CBD and hemp brands are marketing their products for managing pain and period cramps, but as someone with endometriosis, I know they won’t help me. Cannabidiol (CBD) may be an alternative treatment for dysmenorrhea and other premenstrual syndromes (PMS), such as headaches and mood swings. For most women, that time of the month comes with dreaded discomfort. Here's how CBD cream can help soothe those unwanted menstrual cramps.
I Really Need CBD Brands to Stop Lying to Me About Period Cramps
I was scrolling through my emails recently, exorcising spam, when one subject line caught my eye: “CBD for PMS? Hallelujah! .” The hemp company’s newsletter could not have been more on point—I was smack dab in the middle of one of my most painful periods to date. I opened the email, and my heating pad slipped as I shifted to the edge of my seat.
Could this really be the magical answer to the burning ball of fiery knives inside my uterus? I thought.
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 was floored. Not just as someone with intense period pain due to endometriosis, but also as a C-suite-level marketing professional. I couldn’t tell what was worse, the cramps in my uterus or the knife in my back.
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.
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.
If a product hasn’t been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the brand behind that product cannot legally claim it will cure any ailment. From the FDA itself: ”Unlike drug products approved by the FDA, unapproved CBD drug products have not been subject to FDA review as part of the drug approval process, and there has been no FDA evaluation regarding whether they are safe and effective to treat a particular disease, what the proper dosage is, how they could interact with other drugs or foods, or whether they have dangerous side effects or other safety concerns.”
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.
By Maggie O’Neill, M.F.A.
By Maggie O’Neill, M.F.A.
By Maggie O’Neill, M.F.A.
Up until my surgery, I was subjected to bouts of extreme discomfort and frequent UTIs. Sex was painful, and sometimes I would bleed during or after. I developed depression and anxiety while going through these unsuccessful battles with an ever-growing list of symptoms that went undiagnosed for years. I was opposed to opioid use and searched for an alternative. Not only do I understand the allure of using cannabis for period paid—I do it myself, and I find that some products really do help.
I didn’t know about CBD until I moved to California in 2017 and was shown a world of wonders (and snake oil), much of which is targeted toward women. Beauty products, supplements, and pain management aids were all labeled with “CBD” seemingly overnight. Even in California, where cannabis is legal, it isn’t regulated or FDA-approved the same way that prescription drugs are. So labels can still be inaccurate, which makes it difficult to know if you’re actually getting the dose you think you are.
Personally, I have found benefits from using CBD, and I find the best results when using CBD with THC products. That makes sense, according to a 2017 report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, which found that there is “conclusive or substantial evidence” that cannabis—not CBD on its own—is effective at treating chronic pain. (But not specifically pain due to PMS or endometriosis.)
I particularly gravitate toward tinctures and gummies that have a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD (meaning they contain the same amount of both compounds) when I’m dealing with tougher days or trying to sleep. I rely on trustworthy products and brands because my well-being can’t afford anything less. I’ve also made other healthful changes in my life that have helped me manage my symptoms, like finding other supplements that work for me, getting an IUD, changing my eating habits, and working out more. CBD and cannabis aided my journey of health and self-growth.
But I’m tired of brands and headlines making CBD out to be a miracle supplement that will rid you of anxiety, stress, tension, pain, acne, inflammation, PMS—the list goes on. The reality is that people do report that cannabidiol helps them, and I would never want to diminish CBD for those who receive benefits from it. But we have to be careful about the claims we make about these substances—especially when those claims are about treating serious, chronic conditions.
When I see brands push these products to unsuspecting women, I can’t help but feel a mix of anger, sadness, and loss of hope for a real solution. Women already go through insurmountable pain with few options and skeptical doctors. When we find something that we think works, we need to know that we can consistently trust it. But right now, we don’t have that for CBD.
More than ever, it’s on us, the consumers, to be discerning—and to make sure we’re having honest, reasonable discussions about what we’re experiencing, whether or not our treatments are working, and when it’s appropriate to try something new with open-minded medical professionals. Those conversations are crucial to help you figure out exactly what your needs are and what you can really expect from a possible treatment—especially when it comes to CBD.
CBD for Menstrual Cramps – August 2022
Cannabidiol is one of the active phytocannabinoids of Cannabis sativa . Although CBD is a non-psychoactive cannabinoid , it still exerts numerous beneficial pharmacological effects, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (5 ) .
CBD works with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is responsible for regulating inflammation and pain (6) .
