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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2014, Article ID 296860, 11 pages
Review Article

A Review of In Vitro and In Vivo Studies on the Efficacy of Herbal Medicines for Primary Dysmenorrhea

Department of Korean Medicine Obstetrics & Gynecology, College of Korean Medicine, Kyung Hee University, 26 Kyungheedae-ro, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul 130-701, Republic of Korea

Received 9 May 2014; Revised 11 October 2014; Accepted 13 October 2014; Published 5 November 2014

Academic Editor: Yuping Tang

Copyright © 2014 Kyoung-Sun Park et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Purpose. Primary dysmenorrhea (PD) is a common gynecological complaint among adolescent girls and women of reproductive age. This study aims to review the findings of published articles on the in vitro and in vivo efficacy of herbal medicines for PD. Methods. In vitro and in vivo studies of herbal compounds, individual herbal extracts, or herbal formula decoctions published from their inception to April 2014 were included in this review. Results. A total of 18 studies involving herbal medicines exhibited their inhibitory effect on PD. The majority of in vitro studies investigated the inhibition of uterine contractions. In vivo studies suggest that herbal medicines exert a peripheral analgesic effect and a possible anti-inflammatory activity via the inhibition of prostaglandin (PG) synthesis. The mechanisms of herbal medicines for PD are associated with PG level reduction, suppression of cyclooxygenase-2 expression, superoxide dismutase activation and malondialdehyde reduction, nitric oxide, inducible nitric oxide synthase, and nuclear factor-kappa B reduction, stimulation of somatostatin receptor, intracellular Ca2+ reduction, and recovery of phospholipid metabolism. Conclusions. Herbal medicines are thought to be promising sources for the development of effective therapeutic agents for PD. Further investigations on the appropriate herbal formula and their constituents are recommended.