If you are a woman of child-bearing age, chances are good that you’re all too familiar with menstrual cramps. Period pain is a very common problem, and it can cause major disruption to your everyday life. The good news is that there are ways to find relief, and taking CBD for menstrual cramps is a safe and natural one.
Queen Victoria Used CBD for Menstrual Cramps
Did you know that Queen Victoria was prescribed cannabis by her physician to relieve her menstrual cramps? Humans have used cannabis for thousands of years in traditional medicine, and history is filled with examples of people turning to the leaf to find relief from a wide range of maladies. Modern science has since revealed the healing properties of many of the cannabinoids and other biomolecules from cannabis plants, especially CBD.
Cannabis and its Medicinal Components
The cannabis plant, Cannabis Sativa, produces two noteworthy molecules: CBD and THC. CBD is the main non-psychoactive chemical of the plant. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the ingredient that causes the typical “high” associated with using marijuana.
CBD and THC work differently, and they bind to and activate different receptors in the body. The specific receptors they bind are cannabinoid type 1 receptor (CB1) and cannabinoid receptor type 2 (CB2). THC strongly binds to CB1 receptors, which are mostly found in the brain, and changes the behavior of the neurons. CBD mostly binds to CB2 receptors, which are found in the immune system. These receptors control inflammation and stress, and when CBD binds to them, it doesn’t modify the behavior of the neurons as THC does with the CB1 receptors.
It’s important to note that Cannabis Sativa is a family of plants, and that marijuana and the industrial hemp plant that is used for products containing CBD are different plants within that family. The marijuana plant contains high levels of THC and low levels of CBD, while the industrial hemp plant is just the opposite—it contains high levels of CBD and trace amounts of THC, so CBD products do not give people the “high” feeling that marijuana or products made with marijuana do. It’s also a major factor in the legality of the different types of products.
What Happens During the Menstrual Cycle?
Women typically get their period every 28-30 days. The menstrual cycle is the natural, biological process that prepares a woman’s body (and her uterus) to carry a child. Every month, the uterus grows a new, thick layer of tissue to get ready for a potential pregnancy.
When a woman releases an egg from one of her ovaries (ovulation) half-way through the cycle, one of two things can happen to that egg: it is either met by a sperm (starting the pregnancy process), or it will dissolve if there is no sperm around.
When the egg breaks down, it releases signal molecules into the uterus. They inform the uterus that there will not be a pregnancy this month. Without a pregnancy, there is no need for that thick layer of tissue it has built. The uterus will, therefore, shed that extra tissue, causing bleeding.
Menstrual Cramps and Pain
Menstrual cramps happen as the uterus sheds its inner lining of tissue (called the endometrium). As this lining disintegrates each month and a woman has her period, endometrial cells come loose and break apart. Their cellular components are released into nearby body parts.
Some of these components are enzymes that activate inflammation and pain molecules. These molecules are known as prostaglandins and prostacyclins. One prostaglandin in particular, PGF2, provokes contraction of the uterus and surrounding muscles. These contractions cause cramping and the pain that goes with it. Since CBD is effective at reducing inflammation and pain, it only stands to reason that you can use CBD for menstrual cramps.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Premenstrual syndrome is the fun set of symptoms that appear close to “that time of the month” (a woman’s period). Symptoms typically appear six days before a woman’s period starts and peak about two days before the beginning of a period.
Common PMS symptoms include:
- Depressed mood (mood swings)
- Anxiety (stress)
- Muscle tension
- Persistent anger
Treatment options depend on the severity of the symptoms, as they can range from mild to severe. SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are medications that are commonly used.
Current Therapies for Period Pain
The most common therapy for period pain relief is nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs): aspirin, naproxen, and ibuprofen. These painkillers work by blocking the production of the enzymes that trigger certain inflammatory and pain molecules. This prevents the release of these pain-inducing chemicals during menstruation.
Other menstrual pain-relieving options include heating pads and oral contraceptives or other hormonal types of birth control. CBD oil and CBD-infused products, like edibles (including chocolates and gummies!), lotions, and suppositories have recently come to light as safe, natural ways to ease menstrual cramps.
Why Using CBD for Menstrual Cramps Can Work For You
NSAIDs work well to reduce pain and inflammation by blocking the enzyme COX-2. They also block COX-1, which is an enzyme that’s not related to inflammation and pain. COX-1 works in part to maintain our stomach and intestinal lining. That is why excessive use of NSAIDs can increase the risk of stomach ulcers.
Studies show that CBD inhibits COX-2 but has little effect on COX-1. By only blocking COX-2, CBD stops the release of inflammatory and pain molecules, without affecting COX-1 and your digestion. Essentially, taking CBD can help ease the pain and other symptoms of menstrual cramps without hurting your stomach the way typical over-the-counter pain medications can.
The vaginal and rectal walls absorb products very rapidly by skipping the digestive tract and liver breakdown. This leads to almost immediate action of the intended suppository. Using a CBD suppository could lead to quick relief of period pain and inflammation and be an efficient method of using CBD for menstrual cramps.
This concept has led to a novel topic of discussion: CBD tampons. And yes, it seems they may become a thing.
Foria Wellness is a company that develops THC and CBD cannabis products. Their items range from vape pens to suppositories.
Examples of the CBD products offered by Foria include:
- Natural arousal oil (massage therapy)
- Menstrual suppositories
- Oral CBD capsules
- CBD oil (to add to beverages)
- Vape pens
The menstrual CBD suppositories can be inserted vaginally or rectally, and each suppository contains 100mg of CBD.
The Bottom Line
While studies on CBD and its uses are still in their infancy, it has been shown that CBD can help many people manage symptoms of several different conditions. Can you use CBD for menstrual cramps and relief of other menstrual symptoms? There’s no guarantee, but for a lot of women, the answer is yes.
Thanks to the Farm Bill, which was passed in 2018, CBD products are federally legal throughout the U.S. The CBD in these products must come from the industrial hemp plant, and contain no more than 0.3% of THC. However, the FDA doesn’t regulate these products, so it’s important to get them from a reputable company that has their products tested by a third party for purity and potency. And always consult your doctor before starting a CBD product or changing your healthcare regimen.