The ECS has two types of cannabinoid receptors, namely CB1 and CB2. These cannabinoid receptors are located in different parts of the body. CB1 receptors are prominently found in the central nervous system, while CB2 is found on cells in the immune system (7) .
Endocannabinoids are types of cannabinoids naturally produced by the body. They activate those receptors and fasten to them to work with pain reduction and inflammation (8) .
CBD is a primary component of medical marijuana. However, the compound is derived from the hemp plant or is manufactured in a laboratory ( 9) .
What Are Menstrual Cramps?
Menstrual cramps or dysmenorrhea are throbbing pains in the lower abdomen . Many women experience such a condition before and during their menstrual cycle (10) .
Some women endure severe menstrual cramps that can interfere with everyday activities for a few days (11) .
Research suggests that dysmenorrhea is the leading cause of absence from work and school among women of reproductive age. Menstrual cramps may also be a risk factor for other chronic pain conditions (12 ) .
The Benefits of Using CBD for Menstrual Cramps
There is no published research on using CBD for menstrual cramps . However, its anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects may help alleviate period pains .
Dysmenorrhea or menstrual cramps are caused by the release of prostaglandins (PGs) and may be caused by external factors like stress (13) . PGs are a class of lipids that control several operations in the body, particularly the healing process (14) .
Prostaglandins also play a significant role in various processes of the female reproductive system. These hormone-like substances primarily control ovulation and trigger muscle contractions that cause menstrual pain (15) .
P rostaglandins can make pain-perceiving nerves hypersensitive. CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol ( THC ) may help desensitize these nerves. Both cannabinoids may target nerve receptors , such as TRPV1 (transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 1) and CB1, to reduce pain sensation (16) .
Cramping during menstruation is made worse by contractions of the muscle that lines the uterus. CBD and THC may function as a relaxant to smooth muscle cells (17) .
A 2016 open-label study examined the long-term effect of medicinal cannabis treatment on pain. After the treatment, 274 participants reported improved pain (18 ) .
The results also suggested the long-term benefit of cannabis treatment. However, the findings are exclusive in this group of patients (19) .
Standard Therapies for Menstrual Cramps
Painkillers like naproxen and ibuprofen , which belong to a group of medications called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ( NSAIDs ), are effective treatments for menstrual pain (20 ) .
These medications can relieve menstrual cramps by reducing the production of prostaglandins (21) . Although most women can tolerate NSAIDs , these treatments have side effects , such as stomach-related issues (22) .
Meanwhile, birth control pills can relieve menstrual pain by preventing ovulation, reducing PGs ’ production (23 ) .
When women use birth control pills, the lining of their womb does not become as thick as usual (24) . Therefore, they have a lighter period.
However, birth control pills also have side effects , such as headaches and nausea. Moreover, these pills increase the risk of thrombosis ( 25) . Such a condition happens when blood clots block a person’s blood vessels (26) .
Natural Remedies for Menstrual Cramps
Most women commonly experience discomfort around their lower back, abdomen, and thighs when menstruating. Here are a few natural remedies women may try:
Some evidence suggests that applying warmth onto the abdomen with heat packs relieves painful periods (27 ) . Women may also use heating pads on their lower back for relief during menstruation .
Supplementation With Omega-3 Fatty Acids
A 2012 study from the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics showed that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids reduced the intensity of primary dysmenorrhea (28) .
In a double-blind crossover study, the researchers observed women aged 18 to 22 with primary dysmenorrhea (29) .
Women in the first group received one omega-3 capsule daily for three months, followed by a placebo for another three months. Meanwhile, women from group two received a placebo for three months, followed by omega-3 for another three months (30) .
As a rescue dose for severe menstrual pains , 400mg of ibuprofen was administered to the participants (31 ) .
After three months of treating the participants with omega-3 fatty acids , the researchers observed a marked reduction in pain intensity (32) .
In addition, women supplemented with omega-3 fatty acids required fewer rescue doses than those who received a placebo (33) .
A study from the Journal of Nutraceuticals, Functional and Medical Foods showed that hemp seed oil contains omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in a 3:1 ratio. The omega-3 found in hemp oil is a much more stable form than fish oil (34) .
In a clinical trial, 50 women suffering from primary dysmenorrhea were treated with magnesium. After six months, 21 out of 25 women showed a decline in symptoms, and only four participants reported no therapeutic effect (35) .
Acupuncture is the process of using thin needles to penetrate the skin to treat pain. According to traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture balances the life force or flow of energy in the body (36) .
