Medical Research

CBD for Menstrual Pain and Associated Symptoms

Loren Devito, PhD
Written by Loren Devito, PhD

So much more to learn

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a powerful cannabinoid with potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. [1] While the whole cannabis plant has been used medicinally for thousands of years, the relatively recent development of products with isolated cannabinoids, such as CBD, have provided medical cannabis patients with a way to fully benefit from the effects of the plant without experiencing the “high” from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

Another important shift in the cannabis industry is the prominence of women, both as consumers and cannabis entrepreneurs. Gone are the days of the “stoner” stereotype and the male-catered market, stemming from years of media portrayal and cannabis-themed movies. And with this new world comes the recognition that women (and anyone with a female reproductive system), as both recreational users and patients, have different bodies and different needs.

Anyone with a uterus can tell you that menstruation presents a significant challenge every month. While menstrual pain varies, it can be very severe and can significantly interrupt daily life. Some people experience such terrible symptoms that they need to take a sick day or use prescription medications to manage it. And these symptoms can last for over a week, putting a strain on work and social life.

Since cannabis has been proven to be effective in managing pain, can it help manage menstruation-associated pain and other symptoms?

Based on anecdotal evidence, cannabis is very effective at addressing this issue. A review by Ethan Russo, MD, internationally recognized cannabis researcher, describes the ancient use of medical cannabis for menstruation-associated symptoms, as well as other gynecological conditions. [2] In fact, Queen Victoria was known for her use of cannabis to manage menstrual discomfort.

It seems like CBD would then be a good choice, right?

Well, not so fast. Other than this anecdotal evidence, a (strange) case report published in the 1840s, and a conference abstract from 2015, there is a shocking and unfortunate lack of research in this area. [3,4] That is, of course, until a cannabis-based start up developed vaginal suppositories – yes, you read that correctly.

Foria has created organic-certified cocoa butter suppositories (60mg THC/10mg CBD), which they claim are specially formulated to provide relief from menstruation-associated symptoms – and, according to the rave reviews on their site, these appear to be helping many. However, as of now, the FDA has not approved this product. And its safety and effectiveness has not been evaluated – before now.

Researchers at Harvard Medical School are conducting an observational study in 400 women to evaluate the Foria product. Although this is not a clinical trial, the data will provide incredible value in furthering our understanding of how cannabis (CBD or CBD:THC) can help those who experience severe menstrual pain and associated symptoms every month.

References

  1. Russo, E.B., “Cannabinoids in the Management of Difficult to Treat Pain”, Ther Clin Risk Manag, 2008, Volume 4, pg. 245-259.
  2. Russo, E.B., “Cannabis Treatments in Obstetrics and Gynecology: A Historical Review”, Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics, 2002, Volume 2, pg. 5-35.
  3. Barrow, B., “A Case of Dysmenorrhœa in Which the Tincture of Cannabis Indica Was Employed, with Some Observations upon That Drug”, Prov Med Surg J(1840), 1847,Volume 11, pg. 122-124.
  4. Wiebe, E.R.,Jaffar, S., Zelmer, J., Byczko, B., “Using Marijuana to Cope with the Pain and Other Symptoms of Medical Abortions and Menstrual Periods”, 2015, Contraception, Volume 92, pg. 402.

About the author

Loren Devito, PhD

Loren Devito, PhD

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