And the honest answer is — yes, CBD can help ease the inflammation and the resulting pain that comes with the menstrual cycle. BUT, there are limitations and CBD is not a cure-all (no matter what some sellers and CBD advocates might want you to believe).
The menstrual cycle is a natural part of life for a majority of women and, for most of them, it’s at least a little bit uncomfortable. For some, however, it’s a lot uncomfortable, a lot painful, and a lot stressful. And while there are pharmaceutical drugs out there that can ease period pain and cramps, most of them have serious side-effects.
In this post, we’ll explore the therapeutic benefits of CBD as they relate to period pain; we’ll take a look at what works and what doesn’t, what should you expect if using CBD for PMS, and what lifestyle changes (in addition to CBD) could help you relieve symptoms of period pain.
What is PMS?
Everybody who menstruates knows full well how uncomfortable and painful PMS (premenstrual syndrome) can be. This dreaded, painful, and frustrating monthly routine, which takes place between ovulation and the period, is accompanied by a wide variety of symptoms including cramps in the groin and stomach, bloating, headaches, irritability, mood swings, constipation and/or diarrhea, swelling of the breasts, and weakened libido.
In rare cases, PMS actually manifests as PMDD – premenstrual dysphoric disorder. This is a severe form of PMS, which can cause depression, suicidal thoughts, panic attacks, anxiety, and more.
The symptoms of PMS depend on the person, but they’re usually unpleasant, and can seriously disrupt the normal course of life — either for a few days or continually. Women with pronounced PMS often can’t function normally for extended periods. Activities such as jogging, going for a night out, or even putting in eight hours at work can be seriously impacted — which is why more and more women are looking into novel treatments, such as CBD, to find relief with period pain.
How Is PMS Usually Treated?
PMS is a tricky condition with an even trickier process of diagnosis. It cannot be positively diagnosed with lab tests so your doctor will determine whether you have PMS based on your regular premenstrual patterns. It is important to keep track of your menstrual calendar and record the pattern of your symptoms as they come and go.
It is important to understand that the symptoms which are linked to PMS can be misleading.
A clearer diagnosis can be established by having your health care provider running tests on various functions such as the thyroid gland to determine whether the symptoms are, in fact, caused by PMS since other conditions can have similar effects.
The prescribed treatment from your doctor depends on the severity of your symptoms. Some of the more common ones include the following:
- Hormonal contraceptives — the purpose of this type of medication is to stop ovulation which can ease the PMS symptoms.
- Antidepressants — several drugs such as Fluoxetine, Paroxetine, and Sertraline are used to reduce mood symptoms inflicted by PMS due to their ability to boost serotonin.
- Anti-Inflammatory drugs — these prescription medicines are taken either during your period or in the days before it starts. They include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB,) or naproxen sodium (Aleve) and are used to ease cramps and the discomfort and tenderness in breasts. These drugs however can cause unpleasant gastrointestinal side effects.
- Diuretics — water pills (more specifically Spironolactone) can be taken to shed down the excess bodily fluid through the kidneys. This method is used when exercise and dieting are not doing enough to ease the symptoms.
- Diet modifications — PMS symptoms can be managed with eating less fat, keeping your salt intake in check, eating carbohydrates, fruits, vegetables, whole grains. Also, it’s advisable to avoid caffeine and alcohol.
- Exercise — maintaining a healthy exercise routine with walking, running, cycling and other aerobic activities can help reduce fatigue and depressing mood.
In the light of recent discoveries, more and more women turn to CBD and other cannabinoids as a potentially effective treatment for period pain. But why is that? And does CBD work for period pain? Let’s take a look.
How Does CBD Relieve Pain?
The first thing that we need to examine are CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is speculated to be the root cause of severe PMS symptoms, according to a large 2016 study, which is why it’s important to deal with it as much as we deal with the actual pain.
Further studies are needed to confirm CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties but we’re already seeing research pointing in that direction:
- According to one study, CBD acts through several different pathways to reduce systemic inflammation. Without going all technical on you, it’s enough to say that it can treat inflammation at its root by acting on those compounds that cause it. The full 2015 study can be found here.
- One 2016 study found that CBD treatments seriously reduce inflammation in rats that suffer from osteoarthritis. This is a debilitating disease caused by systemic joint inflammation.
- CBD is also an effective treatment for pancreatic inflammation. Pancreatic inflammation can lead to diabetes due to an invasion of immune cells that destroy insulin-producing cells. A CBD treatment for mice with pancreatic inflammation resulted in a significant reduction of immune-cell activity.
Naturally, as the inflammation subside so does the pain that’s caused by it.
On the other hand, CBD is also effective when it comes to non-inflammatory pain. A 2018 review of CBD studies concluded that CBD is an effective treatment for neuropathic pain, cancer pain, as well as pain caused by fibromyalgia.
So why does CBD work so well for inflammation and pain?
The answer to that lies in our own endocannabinoid system. It’s a cell-signaling system in our bodies that connects to everything from our brain to our immune system.
The scientists are still unsure how exactly CBD and other cannabinoids alter the system to produce beneficial results but study after study confirms that that’s exactly what they do. CBD, in particular, is very good at bonding with certain endocannabinoid receptors in a way that brings balance to our body and prevents cell mutation, inflammation, or other irregularities that cause illness and adverse health symptoms.
