CBD For Menstrual Cramps

Can CBD Help With Menstrual Cramps?

We’ve all been there – lying curled up in bed with menstrual cramps and wishing there was something better than ibuprofen to make the pain go away.

You may have noticed that there’s been a decent amount of buzz lately about using CBD for menstrual cramps, but is it just gaslighting? Can CBD help with menstrual cramps?

Here’s the thing. We have no clinical research on CBD for menstrual cramps specifically.  This should not be surprising since, according to ResearchGate, there have been five times more studies into erectile dysfunction than there are PMS.

The reality is that research on women’s menstrual health is underfunded. But there are lots of studies that support CBD’s anti-inflammatory potential, as well as other pain-reducing benefits.

Worth looking into? Read on.

CBD for Menstrual Cramps: How Does it Work?

While the clinical research is scant, there is definitely a fairly vocal contingent of women that swear by CBD products for period relief. So how might CBD work for menstrual pain?

To understand that, you need to know a bit about what causes the pain in the first place.

When you have your period, inflammatory chemicals called prostaglandins peak, causing a range of effects – from uterine contractions to inflammation and pain sensitization. Prostaglandins are also vasoconstrictors, cutting off blood flow to muscle tissue (making cramps worse) 1 Jensen DV, Andersen KB, Wagner G. Prostaglandins in the menstrual cycle of women. A review. Dan Med Bull. 1987;34(3):178-182. .

To be clear, prostaglandins are essential for a healthy menstrual cycle, but high levels of them can make menstruation rather hellish.

NSAIDs (like ibuprofen) work by blocking the enzymes that produce prostaglandins, which is why so many of us reach for them when we have our periods. However, they also come with some serious side effects (especially for people with gastrointestinal or heart conditions) that make it necessary to use them with caution 2 Howard, R. L., Avery, A. J., Slavenburg, S., Royal, S., Pipe, G., Lucassen, P., & Pirmohamed, M. (2007). Which drugs cause preventable admissions to hospital? A systematic review. British journal of clinical pharmacology, 63(2), 136–147. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2125.2006.02698.x .

But CBD’s powerful anti-inflammatory effects are both well researched and documented – and they are available without the long list of potential NSAID hazards.3 CBD could help relax the smooth muscle tissue of the uterus, and it may also relax blood vessels (thus increasing blood flow and decreasing cramps).

Woman in pain from menstrual cramps

What Does the Research Say About CBD for Menstrual Cramps?

As we’ve already mentioned, there really isn’t any clinical research to point to on CBD for menstrual cramps specifically. What we do have is research on CBD’s effects on the related components that contribute to menstrual cramping.

The three studies below offer evidence of CBD’s anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxing, and vasodilatory benefits.

2020 Study: Vasodilatory effects of cannabidiol

This recent study was not related to period pain but, rather was looking specifically at CBD’s ability to relax blood vessels (vasodilation) 4 Baranowska-Kuczko, M., Kozłowska, H., Kloza, M., Sadowska, O., Kozłowski, M., Kusaczuk, M., Kasacka, I., & Malinowska, B. (2020). Vasodilatory effects of cannabidiol in human pulmonary and rat small mesenteric arteries: modification by hypertension and the potential pharmacological opportunities. Journal of hypertension, 38(5), 896–911. https://doi.org/10.1097/HJH.0000000000002333 . The study showed that CBD helped normalize blood pressure in hypertensive, obese, and hypercholesteremic patients.

Here’s where this could be good news for menstrual cramps. Prostaglandins cause blood vessels in the uterus to contract (which makes the muscle layer of the uterus itself contract), resulting in the cramps we’re so familiar with.

Studies like this one show that CBD could help relax blood vessels, causing increased blood flow (and oxygen) to cramping areas (in this case, the uterus). Increased blood flow = less pain.

2019: Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol

Not to harp too much on the prostaglandins’ role in your monthly agony, but their inflammatory potential is definitely a main contributor. The good news is that CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects have been well-researched. This is just one of those studies that review the research into CBD’s anti-inflammatory benefits 5 Atalay, S., Jarocka-Karpowicz, I., & Skrzydlewska, E. (2019). Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 9(1), 21. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox9010021 .

Also, if you’re looking for evidence for the anti-inflammatory benefits of topical CBD in particular, this 2016 study is worth checking out 6 Hammell, D. C., Zhang, L. P., Ma, F., Abshire, S. M., McIlwrath, S. L., Stinchcomb, A. L., & Westlund, K. N. (2016). Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis. European journal of pain (London, England), 20(6), 936–948. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejp.818 .

2008: Cannabidiolic acid as a selective cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitory component in cannabis

This study showed the potential of CBDA (the acidic precursor of CBD) as a cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) blocker.7 COX-2 is an enzyme that produces prostaglandins, and this study showed CBDA to selectively block this enzyme without blocking its cousin enzyme, COX-1.

This potential to selectively block only one of these enzymes means that CBDA could reduce prostaglandins without the side effects of NSAIDs which block both kinds of enzymes (resulting in unwanted side effects).