Although acupuncture has been tested in several studies, it has not been proven effective for pain (37) .
Sometimes the pain becomes severe enough that psychological treatment is considered. Medication may include consulting with a psychotherapist and learning methods to reduce pain, such as mindfulness exercises and relaxation (38 ) .
There is no published research about CBD’s direct effect s on menstrual cramps. However, its anti-inflammatory characteristics and pain-relieving properties may help with menstrual discomfort (39) .
On the other hand, surgery may be considered if the pain is caused by endometriosis , a condition where the tissue that usually lines inside a woman’s uterus grows outside (40) .
When a woman has an existing medical condition , it is always best to speak with a doctor regarding pain management before trying alternative treatment s .
CBD Ingestion Methods
If a woman considers CBD to help alleviate menstrual pain, there are different methods to take the substance. For instance, she may benefit from CBD through vaping and sublingual administration .
It is worth noting that these methods have different bioavailability rates or the percentage of an administered dose that reaches the target area in the body (41) .
Ingesting CBD using a vape pen is the fastest way to benefit from the substance (42) . However, the substance may irritate the lungs (43) . Meanwhile, sublingual administration , where a person takes the substance under the tongue, is the second-fastest method (44) .
CBD products range from full-spectrum CBD oil , tinctures , topicals , and gummies . Consumers may also opt for CBD isolate , which is the pure form of cannabidiol . It is a chemical compound present in the cannabis plant (45) .
How to Use CBD for Menstrual Cramps `
Here are a few CBD ingestion methods women may use to manage PMS symptoms and alleviate the pain caused by period cramps :
Women may apply CBD topically using CBD oils , lotions, and balms onto the affected area. However, the effect s may take a while, as topicals are not absorbed into the entire body compared to other methods (46) .
Suppositories are pills, generally in an oval or cone shape specially designed for administering certain medications through vaginal or anal cavities (47) .
Vaginal CBD suppositories work like tampons . However, they may be messy. Therefore, women may wear a pad for a little while after putting one inside their vagina.
Self-medication using CBD suppositories may lead to unwanted effects. Therefore, women should openly discuss this method with a doctor experienced in cannabis use.
CBD Dosage to Take for Menstrual Cramps
CBD has not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ( FDA ) as a medication. Therefore, there is still no recommended CBD dosage for menstrual pain .
However, if a woman considers CBD for dysmenorrhea, CBD is generally safe to use (48) .
The initial dosage for CBD oil should be low and may be increased gradually until the desired effect is achieved. A standard dose of CBD ranges from 10mg to 100mg daily (49) .
However, if women find the standard doses excessive, they may try micro-dosing (50) . A microdose ranges from 0.5mg to 20mg of CBD per dose daily (51) .
Is CBD Better Than THC for Menstrual Cramps ?
Based on a 2018 report from the World Health Organization (WHO), CBD is a controlled substance that has not been fully proven to have severe side effects (52) .
Unlike THC , cannabidiol (CBD) is non-psychotic and non-addictive (53) . Thus, it may be safe for use even daily.
CBD is also federally legal across the United States (54) .
Does CBD Affect Menstrual Cycle?
F indings from a 2019 review hypothesized that CBD could be a viable option for managing menstrual symptoms (55) . However, there are no studies on whether CBD may affect the menstrual cycle.
CBD may be a promising chemical compound that is observed for being safe. However, further studies are still recommended to understand the full potential and long-term effects of CBD .
Many CBD brands promote the various health benefits of CBD . However, cannabidiol has yet to be proven to treat menstrual cramps and other PMS symptoms like bloating .
Women’s health and wellness are essential. Therefore, it is highly recommended that women consult their healthcare providers, especially when using CBD for the first time .
In addition, anecdotal evidence about CBD with little science to support the claims proliferates on the internet. Thus, consulting a physician with experience in cannabis use is beneficial.
CBD Cream for Menstrual Cramps
Cannabidiol (CBD) continues to gain widespread acceptance as an effective natural supplement. This is because anecdotal evidence backed by a growing body of empirical research shows that CBD has many health benefits.
Even though we may just be finding out about CBD, marijuana has been used as medicine since ancient times. For example, marijuana was an integral component of Ayurvedic medicine in the Indian subcontinent.
Ayurvedic medicine is one of the oldest healing systems in the world, estimated to be over 3,000 years old.
Cannabis research is currently underway as scientists try to explain the many health-impacting properties of this unconventional herb.
