Cannabis (also known as marijuana) can help relieve various types of pain, and it might help you endure those nasty menstrual cramps when Aunt Flo pays a visit.
The pain from those cramps isn’t actually caused by muscular contractions, but by the release of prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that make your uterus contract.
Taking a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like ibuprofen (Advil) can provide relief by blocking the production of prostaglandins. Could cannabis do the same?
Cannabis for period pain?
It could be a real thing. There’s little research on the effects of THC and CBD on period pain. But there are studies that indicate cannabis may be useful for pain in general. For now, the jury is still out.
Unlike NSAIDs, the cannabis compounds THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) won’t block prostaglandin production. Bummer.
Still, cannabis may provide some pain relief. THC releases dopamine, the “feel good” hormone, in your brain. It may make you feel so good that it changes your perception of the pain.
CBD may help by relaxing the muscular tissue of your uterus, which could help relieve the ouch.
Companies are making all kinds of products with these benefits in mind, including one that you can insert into your vagina. But the science just isn’t there yet with products like that.
If you can believe it, researchers have been studying this since way back in 1847. Fortunately, more recent studies have found that cannabis could be effective for relieving various types of pain.
For example, of the 1,000 legalized cannabis users in a 2019 study, 80 percent of the people who took it to relieve pain said it was very or extremely helpful.
Most of them found it so effective that they were able to reduce or stop taking their usual over-the-counter (OTC) or prescribed pain meds. Score one for pain reduction potential.
Still, we’re a long way from really understanding the benefits and risks of using cannabinoids to take away those monthly pains.
Ultimately, as THC products start to enter the market more and more, we’re likely to see more studies on effectiveness for cramps, mood changes, and other aspects of surfing that crimson wave.
So, what do we know about the risks of cannabis?
There are potential safety issues regarding legal cannabis products. According to a 2020 study that compared products from dispensaries across multiple states, more than 90 percent of products sold in medical dispensaries are a whole lot stronger than what doctors recommend for treating pain.
While this may not seem like such a bad thing, large concentrations of THC can lead to problems. For example, you could develop a dependency on or a tolerance for these products, meaning you have to take more and more to get the same amount of pain relief for your cramps.
Also be aware that less than a third of CBD products sold online had the correct ingredients and doses on their labels, according to a 2017 study. Most of the products contained less CBD and much more THC than indicated on the label.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t regulate THC and CBD products in the same way they regulate other drugs. Mislabeling or misrepresentation can happen.
Additionally, there’s some evidence from in vitro and animal studies that too much THC could impact aspects of health such as female reproductivity. Much more research needs to be to determine if this could be true for humans as well.
There are also side effects to consider. While smoking or ingesting cannabis may result in a feeling of euphoria, the National Institute of Drug Abuse warns that taking too much could cause you to feel fear, anxiety, paranoia, or panic. Some people may even temporarily experience acute psychosis, with hallucinations and delusions.
Oh, and definitely be wary of any product that you insert into your vagina. Check with your doctor before using any product of this nature.
Until there’s further evidence that cannabis is safe and effective for relieving those menstrual cramps, most docs would recommend easing the pain by taking good old ibuprofen, using heating pads, staying hydrated, eating nutrient-rich foods, staying active, getting enough sleep, and even orgasming.
Before taking any THC or CBD products, check the legality in your state. Cannabis products are still illegal in some places.
Also check in with your doctor. Just because lots of folks use cannabis products for recreational reasons, doesn’t mean they can’t interfere with other drugs or health conditions.