An undergrad’s Middle Eastern-flavored snacks that aim to minimize menstrual cramps are available at Cornell Health’s pharmacy and will be available in the spring at five Gimme! Coffee locations in the Ithaca area.
Armita Jamshidi ’25 adapted her grandmother Shayesteh’s period-soothing recipes to make Cramp Bites, a combination of dates, tahini, walnuts and Middle Eastern spices that she sells through her company, Aunt Flo’s Kitchen.
Jamshidi, who is studying women’s health and computer science as a Harrison College Scholar in the College of Arts and Sciences, came up with the idea for Aunt Flo’s Kitchen when she participated in W.E. Cornell. Tasked with developing a business idea, she drew inspiration from her struggles with period cramps, and the lack of satisfaction she received after using medicinal treatments such as Advil and birth control.
Her idea received an Epperson Entrepreneurial Grant from W.E. Cornell in 2022. That summer, as part of the Laidlaw Leadership and Research Program, she conducted a pilot study with 12 participants assessing the efficacy of Cramp Bites and found that most participants who had the snack reported a decrease in pain as compared to those who had a placebo snack. All 12 participants who sampled the Cramp Bites reported a decrease in both types of cramps that come with periods: deep, dull aches known as congestive cramps, and sharp, sporadic pain called spasmodic cramps.
Jamshidi was recently selected for Entrepreneurship at Cornell’s 2023-24 eLab, a student-business accelerator, and plans to bootstrap the business after graduation. “I want to pursue the business,” she said. “I like the risk and that’s what drives me.”
She hopes Aunt Flo’s Kitchen will stand out as an example of the power of entrepreneurship to address women’s health issues.
Despite that focus, the sweet treats are for everyone. Jamshidi said her male consumer base is growing, especially among runners who enjoy Aunt Flo’s products as bite-sized energy supplements. Other customers have told Jamshidi that her Cramp Bites are so delicious that they can’t wait until their periods to devour a pack, she said.
Jamshidi is mindful not to box women into a one-size-fits-all solution and instead is addressing period cramps from a holistic perspective, she said. “The last thing I want to do is provide another solution for women that doesn’t work.” There is no singular solution to menstrual cramps, but “this is a Middle Eastern delicacy, and if you believe in food as medicine, it’s worth a shot,” she said.
The Cramp Bites are made by many members of Jamshidi’s family. In North Carolina, her parents prepare the base, roll it in pistachio, rose or sesame, package it and ship it to her.
While Aunt Flo’s Kitchen is currently family-operated, Jamshidi has big plans for the future. She envisions sponsoring individuals from Middle Eastern countries to work in the U.S., providing fair wages and fostering a sustainable business model. She also hopes to expand her product line to tackle other health issues, like headaches and fatigue.
Hannah Mitchell is a communications assistant for the College of Arts and Sciences.