The newsletter was riddled with seemingly relatable Friends GIFs, clever alliterations, and marketing buzzwords to get the reader to buy, buy, buy! “PMS Pain Be Gone!” it read. But what it didn’t have was products that have been proven to—in any way, shape, or form—actually minimize excruciating period cramps.
I quickly grabbed my phone and did what all opinionated millennial women do: rant on social media. Messages immediately poured in. I was not alone. Other women had similar experiences with the new wave of CBD products. Screenshots of high-end packaging and their ingredient labels flooded my DMs. Once again, I was taken aback by the prices, claims, ingredients, and minimal CBD contents.
One of the products was a patch with only 15 mg of CBD, also called cannabidiol, a compound found in cannabis that does not produce a high. Using that to try to manage my pain would be like putting a Band-Aid on a gushing head wound. How do I know this? For starters, I typically consume between 30 mg and 50 mg of CBD in a single dose when I’m taking it to manage my pain. And as much as I feel CBD assists me in my pain management, it’s not my cure-all. I could replace my blood with CBD oil and I would still have intense cramps. If something has only 15 mg of CBD, I don’t have to try it to know it’s not going to cure my PMS. Not to mention, there’s just no science or regulation behind these claims.
This is an incredibly personal issue for me because my periods are definitely not normal. I received my official endometriosis diagnosis after a laparoscopy in the summer of 2015. I have been working ever since to manage the painful, frustrating symptoms, which I’ve dealt with unofficially for over a decade. Traditional painkillers barely scratch the surface of my pain, and I had trouble getting doctors to take my level of pain seriously.
Could this really be the magical answer to the burning ball of fiery knives inside my uterus? I thought.
The Journal of Reproductive Medicine reports that 90 percent of women with regular cycles experience physical discomfort before and during their periods. For years, all we’ve had are pain relievers, like Midol. Unfortunately, Midol and other pain medicine help with pain but not the problem.
Depending on the severity of your period discomfort, CBD can be used in many different ways, from soothing moods, stress, and physical pain. With any holistic remedy, it may take time to find the right dosage and brand that works for you.
As we’re still learning about the healing benefits of CBD, let us continue to connect with what our bodies need to feel supported. It’s also important to do research about dosage and check with your doctor if you are on any medications that may be affected.
Personally, I love taking a daily dose of CBD orally to help soothe anxiety and my nervous system. During my menstrual cycle, I sometimes get headaches and love a CBD headache roller, and a topical CBD Balm to soothe my cramps and backache.
“A woman’s menstrual cycle is a vital sign of female health,” says integrative gynecologist Dr. Felice Gersh. “Instead of blocking the histamine response with antihistamines (that occurs when a woman is shedding her uterine lining), eating foods or taking supplements that nourish the body and are high in magnesium should be considered before pain medicine.”
Because THC and CBD have no effect on prostaglandin production—the compound responsible for menstrual cramps—it is unclear how they are meant to relieve menstrual pain and inflammation.
The two most recognized cannabinoids in marijuana are:
Based on current advisement from the NIDA, medical marijuana in its inhaled form should not be used in people who:
What the Evidence Says
Marijuana (Cannabis sativa) contains more than 100 different compounds called cannabinoids, some of which have psychoactive properties. These compounds are easily absorbed when inhaled or eaten and can cross the blood-brain barrier to act directly on the brain.
By contrast, cannabinoids like THC and CBD exert no activity on COX receptors. and, therefore, have no influence on the production of prostaglandins. Rather, they stimulate the release of the “feel-good” hormone dopamine in the brain (where CB1 resides in high density) while reducing inflammation in the nerves and joints (where CB2 resides in high density).
How marijuana is meant to achieve the relief remains unclear. At its heart, menstrual cramps are triggered by the release of inflammatory compounds, called prostaglandins, during menstruation. Women who produce are excessive amounts of prostaglandins are more likely to experience severe cramps.
Though marijuana has not been shown to be cause birth defects, the presence of cannabinoid receptors in the fetal brain suggests that marijuana may impact a child’s cognitive and behavioral development in later years.