So Can CBD Treat Period Pain Specifically?
Well, if we take into account the recent findings that severe PMS symptoms are caused by inflammation, it’s natural to assume that CBD can bring some relief.
However, it’s important to note that CBD / period pain studies are few and far in between — we’re still waiting for scientists to make a firm, peer-reviewed connection between the two. At this point, we’re mostly talking about anecdotal evidence and the overall ability of CBD and other cannabinoids to treat inflammation and pain.
A historical review from 2002 by Ethan Russo, MD, states that cannabis has long been an effective supplement in managing problems with the menstrual cycle and PMS symptoms. More specifically, Russo talks of an old 16th-century Chinese medical scroll that lists the cannabis plant as a potent remedy for relieving pains from menstrual cramps. Russo also pointed out that cannabis was used for treating menstrual cramps back in Victorian England by none other than Queen Elizabeth herself.
It’s important to note that CBD has never been studied independently from THC when it comes to period pain and PMS. Most likely, for best results, both CBD and THC need to be present in anything that you use.
This means that full-spectrum CBD (that is CBD preparations that don’t completely filter out THC) might be more useful in this context.
Scientists have recently discovered that CBD inhibits the prostaglandin-producing enzyme which means it can cause anti-inflammatory effects without the gastrointestinal side effects caused by NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs).
Tips On How to Use CBD for Period Pain
Every person is different, which means that their PMS symptoms will also manifest differently. However, most of our users recommend using CBD in strongly formulated tinctures, or even applying CBD cream on your stomach to ease the symptoms when the pain is at its worst (especially if you’re having stomach cramps).
By regularly using a CBD tincture, you’ll get the following effects:
- anti-inflammatory — by activating the endocannabinoid receptors, both CBD and THC can reduce the inflammatory effects caused by the immune system’s “killer cells” known as macrophages.
- pain-relieving — prostaglandins cause the pain-perceiving nerves to be more sensitive. Both CBD and THC target the nerve receptors that help ease the sensation of pain.
- muscle-relaxing — the muscle tissue in the uterus is tensed up by the contractions caused by the menstrual cramps. Cannabinoids have the ability to target certain receptors in the muscle tissue to relax these contractions.
- vascular-relaxing — by relaxing the muscles, cannabinoids also increase the blood flow. This provides the tissues with oxygen which decreases the painful cramps.
Other All-Natural Remedies for Menstrual Cramps & Pain
If you don’t want to use over-the-counter medication to treat your PMS symptoms, there are other natural remedies that you might want to try out, besides CBD. Of course, consult with your doctor before doing anything (including using CBD).
Some natural period pain remedies include:
- applying heat — as basic and old fashioned as it may seem at first, applying warmth to your abdomen can increase your blood flow and soothe your tensed up and overworked muscles.
- magnesium — it is no wonder that your body craves food and sweets during your period. Foods like chocolate and avocados can turn out to be very efficient in reducing pain and inflammation since they are rich in magnesium.
- fish oil — studies have shown that fish oil supplements are able to decrease cramp pains and reduce the body’s reliance on NSAIDs while on your period.
- treat early — doctors suggest that it is wise to start taking painkillers at least an hour before the painful cramps start. Delaying treatment until the pain becomes severe will make it much more difficult to mend at that stage.
- hydrate — drinking plenty of water while undergoing PMS symptoms can be quite beneficial. Drinking 6 to 8 glasses of water will reduce the bloated feeling and also compensate for the liquid lost with diarrhea or vomiting which are often an accompanying symptom of PMS.
- diet — as difficult as it is because of the intensified cravings for them, during your period it is best to avoid sweets, doughnuts, potato chips, and other salty and/or sweet snacks. Stick to non-inflammatory fruits such as cherries, blueberries, squash, and tomatoes. Eat more calcium-rich beans, almonds, and whole grains. Also avoid alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine.
- chamomile tea — chamomile tea can help reduce cramps when you menstruate since it is full of anti-inflammatory substances that inhibit prostaglandins. This helps with enhancing the menstrual flow and thus relieving painful symptoms.
- cinnamon — statistics show that cinnamon is able to help with menstrual cramp. Sprinkle some into your cocoa or tea.
- ginger — a study involving the intake of ginger capsules has shown that they relieve pain from cramps as well as NSAIDs. Be it in tea, or sliced into little chunks ginger has shown to be a formidable drug free cramp pain reliever.
- chinese herbal medicine: Chinese herbal medicine was effective for relieving pain and reducing overall symptoms. Women who took Chinese herbal medicine for dysmenorrhea needed less pain medication, too.
Give CBD a Try & Treat Your Period Pain
Thousands of women are using CBD products to get some relief for their period pain. You could be one of them, and free yourself of the unpleasant (and, sometimes, excruciating) pain that attacks you every month.
However, keep in mind that CBD is not a magic wand.
Before using CBD products, consult with your doctor and your gynecologist, as it might interfere with some medications you’re already taking. We don’t have the whole scoop on CBD and THC for period pain just yet but there are enough indications to point to them being a route worth exploring, especially if nothing else is helping you right now.
If you have any questions concerning CBD for PMS, period pain, or cramps, make sure to contact us here at the Kind Hemp. Our CBD specialists will gladly answer all of them, and point you in the direction of a CBD supplement that might be able to help you with your health symptoms.