Women using cannabis to help with pain is not a recent phenomenon. Texts describing the use of cannabis for this first appeared in China in 2900BC. Queen Victoria reportedly relied on cannabis for her menstrual cramps, as directed by her royal physician. Today, however, most women rely on medications such as Advil or Tylenol to get through menstrual cramps. Taking these once in a while can’t harm, but taking them month after month can take its toll on the organs. This is why wellness experts are exploring newer alternatives to ease menstrual cramps, including CBD oil. Before we explore CBD and menstrual cramps, let’s first delve into menstrual cramps alone.
Why do menstrual cramps occur?
The uterus sheds its lining every month if pregnancy does not occur. In order for the lining to shed, the muscular wall of the uterus must contract frequently. This sets off a chain of reactions: blood vessels that line the uterus start to compress, blood and oxygen supply is reduced, and chemicals that trigger pain are released, along with certain hormones. Some of these hormones, like prostaglandins, for instance, cause the uterine muscles to contract even more, which causes more pain. But there’s still a lot about period pain that we don’t know yet. Research still hasn’t uncovered why exactly some women experience much more pain than others during their period. There are several theories, though. It could be because of a buildup of prostaglandins causing stronger contractions. Women who smoke may also experience more pain during their periods, as well as women with a family history of period pain. Menstrual cramps also seem to reach their highest intensity in the teens and twenties and may improve after giving birth.
Can CBD oil help with menstrual cramps?
Many women take CBD oil to help reduce menstrual cramps. Before we can get into whether or not it works, we need a little background info:
What is CBD?
Anecdotal evidence suggests that CBD for menstrual cramps can be helpful, but it’s always good to understand what a compound is before you start taking it. CBD or cannabidiol is a compound extracted from hemp. When ingested, CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system or ECS in the body. The ECS restores balance to the other major organ systems of the body and also regulates inflammation, pain, and stress.
CBD and menstrual cramps
While CBD may not eliminate menstrual cramps, it might be able to reduce the severity of them by reducing inflammation. Even though the shedding of the uterine lining is not an inflammatory response, repeated contractions of the walls can lead to excess inflammation and therefore excess pain. Taking CBD during menstruation could provide some relief in that area. A healthy endocannabinoid system can also reduce pain responses by lowering nerve signaling. Studies have also shown that some conditions that lead to extreme pain while menstruating correlate with low levels of endocannabinoids.
But it’s not just the pain that can make some women dread their period. Nausea and diarrhea can also accompany menstruation, making it difficult to function properly. Studies show that supporting the endocannabinoid system can reduce nausea and lower inflammation in the bowels that leads to diarrhea.
CBD and PMS
We’ve discussed the benefits of CBD for menstrual cramps, but taking CBD for PMS is so popular that it deserves a mention too. PMS or premenstrual syndrome is caused by hormonal changes leading up to the period in the luteal phase of a woman’s cycle. The most commonly discussed symptom of PMS is mood swings, leading to inexplicable sadness or stress before the start of the period. The ECS has the ability to regulate the production of neurotransmitters in the brain, and supporting it with CBD could make mood swings less extreme. Other symptoms of PMS include acne breakouts and tender breasts, both of which CBD might be able to help with. As an anti-inflammatory agent, it could slow down the growth of inflammatory breakouts, and if applied topically, could bring balance to sebum production in the skin. CBD also regulates the vanilloid receptor that modulates pain perception, which is why it could help with generalized muscle soreness. Using CBD for PMS is common among women biohackers.
How to use CBD for menstrual cramps
The best way to take CBD for menstrual cramps is to take it every day – whether you’re on your period or not. It takes a while for the body to start responding to CBD – anywhere from a day to a few weeks, depending on the individual endocannabinoid system. If you’re already taking vitamins, it’s easy to just add CBD capsules to your daily intake of wellness products. For strong and fast-acting pain relief during your period, vaping may provide the best results. Vaping is the most bioavailable form of CBD and also gets to work the fastest. Microdosing CBD by taking a few puffs as needed through the day could ease some menstrual discomfort. But really, any form of CBD will work just fine: drops taken sublingually or even topically applied CBD could help with the pain. There have been some reports of the success of applying CBD oil to a tampon before insertion, but this could be downright unsafe. Not only is it unlikely to work since the tampon would absorb most of the oil, but it could also upset the sensitive acidity and bacterial flora of the vagina.
The world is now taking note of the many benefits that CBD and cannabis hold for menstrual cramps, with some states considering adding it to the list of approved medical conditions that cannabis could treat. The ways that CBD could help with menstrual cramps and period pain make it a compelling alternative to painkillers, or could at the very least reduce the number of painkillers required. As any woman with painful cramps would confirm, any help is much appreciated!
1. Reynolds, J. Russell, 1890. Therapeutic Uses and Toxic Effects of Cannabis Indica, Lancet 1 (March 22, 1890), 637-638. Reprinted in Mikuriya, 1973, 145-149.