Ask around your friends or family members and you probably won’t be surprised that many who experience a monthly period also experience the wide variety of not-so-pleasant side effects: cramping, headaches, sore muscles, tender breasts, joint pain, bloating, diarrhea, trouble sleeping and more.
For a number of years, the generally accepted way to handle these symptoms was to pop a Midol while clutching a hot water bottle. Thankfully, times have changed, and with more and more people understanding the potential pain-relieving power of CBD, many are finding actual relief from typical menstruation symptoms.
My own relationship with menstruating has (excuse the pun) ebbed and flowed throughout my life. After getting my period for the first time at age 12, I went through monthly bouts of intense cramping, sore back muscles, and nausea so bad that I would occasionally miss a day of school. I started birth control pills at 15 to help with the worst of the symptoms, but didn’t catch a break until after I gave birth and my period stayed away for a glorious 18 months postpartum. Unfortunately, it returned with a vengeance and a host of similar side effects, only this time I had more tools in my arsenal to help combat them, including CBD.
“I absolutely see it as a viable treatment option,” says Katie Stem, CEO of Peak Extracts. “CBD can be useful in treating pain, inflammation and smooth muscle spasm, all of which are present during the experience of menstrual pain and discomfort. In addition, CBD often has a calming or anti-anxiety effect, which can be useful for the emotional side of PMS.”
It might feel a bit overwhelming—especially when CBD seems to be everywhere—to find what works for you. First, take stock of your symptoms and then, with the guidance and approval of your doctor, decide which type of treatment you’d like to try, and if you’d prefer something topical, oral, or both. Stem, who has a background in health and science, prefers oral methods for faster, more potent relief.
“In my experience,” Stem says, “inhaled or oral use tends to be more beneficial, as menstrual pain is typically referring from deep in the abdomen. Tinctures, chocolates or other edibles will have an onset of about an hour, and will last four to six. Vape pens will have an immediate onset, but not last as long. Some people swear by topical application over the abdomen for cramps, and it’s certainly worth a try to see if it works for you. There aren’t a great deal of suppositories on the market, but I have heard great things about vaginal suppositories as well, which is sort of a hybrid between topical and internal use, as CBD is absorbed by the vaginal mucosa.”
Cramps, Aches and Pains
When you menstruate, your body releases hormones that cause muscles in your uterus to contract. These contractions can cause painful and uncomfortable cramps and back pain, a symptom that more than 90 percent of women with periods experience. CBD may be able to help combat this pain at the source. The cannabinoid has muscle-relaxing properties, easing the tightness of your uterus and, in turn, your discomfort.
In addition to your uterus, CBD could benefit other areas that experience soreness during your period. From tender breasts to joint pain, the influx of hormones during this time can lead to aches throughout the body. The inflammation-reducing properties of CBD may provide noticeable relief for these areas. CBD also works on your vanilloid receptors (receptors in your brain that regulate pain), which can help ease the pain you feel.
You can either rub a CBD topical into your sore spots, or take an oral dose of CBD. If you’re like me, you’ll go for the double shot of topical and oral.
The influx of hormones before and during a period can often cause a rollercoaster of emotions, making feelings like anxiety, sadness, or even anger feel extra heightened. CBD has been shown to help reduce stress and anxiety, and we know it interacts with the limbic system (responsible for regulating our feelings), so taking some internally, such as a tincture, in the days leading up to your period and throughout it could help combat the extreme emotions that we can experience. For a brief pick-me-up, a topical application can be useful, especially when combined with calming essential oils.
Nausea and Bloating
Stomach woes can be a monthly symptom for many, resulting in bloating, queasiness, and diarrhea. CBD has been shown to help alleviate stomach issues by regulating our bowel movements, which can be especially needed during menstruation. Also, by reducing inflammation in the bowels, CBD can help reduce bloating and feelings of nausea. Although topicals can help, oral via tincture or even inhaled CBD oil via a vape pen could help target these symptoms faster.
It is important to note that everybody’s endocannabinoid system is unique, so the way one person reacts to a certain serving size may be different than someone else. Start with a low dose and work your way up until you find what works for you. Also, make sure that the CBD product you are using is high quality, as this will provide better results.
Stem notes that there’s some evidence that in high doses CBD can compete for liver enzyme activity, which can be a concern for folks on other medications that are metabolized by the liver. “If you are on prescription medication it’s a good idea to consult with a physician or pharmacist about possible interactions,” she says.