Every 28 days, give or take, women from all walks of life and every corner of the globe experience the same phenomena – menstruation – and everything that comes with it.
From cramps to mood swings, cravings to dizziness, the monthly episode can wreak havoc causing more and more women to look for alternatives to standard medication, including birth control, to help them alleviate and manage the symptoms – mainly cramps.
When menstruation begins, the uterus contracts to help expel its lining – these muscle contractions are triggered by hormone-like substances called prostaglandins, which are vital when giving birth.
As the uterus is unable to differentiate between a baby and its own lining, the process occurs each month.
The higher the level of prostaglandins, the more intense the menstrual cramps and, as many women know, cramps can range from a simple inconvenience to a significant annoyance.
In the most extreme cases – which are more common than you’d imagine – they can be debilitating, affecting both personal and professional life.
Any woman who has visited a medical professional for something to relieve menstrual cramps (or period pain) will know that the most commonly advocated product is ibuprofen.
Known for its anti-inflammatory properties, this is something it has in common with cannabis and CBD products.
According to a United Patients Alliance (UPA) survey conducted in 2018, the most popular reason for cannabis use was for the relief of pain (10.7 per cent) with other conditions such as headaches, migraines and neuropathy also listed among primary reasons.
When combined, 65 per cent of medicinal cannabis users in the UK cite the relief of pain as either the primary or secondary reason.
In 2015, 192 women were asked by researchers at the University of British Columbia if they had used cannabis for the relief of menstrual pain. 85 per cent said they had with almost 90 per cent of these saying it was effective.
While cannabis is available for purchase legally in Vancouver, and this is a very small study, the findings did suggest that women were increasingly turning to cannabis and CBD for regular pain relief.
Despite mounting research into the power of cannabis to alleviate many types of pain, NHS England’s official line is that, “the current evidence for use of cannabis-based products for pain is not sufficiently developed yet; whilst individual patients may perceive benefit, this hasn’t been fully tested in comparative, randomised, controlled trials in large numbers of patients.”
Certainly there is no evidence-based consensus that cannabis is an effective treatment for menstrual cramps., with studies limited to non-existent. But while guidelines for pain relief in the UK are restrictive, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence to prove it works.
Edie Horstman, a certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, wellness blogger and freelance writer, has been taking CBD since 2018 and acknowledges in an article for reset bioscience that while she has found CBD eases her period-related pain, every woman’s body is different.
She writes: “Research in the last decade may point to its potential for interacting with the endocannabinoid system (ECS) to help modulate pain and inflammation.
“As this system plays a part in managing stress and anxiety, incorporating CBD around the menstrual cycles might help the ECS minimise mood swings, which are standard during monthly cycling.”
There simply isn’t enough evidence to say for certain whether cannabis can interact with prostaglandins for the relief of period pain, but the relaxing effects it has can certainly help.
While the British Columbia study found that the most common ways women were consuming their cannabis was through smoking and eating, alternative methods have become available.
The product Foria Relief, for example, is a cannabis-filled suppository which is inserted directly into the vagina with the core function of relieving period pain.
While seemingly the most direct route to the cause of the issue, many experts in the gynaecological field have expressed their concerns regarding its safety and how that entry point differs from the lungs or other organs.
But those looking to ease their monthly discomfort using cannabis products don’t have to go to such extreme lengths. While many celebrities, including Jennifer Aniston and a Kardashian (Kim, naturally), sing the praises of the products, Whoopi Goldberg has taken it to the next level.
Not only does she love CBD products, she also co-founded a company specialising in the legal distribution of medical cannabis and CBD products specifically aimed at relieving period pain.
The vast range of products, from tinctures and oils to bath salts and body balms, aimed to offer alternatives to ingestion or inhalation to relive cramps.
Although there isn’t much research on the subject, it doesn’t mean that CBD and cannabis don’t work for the relief of period pain.
And with a quick internet search revealing many online outlets citing this very reason as the purpose of their products, we believe women looking for alternatives to traditional medication to solve a monthly problem may be increasingly finding their answer.