Disclaimer: This information isn’t a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You shouldn’t rely on this article for specific medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns, please talk to your doctor.
It seems like these days, you can’t do a Google search on pain without coming across an article that talks about cannabidiol (CBD) for pain management. CBD, which is a chemical found in both hemp and cannabis, has plenty of anecdotal evidence of pain relief — for example when it comes to period cramps. CBD, is especially attractive for folks because, when consumed, it is not known to intoxicate or cause the user to be “high” as with the other cannabis component, THC. But you don’t just have to vape or eat CBD to feel its effects. There are brands that sell suppositories, rubs, gels, oils, bath salts, and other products laced with CBD that are meant to help mitigate the pain.
But is it true? Is CBD a miracle-worker when it comes to period cramp pain management?
The answer is maybe. Unfortunately, because cannabis isn’t legal in all 50 states, studying the effects it has on humans is incredibly difficult. And while we do have studies on how CBD can help with pain management (more on that below), there hasn’t been a peer-reviewed clinical study on whether or not it can help relieve the pain from period cramps or other period-related ailments. Instead, we have the anecdotes of folks who have tried CBD-based products for period relief, and not much else.
So, could CBD be useful in your quest for pain-free periods? Let’s dive a little deeper into what we know.
What does the science say?
As mentioned above, there aren’t any specific studies on CBD for period pain. But there are studies on CBD for pain in general, which means it might work for the hurt you feel around your time of the month. One study suggested that medical cannabis, of which CBD is a compound, can help with the treatment of chronic pain (1), but noted that the study wasn’t controlled. It has also been shown to help reduce inflammation and pain-related behaviors in rats. (2)
That second study is especially compelling because a lot of the pain that you feel during your period is the result of inflammation. Prostaglandin, which is released after ovulation and right before your period starts, is an inflammatory chemical that contracts the muscles in your uterus, causing cramps. In fact, women with higher prostaglandin levels have been known to also have stronger, more painful contractions. (3) So if CBD reduces inflammation, and inflammation causes cramps, the logic follows that CBD could reduce your cramps. It is, however, important to note that rats and humans don’t necessarily respond to chemicals the same way, so there are many steps between a study like this and efficacy of CBD for period cramps.
Scientists have also discovered that CBD can actually inhibit the enzyme that produces prostaglandin, which can stop this whole mess before it even starts. (4) But since there hasn’t been extensive research on the subject, it’s hard to say that there is a connection between CBD and pain reduction.
Is there a delivery method that works best?
It’s all about trial and error when it comes to which delivery method works best for you — or if it works at all. (Which, again, is still scientifically unproven.) If you’re consuming CBD, whether it’s with a gummy, a vape pen, or a tincture that you place under your tongue, it has to go through your digestive tract, which means the effects are delayed. But if you apply the CBD topically, with a rub, a suppository, or an oil, your body absorbs it almost immediately. That’s why people love CBD rubs for muscle pain.
There also isn’t a lot of information regarding dosing for CBD and pain, since there haven’t been many studies. Since everyone’s metabolism is different, too, different doses can affect different people, well, differently.
CBD can be easy to get your hands on in many states that have made it legal. And with so many companies providing different means of consumption, you can try it out as an option that may work best for you.
The Clinical Journal of Pain. The Effect of Medicinal Cannabis on Pain and Quality-of-Life Outcomes in Chronic Pain. Accessed September 6, 2019. View resource.
The European Journal of Pain. Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis. Accessed September 6, 2019. View resource.
The Global Library of Women’s Medicine. Prostaglandins and the Reproductive Cycle. Accessed September 6, 2019. View resource.
Organization for Frontier Research in Preventive Pharmaceutical Sciences. Cannabidiolic acid as selective cycloocygenase-2 inhibitory component in cannabis. Accessed September 6, 2019. View resource.