Updated on August 16, 2020.
Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Menstrual pain, also known as dysmenorrhea, can range from uncomfortable to debilitating. You can use birth control, painkillers or natural remedies to relieve those monthly cramps. But, did you know you can also use the cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD)? Marijuana medicine with CBD can alleviate mild to moderate menstrual cramps, and we will explain how.
About Menstrual Cramps
During your period, your uterus gets rid of the lining it accumulates over the month. To remove the lining, it has contractions triggered by substances called prostaglandins. Since prostaglandins also have a role to play in pain and inflammation, the contractions cause feelings of pain. When you have higher levels of prostaglandins triggering the contractions, you have more severe cramps.
About five to 10 percent of menstrual cramp cases have an underlying condition causing the pain. These disorders can cause severe cramps:
Pelvic inflammatory disease
If you have high levels of menstrual pain every month, we recommend seeing an OB/GYN. The causes behind serious menstrual cramps can result in complications such as infertility and life-threatening infections.
How Does CBD Relieve Cramps?
Research indicates that CBD has a direct impact on cramping’s cause. Cannabinoids like CBD block the enzymes that cause arachidonic acid to turn into prostaglandins. As we covered earlier, higher prostaglandin levels cause more pain. With fewer prostaglandins triggering your uterine contractions, you can feel less discomfort.
CBD also reduces the pain and discomfort from cramps by suppressing the body’s pain and inflammatory responses. Pain and inflammation often go hand-in-hand. When inflammation causes pain, it puts pressure on your nerves and prompts them to send pain signals. When you use CBD for your cramps, it soothes inflammation in multiple ways, including:
Suppressing the creation of cytokines, proteins that trigger inflammation
Preventing your system from activating a key factor in the inflammation process
Decreasing the regulation of pro-inflammatory genes
Triggering other kinds of anti-inflammatory responses
With no significant side effects, CBD can provide cramp relief with relative safety.
Other Period-Related Symptoms Relieved With CBD
Did you know CBD helps with additional period and pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms? You can use this miracle medicine to treat:
Headaches: As an effective pain reliever, CBD can reduce or eliminate headaches caused by the hormone changes associated with your period.
Muscle and Joint Pain: In a similar vein, CBD’s painkilling properties make it an excellent remedy for muscle aches caused by your period.
Depression and Anxiety: CBD helps you retain anandamide, a cannabinoid made in the body. Anandamide improves mood, so increasing the amount of it in your system relieves depression and anxiety symptoms.
Gastrointestinal Symptoms: When PMS or your period causes diarrhea or other GI symptoms, CBD relieves the gut inflammation causing them.
Insomnia: CBD has relaxing and sedative effects that help you get to sleep when your period keeps you up at night.
CBD’s ability to address so many period symptoms makes it the perfect addition to your medicine cabinet.
Vaginal CBD Products for Menstrual Cramps
Thanks to CBD’s increase in popularity, you can find a wide range of products containing the cannabinoid. The way you take CBD medicine influences its interaction with your body. So, which types of CBD products work best for menstrual pain?
Vaginal CBD suppositories release medicine into your vagina and uterus, making them an ideal remedy for cramps. Since they administer CBD to the affected area first, you can experience fast relief from menstrual pain. As a bonus, suppositories spread medicine throughout your bloodstream, so you can get benefits for symptoms in other parts of your body.
If you live in a state that has marijuana “lubricant,” you can also use it for your period symptoms. While marijuana lube has the primary purpose of increasing sexual pleasure, it also enhances vaginal health. You can use it during penetrative sex to relieve any discomfort caused by PMS or your period. It may also help when applied internally, but we recommend talking to your OB/GYN before trying this method.
When you use medicine on or in your vagina, watch out for symptoms like irritation or infection. CBD products for vaginal use should have a pH-balanced, contaminant-free formula, but everyone has a different body. Discontinue use if you experience burning, itching, foul smell or unusual discharge.
Can You Use Other Types of CBD Medicine for Menstrual Pain?
While vaginal suppositories have the most direct effects on period cramps, you can use other kinds of CBD products to get relief. Any medication that enters your bloodstream will help because it travels throughout your body. More products that work for menstrual cramps include:
CBD Oil: You can add CBD oil to your food or ingest it on its own to experience its effects. If you buy hemp-based CBD outside a dispensary, remember to vet the product and seller.
Patches: A CBD patch sends medicine into your bloodstream over an extended time. It provides less intense relief than other products, but you can feel its benefits for a longer period.
Inhalation: Smoking, vaporizing or nebulizing CBD offers fast relief that spreads throughout your body. You can use CBD oil or a CBD-heavy marijuana strain.
Edibles: CBD-infused food and drink can take up to a few hours to relieve symptoms, but they make the medicating experience more pleasant. They also provide more potent and longer-lasting relief than inhaled medication.