing to 3.8 for the ibuprofen group and 1.1 for the EVOO group. There was also a significant difference between the groups for the first two cycles. The group taking ibuprofen during the first two cycles had a pain severity score of 4.7 for month one and 3.8 for month two. While the group taking EVOO during the first two cycles had a pain severity score of 2.4 and 1.4 for the two consecutive cycles.

Extra virgin olive oil is well known for its anti-inflammatory capacity. Previous studies have shown that oleocanthal, a polyphenol in EVOO, suppresses prostaglandin (an inflammatory molecule) production along the same pathways as ibuprofen at a rate of approximately 10 percent the capacity. It has also been shown that daily EVOO intake does have a cumulative effect on the production of pro-inflammatory molecules.

Until recently no other studies have explored if EVOO could be a viable alternative to ibuprofen in treating menstrual pain. As this study shows, taking 25 mL EVOO two weeks before the menstrual cycle does appear to significantly decrease pain. This is wonderful news for women who suffer with such pain because EVOO is a safe, natural alternative that can be used by a majority of individuals without ingesting chemicals and having to suffer the accompanying side effects, yet still providing much-needed pain relief.