Seventeen days. Then twenty-five days. Worse still, sometimes, entire months (yes, plural) pass before that familiar blotch of rust-red appears on your underwear. Health experts maintain that it’s perfectly normal for the menstrual cycle length to vary slightly from month to month (1, 2, 3). But how would you know exactly when your variation crosses the line from "slight" to "irregular"?
Because here’s the thing: irregular periods aren’t simply a source of anxiety (“What if my period comes while I’m on vacation?”) Spine-chillingly, they’re also linked to a higher risk of major chronic diseases, including ovarian cancer, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and mental health problems (4). And, yes, they could also affect your fertility (5, 6).
So, in this article, we answer the two questions likely weighing heavy on your mind right now:
- What’s an “irregular period”?
- Is there anything you could do to regulate irregular periods naturally without resorting to hormone medication?
Do you have irregular periods?
Log the first day of your period on your calendar or preferred period tracker app over a few months (ideally, at least six months). Note: a menstrual cycle is counted from the first day of a period to the first day of the next. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), your period is irregular if it tends to (7):
- Come more frequently than every 21 days or less often than every 35 days and/or
- Vary by more than seven days from cycle to cycle (e.g., if one cycle is 25 days and the next is 34 days, your cycles would be considered irregular)
Okay, so your cycles are determinedly irregular … what’s next? If you’d prefer to give hormone medications a wide berth—they are associated with side effects like nausea, fatigue, and elevated blood pressure—don’t despair (8, 9, 10). There are five natural remedies you could try that may help regulate your periods.
Here’s one more reason not to stash away that bottle of cinnamon powder once Christmas has passed: several studies show that this golden-yellow spice is worth its weight in gold when it comes to menstrual cycle regulation (11, 12).
Take this 2014 randomized controlled trial published in Research Gynecology, for example (13). After six months, the researchers found that participants who took cinnamon experienced a significant improvement in menstrual cyclicity (i.e., regularity) than those in the placebo group.
But … how? It may all come down to insulin, a hormone created by your pancreas that regulates your blood glucose levels. See: while scientists aren't 100% sure why, high insulin levels can interact with menstruation-regulation hormones, leading to irregular periods (14, 15). So, researchers hypothesize that cinnamon's ability to improve insulin sensitivity could lower insulin levels, promoting a more regular menstrual cycle (16, 17, 18).
Recommended dosage: Ranges from 120 to 6,000 milligrams daily (19)
Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), estrogen, luteinizing hormone (LH), and progesterone are four key hormones that coexist in a delicate balance to keep your periods regular (20). If the levels of any one hormone go out of whack, your menstrual cycle will, too. And where does turmeric fit into this?
As it turns out, research shows that curcumin, a bioactive compound found in turmeric, modulates estrogen receptivity in many tissues, including the uterus, cervix, and breast (21). In that sense, by moderating your body’s estrogen levels, turmeric could help maintain the hormonal balance necessary for regular periods.
Recommended dosage (curcumin): 1.4 mg per pound of body weight daily (22)
#3: Black cohosh (Actea racemosa)
Black cohosh, also known as snakeroot or rattleweed, is a flowering plant native to North America (23, 24). While most used commonly to ease menopause symptoms—from hot flashes to night sweats to vaginal dryness—black cohosh also appears to help with promoting regular periods (25, 26, 27). Scientists believe this herb works by increasing estrogen, LH, and FSH levels (all menstruation-regulating hormones).
How effective is black cohosh, though? We can look to a 2013 study published in the European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Biology for answers (28). In it, the researchers randomly assigned participants with PCOS into two groups:
- Group 1: 100 mg of clomiphene citrate (a fertility medication) daily for five days
- Group 2: 20 mg of black cohosh extract daily for ten days
Following treatment, the researchers found that black cohosh extract supplementation significantly improved the participants' LH levels—to a degree comparable to that observed with clomiphene citrate. The paper's conclusion sums it up perfectly: black cohosh extract "… can be used as an alternative to clomiphene citrate for ovulation induction in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome”.