Nonetheless, they are playing catchup because various cannabis compounds like THC and CBD are already used by millions worldwide, thanks to their healing properties.
CBD has shown potential in relieving symptoms associated with chronic pain, inflammation, stress and anxiety, and sleep quality .
I t’s fast making a name for itself as “the elixir of health” – a natural compound with holistic solutions to health issues.
What are menstrual cramps?
The euphemistic phrase “it’s that time of the month” has long been synonymous with menstruation. It’s a time when females are generally thought to be in foul moods due to the changes in their bodies.
While menstruation typically signifies the becoming of a woman capable of bearing a child, it may come with strings attached. Menstrual cramps are one of those. It’s a pretty common occurrence that affects roughly 80% of young women.
Medically referred to as dysmenorrhea, menstrual cramps are simply painful menstruation. The pain—which can be excessive—is brought about by the uterus shedding its lining.
It all starts with a hormone called prostaglandin, which triggers muscle contractions in the uterus to expel the lining. These contractions can be excruciating, especially when they cut off the oxygen supply to the uterus.
Cramps can happen before and during “that time of the month” and can be mild or severe. They often come 1-2 years after the first period but become less painful as women age. Cramps have even been known to disappear completely once a woman gives birth.
Menstrual cramps can also be caused by underlying medical conditions such as:
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Cervical stenosis
So, it’s not always safe to presume that menstrual cramps are normal. If normal painkillers like aspirin and ibuprofen don’t make it better, or if the cramping lasts more than 2-3 days, it may be time to see a medical expert.
Standard therapies for menstrual cramps
Under normal circumstances, the pain from menstrual cramps can be handled with over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin, etc.
These should be taken immediately after the cramping or bleeding starts. NSAIDs work by reducing the production of prostaglandins.
Natural remedies for menstrual cramps
There are other therapies often used to manage cramps, including:
Heating pads are a common way to ease menstrual cramps. The heat relaxes the uterine muscles, thereby increasing blood flow and reducing pain. Just place the heating pads on the lower part of your abdomen.
You can also try taking a hot beverage like warm water or tea. The same principle works from the inside.
Omega-3 fatty acids
Fish oil is an important source of omega-3 fatty acids believed to have anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce inflammation. The pain associated with periods is caused by inflammation of uterine blood vessels when pressed by muscular contractions.
Research shows that women have a higher risk of inflammation because their omega-3 and omega-6 levels are not balanced.
Many women who struggle with dysmenorrhea and PMS are often magnesium deficient. Fortunately, easy-to-find foods like peanuts, green vegetables, and almonds are rich in magnesium.
Research shows that magnesium and vitamin B6 taken together can help relieve some physical and emotional symptoms of menstruation.
Acupuncture entails inserting thin needles at strategic parts of the body. It’s a technique borrowed from Chinese medicine, predominantly used to manage pain by balancing a person’s life force or energy flow (known as chi).
Western practitioners believe the acupuncture points are actually the nexus of connective tissue, nerves, and muscles. Thus, stimulating these points increases the body’s supply of natural painkillers.
Every acupuncturist has a unique style, but it’s not uncommon to see these professionals blend Western and Eastern methods for the best results. A session typically lasts 60 minutes or shorter, with the severity of the condition usually determining the number of sessions.
Acupuncture may not work for every person, so if symptoms persist after a few sessions, you may have to move on to other methods.
The link between mood and menstruation has been the subject of many research studies.
Now, new research suggests that non-pharmacological approaches like hypnosis and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can effectively be used to reduce menstrual pain.
For example, researchers can use the Leventhal self-regulation model to help affected people understand how their illness perceptions affect cognitive processes, emotional responses, and adaptive and health-related behavior.
The basic premise of psychological treatments is that a person’s understanding of an illness is a crucial determinant of self-care.
On the flip side, lack of awareness causes vulnerability, which, in turn, raises anxiety. But the self-regulation model works by raising awareness, thereby reducing vulnerability and anxiety.
CBD and menstrual cramps
Pain is often the underlying issue in menstrual cramps, so, naturally, affected people focus on reducing the pain and inflammation.
The use of CBD as a painkiller is growing in popularity. Although researchers are still gathering information on CBD’s ability to relieve pain, several studies suggest that it may accomplish this by reducing inflammation.
Consequently, CBD products may be helpful for those who suffer from menstrual cramps.
Does CBD help with menstrual cramps?
