What is an Antispasmodic?
Simply put, an antispasmodic is a drug, herb, or other supplement that reduces or eliminates muscle spasms. Antispasmodics can be targeted for different parts of the body and different muscle types (smooth or skeletal), but they are most commonly used to treat spasms of the stomach, intestines, bladder, or the skeletal muscles. Additionally, antispasmodics used to treat uterine cramps or spasms have grown in popularity as well. Over the centuries, many herbs as well as some foods have traditionally been used as antispasmodics, and they are typically administered orally, although there are a few exceptions where the antispasmodic can be used topically.
How do Antispasmodics Work?
In many parts of the body, such as the intestines for example, muscle spasms are a common occurrence. In the intestinal example, when food normally enters the gut, the intestines are signaled to expand and contract to move and process food through the digestive system. However, certain conditions, like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) for example, are characterized by an over occurrence of uncomfortable, or even debilitating muscle spasms. Antispasmodics work by blocking the receptors in the intestines (or any other part of the body for that matter) that would normally cause spasms and pain. Not all spasms are normal occurrences, and they may be a result of injury or disease. However, antispasmodics may also work for those conditions as well.
List of the Best Antispasmodic Herbs and Supplements
The flowers of this plant are popularly consumed in teas to treat gastrointestinal conditions. As such, it is a popular antispasmodic used to treat IBS. A study performed in 2012 showed that it contains pigenin, alpha-bisabolol, and cisspiroethers, which are all known antispasmodic compounds. Chamomile is a virtually harmless herb, and drinking 1-2 cups of chamomile tea daily can help to sooth the digestive muscles.
Dang Gui or Dong Quai has been known to have antispasmodic properties. These results were shown inn animal and in vitro studies. The reason it is thought to have it’s antispasmodic effects is due to a compound called butylidenephthalide. Further testing on humans is needed in order to confirm these results with certainty.
Although research is lacking, many people swear by the antispasmodic properties of Corydalis root. This plant is native to several Asian countries, and as such it has been used for centuries as a Traditional Chinese medicine designed to not only treat muscle spasms but many other conditions related to pain. When used as an antispasmodic, it relaxes the muscles associated with uterus during menstruation. It is recommended to take between 5-10 g of dried plant material when treating muscle spasms. Alternatively, it can be taken as an extract with a dosage of 2 droppers 2-3 times daily.
This plant goes by many other names including cranberry tree, European cranberry bush, guelder rose, pembina, proanthocyanidins, and snowball tree, and traditional medicinal practices dictate its use in treating cramps. However, research performed in the 1970s shows that this plant also contains a compound called viopudial which is known to reduce muscle spasms on smooth muscle tissue found in the intestines. This hints at the possibility that it could treat spasms of the stomach or intestines. However, there has been no research performed since this preliminary study, and animal studies and clinical trials are still needed. There is currently no known proper dosage for this medicinal herb as an antispasmodic, although supplements are available.
In Central and South America, feverfew has been used as an effective antispasmodic for centuries. Although it has not been clinically tested yet, many people claim it benefits those who suffer from IBS, and it can also help with uterus spasms during menstruation. Some suggest it works as an antispasmodic because it has similar properties to chamomile, which is its close botanical relative. To use feverfew as an antispasmodic, it is suggested to either take capsules of up to 85 mg or to make a tea using ½ to 1 teaspoon of feverfew leaves daily.
The leaves of this plant are one of the few that can be used as an external antispasmodic treatment. It is suggested to take the leaves and infuse them with oil. Following this, the oil can be massaged into the muscles to reduce spasms and twitching. This plant can also be made into a tea which is said to soothe stomach and menstrual cramps. Although this herb has not been the focus of research or clinical trials, it has been used for thousands of years, with its earliest use documented by the Ancient Greeks and Romans. When taken as an oral supplement, up to 500 mg can be taken daily.
Kava Kava is one of the most popular and widely used herbal muscle relaxers available today. Kava Kava is touted as one of the most powerful antispasmodics as well, and it has a variety of other benefits. It is used to treat skin discoloration, dizziness, anxiety, depression, and headaches in addition to spasms. Although research on this herb is limited to its anti-anxiety effects, many people swear by its antispasmodic properties. It is popularly used by body builders to relax the skeletal muscles. The recommended dosage is 500 mg 3-6 times daily.
