Cannabis and women’s health go way back. Cannabis flowers are thought to be an ancient remedy for menstrual disorders in China, and cannabis preparations have been used throughout the centuries to ease difficulties relating to pregnancy.
Today, cannabis remains a popular choice among women hoping to relieve painful cramps and ease symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). While PMS technically refers to the time span prior to menstruation, the plant can have a variety of benefits both during and before your period. It is important to note that cannabis may feel less effective during PMS and menstruation.
From mellowing you out to easing pain, here’s how cannabis helps PMS:
Hormones can have a powerful effect on mood. Cannabis can certainly help if you suddenly find yourself grumpy and blue. Apart from pain, depression is one of the most common reasons people pick up the medicinal herb.
In 2008, research in rodents found that low doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary psychoactive in cannabis, can boost levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a feel-good compound that contributes to positive health.
Additional experiments have found that cannabidiol (CBD), the cannabis compound often given to epilepsy patients, increases serotonin in rodents after just one dose. Many antidepressants take as a couple of weeks to fully take effect.
2. Muscle cramps, pain, and tenderness
Cramps are one of the major causes of pain and discomfort both during your period and leading up to menstruation. Muscles in the abdomen contract as the uterus begins to shed its lining. While this may help expel unused tissue, it can also leave you bed-bound and grumpy.
Fortunately, cannabis is a natural muscle relaxer. THC has muscle relaxant properties that ease cramps and the pain that comes with them. While the body can still purge excess tissue, THC soothes inflamed and irritated tissues and nerves.
But, that’s not all. During your period, the body releases compounds called prostaglandins to stimulate uterine contractions. Studies in various medical areas have found that cannabis compounds can modulate the release of prostaglandins.
Prostaglandins cause cramping, pain, and inflammation. In instances of neuropathic pain, CBD has successfully reduced levels of certain prostaglandins thought to contribute to discomfort and promote chronic inflammation.
3. Gastrointestinal distress
As if period cramps weren’t bad enough, contractions and inflammation can have some disheartening intestinal side effects. It’s not uncommon for women to experience a bad case of the runs (ehem… diarrhea) during menstruation.
Easing cramps and reducing inflammation can help with this situation, and cannabis does both. In fact, cannabis is such a powerful anti-inflammatory that the herb has successfully caused remission in Crohn’s Disease in small human trials. Painful diarrhea and intense abdominal cramping are two major symptoms of the condition.
How to use cannabis for PMS
Based on rodent research, peak sensitivity to THC is thought to fall right before ovulation, when estrogen is at its highest. Afterward, it may take higher doses of THC during pre- and during menstruation to provide adequate relief.
However, there is more than one way to use the herb during that special time of the month. Apart from inhaling cannabis, here are some innovative ways to find relief from PMS:
1. Rub it on
Topical cannabis can work wonders on period cramps. A topical is a lotion, cream, or salve that can be applied directly to the skin, easing pain and inflammation in a localized area.
Ladies in California are in luck. There is now a line of cannabis topicals created specifically for relieving the pain, tenderness, and cramping associated with menstruation. Actress Whoopi Goldberg and Maya Elisabeth have created Whoopi & Maya, a line of cannabis-infused topical and edible products. The products include topical cannabis salve, bath soaks, tinctures, and chocolate.
Whoopi & Maya’s Rub is a medical cannabis body cream designed for menstrual relief. Not only does the Rub contain pain-fighting medical cannabis, but it also includes extracts from other well-known healing herbs, like Cramp bark and White Willow bark. White Willow bark is the precursor to aspirin. Cramp bark is often used for muscle spasms.
You can apply their Rub directly over the womb or on stiff joints, tender breasts, or sore muscles for relief from just about any menstrual aches and pains. High-quality carrier oils deliver cannabinoids deep into your skin tissue.
2. Cannabis teas and edibles
Sometimes, topical cannabis just isn’t enough. When you’re lying around with a warming patch and a box of leftover chocolates, some cannabis tea or an edible might be required. Cannabis tea can be made with either buds or leaves from the cannabis plant.
Typically, these buds or leaves are slowly infused into a fat before being added to a tea of your choosing. Infusing the cannabis into a fat activates the psychoactive and medicinal potential of the plant.
Unlike inhaled THC, which often affects the brain and upper respiratory system the most, edible cannabis provides a much more powerful full-body experience. When you eat THC, the cannabinoid is also metabolized into a much more powerful compound, 11-Hydroxy-THC.
Not only is this compound considered more psychoactive, but it also provides an almost narcotic-like body high. Whip out the edibles when you’re in need of some serious relief.
3. Raw cannabis
For those hoping for relief without the high, a little raw cannabis juice or a smoothie might be just the remedy. Heat and age activate the THC in cannabis through a process called decarboxylation. In fresh cannabis leaves and bud, THC exists as tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA).
While THC is often thought to be the more medicinal of the two cannabinoids, THCA has some significant health benefits on its own. These include the ability to fight pain and inflammation. Both THCA and its counterpart, CBDA, have also been found to ease nausea and vomiting. This could come in handy during a particularly bad bout of cramping.
THCA may not feel as immediately potent as the psychoactive stuff, but adding some raw cannabis leaves to a salad may also help in another way. Leafy greens are fiber-rich. Eating a diet rich in fiber can help put an end to digestive troubles.
This post was originally published on June 23, 2017, it was updated on October 3, 2017.