CBD has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects. Therefore, treating menstruation-induced pain may also depend on this revelation.
The body absorbs CBD from products like CBD cream, oils, and tinctures. As such, they can help in reducing menstrual discomfort.
This cannabinoid has been shown to potentially reduce stress and anxiety symptoms, which is a big bonus given that hormonal imbalances drive some causes of menstrual cramps. Prolonged stress raises the production of the cortisol hormone, leading to an imbalance in the body.
The direct impact of CBD on the endocannabinoid system, which aids in maintaining the body’s equilibrium, is another crucial factor. During menstruation, hormone levels change.
This might make you feel lousy and mess with your endocannabinoid system. However, using CBD as a natural supplement might be beneficial in helping your ECS re-establish balance.
Benefits of CBD for menstrual cramps
Menstrual cramps would be fairly easy to handle if the pain was the only thing involved. However, this is not usually the case.
Besides the pain, women with periods often complain of related symptoms like dizziness, headaches, nausea, and loose bowels . These symptoms can compound an already distressing situation and make you feel utterly miserable.
While research into the pain-relieving properties of CBD is underway, the current information in the public domain is encouraging.
Due to its potential to reduce chronic pain and inflammation, in addition to menstrual cramps, CBD may also help ease other period-related symptoms, including lower back pain, headaches, and sore muscles and breasts.
We may not attribute these all-curing properties to CBD alone since many CBD products contain other cannabis compounds like terpenes, flavonoids, and cannabinoids.
Be that as it may, research shows that CBD works better with other cannabinoids like THC. So, full spectrum CBD products may have more benefits than pure CBD products.
In fact, flavonoids and terpenes are believed to have anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective properties that could enhance CBD’s therapeutic effects.
Ways to try CBD for period pain relief
There are several ways to use CBD to manage period pain. This is because CBD is highly versatile and comes in many forms. Each form has its own merits and demerits, so let’s examine how these can help you alleviate menstrual cramps.
Best CBD for menstrual cramps
Tinctures and oils : CBD oils and tinctures are often administered orally/sublingually with a dropper. You can add CBD oil or tincture to beverages or place a few drops beneath your tongue.
Oils and tinctures are fast-acting, so you’re likely to feel the effects in 10-20 minutes, which is a good thing, particularly if the pain is intense!
Topicals : examples of topical CBD products are lotions, creams, and balms. These products may be applied directly to the skin for localized pain management of period pain. With topical CBD, it may not be easy to gauge the correct amount.
So, before applying topical CBD to large body areas, you may consider doing a patch test to check for any skin sensitivities.
Capsules : these are taken orally and are easier to deal with because you can measure doses more effectively. Capsules are an effective way to get CBD into your system, barring the effects of first-pass metabolism.
Patches : topical CBD does not penetrate the skin deeply enough to enter the bloodstream, which explains its localized effects. Patches, on the other hand, can penetrate the skin and enter your systemic circulation, leading to more generalized effects.
Patches can help you deliver CBD directly into your skin, with some lasting up to several days before needing replacement.
Gummies : CBD gummies come in a wide array of flavors and compositions. These are highly convenient to use on the go.
CBD cream for menstrual cramps
The basic principle underpinning the use of CBD creams for menstrual cramps is the skin’s ability to absorb substances.
However, this method differs significantly from taking CBD orally or by inhalation.
When CBD is applied topically, it binds to local cannabinoid receptors in the skin rather than directly entering the systemic circulation. This means the effect is felt on the specific part where the cream is applied.
For this reason, topical CBD is often augmented with ingestible CBD for a more holistic effect.
Best CBD cream for menstrual cramps
Muscle spasms in your reproductive system and changes in hormone levels are the leading causes of menstrual pain. We advocate using natural, risk-free approaches rather than synthetic medications to treat illnesses because some of these OTC drugs have undesirable side effects.
Overall, menstrual cramps can be very painful to the point of affecting your life considerably. So if you’ve been looking for something more effective and natural to manage this situation, then CBD is worth trying out.
For example, our Relief Cream contains 500mg of CBD and soothing botanicals to offer you lots of protein and good fatty acids for managing period pain. It quickly eliminates pains and aches and soothes the discomfort associated with period pain to hasten your recovery .
This product is quite easy to use. Just ensure the area you intend to apply the cream to is clean to maximize absorption.
We recommend applying the cream 2-3 times daily, but this also depends on the severity of your condition. You can apply the cream more often if the pain is too intense.