CBDA is present in non-decarboxylated cannabis plants and turns into CBD when it is heated. There’s a lot of ongoing research on this cannabinoid, so keep your ear to the ground.

How to Use CBD for Menstrual Cramps

First of all, a good, high-potency CBD tincture will give you overall anti-inflammatory effects (not to mention its calming benefits). Lazarus Naturals has great full-spectrum CBD oil for menstrual cramps options in a range of potencies. If you want to avoid THC entirely, Joy Organics is another company we’re big fans of.

For localized pain, you can either opt for a topical salve or a period patch (that you apply directly to your abdomen). The key thing to look for here is potency. A period patch with 15 mg of CBD is frankly unlikely to do much. However, Odisea offers one with 40 mg CBD – much more likely to actually provide relief.

Foria is a company that has pretty much built its brand on women’s health. They have a whole line of CBD products that could provide discomfort and pain relief, but of particular note for cramps are the Foria suppositories. These are worth paying attention to partly because, if reviews are to be believed, people swear by them.

And that’s not surprising. They contain a whopping 100 mg CBD per suppository (Foria isn’t messing around) and can be used vaginally or rectally. Foria recommends using these just before or just as soon as the cramping starts. If you want to give CBD a shot for menstrual pain, this product is probably a really good bet.

Cautions About Using CBD for Menstrual Cramps

First of all, CBD has a good safety profile that has been well documented. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s perfect for everyone.8 For example, if you’re taking other prescription medications, it’s a good idea to tell your physician of your plans to take CBD (or other cannabinoids).

CBD is metabolized by the liver, as are some types of (prescription) medications. This means that CBD can interfere with your body’s ability to process those medications, worsening side effects or decreasing efficacy.

There’s also some evidence that cannabinoids may not be safe for pregnant women, so if you think there’s a chance you’re pregnant – consult your doctor!

It’s also important to remember that CBD is an unregulated substance. The FDA is not doing quality checks on CBD products you find online or in stores. So do your research and find quality companies to purchase from!

Summary

Research on period cramps and pain is scant, period. (Pun intended.) And research on CBD for menstrual cramps just doesn’t exist yet. We can extrapolate, however, from existing research on CBD’s benefits for inflammation, muscle relaxation, and vasoconstriction.

It’s also worthwhile to listen to the anecdotal evidence from people who do use and benefit from CBD. We need more research, yes. But that doesn’t mean these voices aren’t worth hearing.

So, does CBD help with menstrual cramps? Will it work for you? Maybe. The upshot is that CBD may not be the cure-all for our menstrual woes, but there’s a good chance that it could be a potent piece in the pain management puzzle. Our verdict? For mild to moderate menstrual pain, it’s worth a shot!

The information provided is for informational purposes only. We do not claim to treat or cure any health ailment or condition. Please consult your doctor or healthcare provider before trying any new product. We are not responsible for any adverse reaction(s) you may have to any of the products featured on this site. See our T & C for more information.

Sources
  1. Jensen DV, Andersen KB, Wagner G. Prostaglandins in the menstrual cycle of women. A review. Dan Med Bull. 1987;34(3):178-182.
  2. Howard, R. L., Avery, A. J., Slavenburg, S., Royal, S., Pipe, G., Lucassen, P., & Pirmohamed, M. (2007). Which drugs cause preventable admissions to hospital? A systematic review. British journal of clinical pharmacology, 63(2), 136–147. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2125.2006.02698.x
  3. Nagarkatti, P., Pandey, R., Rieder, S. A., Hegde, V. L., & Nagarkatti, M. (2009). Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs. Future medicinal chemistry, 1(7), 1333–1349. https://doi.org/10.4155/fmc.09.93
  4. Baranowska-Kuczko, M., Kozłowska, H., Kloza, M., Sadowska, O., Kozłowski, M., Kusaczuk, M., Kasacka, I., & Malinowska, B. (2020). Vasodilatory effects of cannabidiol in human pulmonary and rat small mesenteric arteries: modification by hypertension and the potential pharmacological opportunities. Journal of hypertension, 38(5), 896–911. https://doi.org/10.1097/HJH.0000000000002333
  5. Atalay, S., Jarocka-Karpowicz, I., & Skrzydlewska, E. (2019). Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidiol. Antioxidants (Basel, Switzerland), 9(1), 21. https://doi.org/10.3390/antiox9010021
  6. Hammell, D. C., Zhang, L. P., Ma, F., Abshire, S. M., McIlwrath, S. L., Stinchcomb, A. L., & Westlund, K. N. (2016). Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis. European journal of pain (London, England), 20(6), 936–948. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejp.818
  7. Takeda, S., Misawa, K., Yamamoto, I., & Watanabe, K. (2008). Cannabidiolic acid as a selective cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitory component in cannabis. Drug metabolism and disposition: the biological fate of chemicals, 36(9), 1917–1921. https://doi.org/10.1124/dmd.108.020909
  8. Iffland, K., & Grotenhermen, F. (2017). An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 2(1), 139–154. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0034

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