This flower was first used by Native American tribes because it could soothe and relax the nervous system, and it later became popular among European settlers and physicians. As is became more popular among physicians, many prescribed it to reduce spasms caused by menstruation or to reduce spasms in the lungs brought on by severe coughing episodes. Clinical trials have not been conducted yet that support its use as an antispasmodic, but other studies show that is does have sedative properties (a clinical trial in 2005 showed it had calming effects on children with ADHD). However, many continue to use and swear by Passionflower’s antispasmodic effects.
Peppermint oil has been used as a traditional antispasmodic medicine for the treatment of IBS. In 1998, researchers studied the effects of peppermint oil on IBS through a series of five clinical trials. Their results showed that peppermint oil was possibly effective as an IBS antispasmodic, but they recommended further study. Following this, researchers from Tokyo performed another clinal trial in 2003, but they administered the peppermint oil endoscopically. Their results showed that peppermint oil was not only effective as an antispasmodic in the gastro-intestinal tract, but it has few (if any) side effects. Those who take peppermint oil for antispasmodic treatment take capsules which are available at different dosages. It is very important to follow the dosage instructions for the brand of peppermint oil being ingested, however up to 1,200 mg of peppermint oil has been used to treat IBS. Peppermint teas are also available and effective for calming the intestines.
This leafy plant has been used for centuries as an antispasmodic and a muscle relaxer. Several experimental studies performed in the 2000s have isolated compounds that are known to have antispasmodic effects. However, skullcap itself has not been tested for its antispasmodic properties in animal studies or human clinical trials yet. Alternatively, it has been tested for its anti-anxiety properties, which does show that skull cap is safe to ingest. When using skullcap for its antispasmodic properties, it is suggested to make a tea which contains up to 25 g of dried skullcap leaves, and this tea should calm the skeletal muscles or relax uterine cramps.
Valerian Root is known to relax both smooth and skeletal muscles. It is a popular herbal remedy in Europe used to treat abdominal cramps brought on by IBS or menstruation. In 2005 a study was performed on rabbits and guinea pigs that showed that Valerian Root significantly reduced spasms of the digestive muscles. Although no clinical trials have been conducted yet, these initial results show that it may be an effective antispasmodic that can be used to treat IBS or the stomach. Other studies showing its effectiveness as an anti-anxiety and anti-insomnia treatment suggest that anywhere from 150-600 mg of Valerian Root can be taken per day.
List of Antispasmodic Foods
Oils and salves made from cayenne peppers are a popular option for relaxing the skeletal muscles and reducing muscle spasms. Many find it particularly helpful in reducing lower back pain. Although it may take several weeks of repeated use and massaging, cayenne pepper balms increase the blood flow to the affected area and reduce the pain associated with tense, muscle spasms.
This common household food is a popular choice for soothing the stomach, and it has other positive health benefits such as reducing cholesterol and lowering blood sugar levels. Eating 2-3 cloves of garlic a day is all that is needed to reap these health benefits, however be careful about over consumption. Eating too much garlic can actually upset the stomach and can also compound the effects of blood thinners.
Although grapefruit is often known for its other health benefits such as lowering cholesterol and cleansing the kidneys, parts of the fruit are also thought to have antispasmodic properties. The rind and the seeds contain oils and extracts that can treat muscle fatigue and spasms when used externally. There is no recommended dosage, but grapefruits are safe to apply and ingest unless you are allergic.
Licorice has been used around the world as a popular flavoring extract, but it also boasts medicinal properties as well. Several studies conducted in China in the 2000s and 2010s have isolated compounds found in licorice root that are known to be effective in treating stomach cramps, IBS, and Crohn’s Disease. Other, small-scale studies have shown that it has antispasmodic effect in the digestive system of mice and rats, however no human clinical trials have been performed.
This citrus fruit has been used in Traditional Chinese medicinal practices to reduce stomach cramps, treat IBS, and prevent menstrual spasms. To reduce muscle spasms, it is suggested to combine tangerines with peonies in a tea. Otherwise, applications and uses are similar to that of grapefruits. Although tangerines are the most popular and potent antispasmodic of the orange varieties, many other oranges also have the same antispasmodic properties.