Recommended dosage: 20 to 120 mg of standardized extract daily (29)
#4: Chasteberry (vitex agnus-castus)
Remember how we said four key hormones are involved in menstrual cycle regulation? Well, there’s a fifth (and final, we promise!) you need to know about: prolactin (30). It's responsible for lactation, certain breast tissue development, and other bodily processes. Prolactin levels are normally low in non-lactating and non-pregnant people.
However, there may be instances (e.g., prolactinoma or consumption of certain medications) where your prolactin levels become abnormally elevated even though you're not pregnant or breastfeeding. When this happens, your levels of estrogen and progesterone could plummet … and, at this point, you should be familiar with what that’ll cause. Yep. Irregular periods (31, 32).
Recommended dosage: Depends on how the supplement is prepared (follow the product dosing recommendations on product labels) (36)
#5: Adopt healthier lifestyle habits
In addition to spices and herbs, the last natural remedy you could try is living a healthier lifestyle.
Eat a nutritionally balanced diet
If you’re trying to lose weight, be careful not to go overboard with lowering your calorie and/or carbohydrate intake. That's because eating too few calories and/or carbohydrates sends your body the signal that insufficient energy is available (37, 38). As a result, many crucial menstrual-cycle-regulating hormones, like FSH and LH, will drop.
It's not just macronutrients you need to pay attention to, either. Ideally, you should also get enough of the following through your diet:
- Vitamin D: According to this 2021 study published in the International Journal of Reproductive BioMedicine, a lower vitamin D level is associated with 13.3 times the odds of having an irregular cycle (39). The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends an average daily intake of 400 to 800 IU or 10 to 20 micrograms (40). So if you don't eat fish, have access to sunlight, or are worried about vitamin D deficiency, consider getting yourself a dietary supplement, like Dr. Danielle’s Vitamin D3 + B12 Gummies.
- Vitamin B12: Since vitamin B12 helps the body form red blood cells, it’s easy to understand why its deficiency could cause menstrual irregularities (periods involve blood loss) (41). The recommended daily amount of vitamin B12 is 2.4 micrograms (42). Vitamin B12 is naturally found in foods of animal origins. So, those who follow a plant-based diet face a higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency; the same goes for those with an MTHFR gene mutation (43, 44, 45). If you're worried about a potential vitamin B12 deficiency, dietary supplements (*ahem* Dr. Danielle’s Organic Vitamin B12) are always an option.
Get regular exercise (but not too much)
Sticking to a regular exercise routine could help you maintain a healthy weight—which is associated with menstrual regularity (46). That said, don't overdo it. Intense exercise could interrupt the balance of hormones that regulate your menstrual cycle (47). This can cause you to bleed when you're not on your period, have a lighter flow than normal, or stop having a flow completely.
Ideally, you should stick to the recommendations outlined in the current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans: every week, get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and two days of muscle-strengthening activity (48).
Practice stress management
When you're stressed, your body releases a hormone called cortisol (49). Unfortunately, high cortisol levels could make your hypothalamus stop producing the hormones that initiate the menstrual cycle (50, 51). So, to promote regular periods, keeping your cortisol levels low, low, low will be helpful.
Anytime you feel those stress levels creeping back up, some useful stress-relief techniques to tamp them back down include practicing meditation, connecting with loved ones, and incorporating aromatherapy into your day (52). Or, if you’re looking for something that’ll work in the snap of your fingers, why not give Dr. Danielle’s Zen Bliss a go?
When should you see a doctor about your irregular periods?
Trying out the five natural remedies in this article is an excellent first step if you want to regulate your periods without hormone medication. But if you don’t see any resulting improvement in menstrual regularity and/or experience the following:
- Heavier than normal bleeding or clotting
- Bleeding between periods and/or after sex
- Periods that last longer than seven to eight days
- You haven’t had a period for a while (around three to six months)
- Periods are closer or further apart than usual
… then you may wish to consult your primary healthcare provider to rule out any serious underlying medical conditions like uterine cancer, pituitary disorders that affect hormonal balance, or pregnancy-associated complications (e.g., miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy).