Red Wine: The New Midol?

Sticking with the theme of women’s health for the week, today’s post reviews an article that was recently published in the journal, Endocrinology, by a group of researchers in China led by Shih-Min Hsia.  Using a rat model, the group examined whether resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, has therapeutic effects on uterine contractions for those women suffering from dysmenorrhea.

Dysmenorrhea, otherwise known as painful menses, affects between 72-90% of women in the United States, as well as 58% of women in China, 34% of women in Japan, and 73% of women in Taiwan.  Common symptoms of dysmenorrhea include cramps and lower abdominal pain, and sometimes nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache, dizziness, and back pain.  Though dysmenorrhea affects an enormous number of women worldwide, the exact cause of it is still unknown.  There are several possible suspects, of which may be working in concert with each other as opposed to one single cause alone.  It is believed that one potential pathogenic factor involved in dysmenorrhea is Prostaglandin (PGF).  Studies have shown that PG is elevated in women with primary dysmenorrhea, compared to those women who do not have the condition.  It is thought that PGF stimulates uterine contraction and vasoconstriction, which may lead to the pain associated with dysmenorrhea.

Enter: Resveratrol

Studies have found that resveratrol, a compound found in red wine, is a strong antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory, anti-platelet aggregation, anti-proliferation of cancer, and vasorelaxation properties.  It is thought, that because of these benefits, that resveratrol may be a potential aid in relieving some of the symptoms of dysmenorrhea.  However, no studies to date have observed this effect in both in vitro (laboratory setting) and in vivo (in an animal model), and therefore extremely little is known about the actual effect of resveratrol on uterine contraction and the symptoms of dysmenorrhea. 

Methods (very abridged)

For the in vitro studies, uterine horns from female rats were used.  After preparing the uterine horns, those that received the resveratrol treatment received doses of 10, 25, 50, 75, or 100 μM at 10 minute intervals.  Contractile activity of the uterine horns after resveratrol or control (no resveratrol) treatments were measured using force displacement transducers.  Various compounds that are known to induce uterine contractions were measured and tested for effects of resveratrol on their activity.  The exact treatments for each test were: 1) PGF, or PGF  plus resveratrol; 2) Oxytocin, or Oxytocin plus resveratrol; 3) Ach, or Ach plus resveratrol; 4) carbachol, or carbachol plus resveratrol ; 5) KCL or Bay K, or KCL or Bay K plus resveratrol.

For the in vivo studies, female rats were used.  They were housed and fed using standard approved housing and dietary guidelines.  After confirming that the rats were in estrous stage, they were given either PGF , or PGF plus resveratrol via a jugular catheter.  This allowed researchers to evaluate PGF-induced uterine contractions on rats and if resveratrol had any effect on the reaction.


  •       Exposure of rat uterine smooth muscle tissue to resveratrol inhibited PGF-induced contractions in a dose-dependent manner.

o   Interestingly, this inhibition could be reversed if the tissue was washed of any resveratrol and reanalyzed.

  •       Resveratrol was found to have an inhibitory effect on oxytocin-induced contractions (both force and frequency) for all doses. 

  •       Resveratrol was found to have an inhibitory effect on Ach-induced contractions (both force and frequency) for all doses.

  •       Resveratrol was found to have an inhibitory effect on carbachol (10-6 M)-induced contractions (both force and frequency) for all doses.

  •       Exposure of rat uterine smooth muscle tissue to resveratrol inhibited K-induced contractions in a dose-dependent manner.

  •       For in-vivo conditions, resveratrol treatments significantly reduced the PGF-induced contractions in female rats.

What does this all mean?

It is pretty clear and very promising, that all of the contraction-inducing compounds were inhibited by the presence of resveratrol.  In other words, the administration of resveratrol significantly reduced uterine contractions, caused by several known uterine contraction inducers.  The results of this study, the first of its kind, indicate that resveratrol may be a valid and effective treatment for addressing the pain symptoms of dysmenorrhea, which is likely caused by contractions of the uterine wall.

One thing to keep in mind is that this study was done on rats, and not humans.  Of course, being the first study of its kind, the animal model is always the best first approach.  At the very least, we can say with confidence that resveratrol is an effective treatment for dysmenorrhea in rats, but may or may not be for humans.  Human trials would need to be completed in order to completely answer this question, but the results of the rat model experiments prove very promising for a human model as well.

Another thing to keep in mind is that it is not fully known or clear of the exact cause of dysmenorrhea.  It is assumed to be related to uterine contractions; however, if there is more involved, we cannot be fully certain if resveratrol would in fact be an effective treatment.  The only thing we could truly say with confidence is that resveratrol inhibits uterine contractions, which we may then make further implications for potential dysmenorrhea treatment.

Finally, is the dose of resveratrol administered to the rats in this study a reasonable dose for humans (after controlling for body size)?  The maximum dose administered to the rats in the in vivo study was 2mg per rat.  Translating that to a 60kg human, a 2mg dose for a rat is equivalent to a dose of 0.324mg for a human.  Based on the amount of resveratrol known to be in a glass of red wine, one to two drinks of red wine daily would achieve the same effects seen in this study.

This is potentially great news for women who suffer from painful dysmenorrhea.  Instead of taking over-the-counter or prescription drugs to help with the pain, maybe all that is needed is a glass or two of red wine every night!  Of course, more studies need to be done, particularly human studies, but the results of this one-of-a-kind study are promising.×199.jpg

I’d love to hear from you all!  Please feel free to comment below with your thoughts!
I am not a health professional, nor do I pretend to be. Please consult your doctor before altering your alcohol consumption habits. Do not consume alcohol if you are under the age of 21. Do not drink and drive. Enjoy responsibly!

2 comments for “Red Wine: The New Midol?

  1. ruthy
    December 27, 2011 at 10:33 am

    hi my name is ruth from kenya and i have the worst dysmenorrhoea for the longest time now, i have tried everything, seen all the doctors gone throught stranious regimens but all for nought. i actually dread my menses! i dont know what to do. yesterday i had three glasses of red wine and i bearly slept am still weak from the vomitting this problem is affecting my life and i thought that it could have been the wine….am afraid i will loose my job because of the absense….this pain is ruining me and am looking every where. will keep on checking your page for any updates. i need help!

  2. December 27, 2011 at 2:42 pm

    Hi Ruthy,

    I'm so sorry that you are in so much pain and misery.

    I highly recommend seeing your doctor for updates and help, as this is just a wine blog, I can not help you the way you need to be helped. I hope that you will continue seeing doctors and not rely on this site to help get you through it. I am not a doctor and you should not alter your drinking habits solely based on one study. The results of this study may not be applicable to every single person, so I highly highly highly recommend continuing to go to doctors.

    I am happy you enjoyed this post, however again, as I mentioned at the end of the post, I am not a doctor and please consult your doctor before changing your drinking habits.

    I hope you find yourself pain free soon, and please don't rely on me to find an answer for you, as you will not find it here (only with your doctor).

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