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A Journal of Cannabis and Culture

Cannabis for Cramps

Cannabis for Cramps


Menstrual cramps tend to be the bane of a woman’s existence. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, more than half of women who menstruate experience period pain, or dysmenorrhea, one to two days every month. “Most cramps are caused by two things,” explains Dr. Melanie Bone. “First are the cramps caused by prostaglandins, compounds that are found in the pelvic fluid prior to the onset of menses, which are inflammatory in nature and act on the uterine musculature to induce the cramps. Second are the cramps related to the contractions of the uterine muscle leading to the expulsion of the menstrual blood and debris—are the cramps that start with bleeding and stop once the bleeding is over.”

Dysmenorrhea can range from relatively mild yet annoying pain to utterly debilitating cramps, and cramp relief tactics include everything from Midol, to heating pads, to a wish and a prayer. But there’s one remedy that has often been overlooked: cannabis. More than ever before, we’ve been been learning about the benefits of cannabis for a variety of ailments due to increased research and legalization in different parts of the country. However, marijuana as an aid for menstrual relief is actually an old-school concept. Back in 2000 B.C., ancient Mesopotamian civilizations mixed hemp seeds in beer to help with an “unspecified female ailment.” In Ancient Egypt, medical documents described cannabis being inserted vaginally to help “cool the uterus.” In the 19th century, Queen Victoria was prescribed cannabis by syringe to help with her menstrual pain.

“Using cannabis for cramps helps ameliorate the inflammation that underlies pain, and it can address pain directly,” explains Dr. Bone. “CBD has amazing anti-inflammatory properties, and taking it starting five days before menses can help with the prostaglandin mediated pain.” CBD works by blocking cyclooxygenase 2, the enzyme that produces prostaglandins which cause menstrual pain. Adds Susan Cleverdon, co-founder of Humboldt Apothecary: “Since PMS symptoms are related to the monthly changes in the hormones, CBD can help bring those hormones back into a more balanced state and provide relief.”

Dr. Bone also recommends women take CBD daily for optimal health. “However, as the second half of the menstrual cycle progresses, women may want to increase the dosage to prepare for the upcoming period,” she says, suggesting a balanced 1:1 ratio of cannabis with a relaxing terpene profile. “If not available, then higher-dose CBD separate from high-dose THC, often in microdosing, achieves relief without feeling stoned.” Per Dr. Bone, CBD also works in conjunction with other cannabis components or THC—to reduce pain, as it is perceived both locally in the pelvis and in the brain receptors. In fact, if you’re open to using THC along with CBD for relief, Dr. Bone suggests doing so. “THC powerfully relaxes muscles, and can therefore work on cramps at that level,” says Dr. Bone. “THC also works directly on pain receptors to decrease pain. It works best in conjunction with CBD to take advantage of the entourage effect and, when taken together, to prevent the unwanted psychoactive properties of THC.”

Amanda Jones, co-founder of Kikoko, a CBD tea brand, also suggests combining THC with CBD for menstrual relief. ”THC has been clinically proven to be the one to help with pain, while CBD is an anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic [cramping],” she says. “So while the CBD is relaxing the uterine cramps, the THC is taking the edge off the pain. THC is also a dissociative, meaning that it helps you forget about the pain and focus on more positive thoughts.”

Luckily, modern technology allows us to ingest cannabis in far less invasive ways than our ancestors. Dr. Bone suggests trying multiple forms of cannabis to help cramps, like oral capsules or sublingual drops. “Some women choose to rub a CBD or CBD/THC oil on their abdomen/pelvis to help, and some use vaginal suppositories, which can be very helpful,” she says. CBD can also help with other menstrual-related ailments besides cramps. “CBD has potent anti-anxiety properties,“ says Dr. Bone. “When a woman knows her period is going to be very painful, she naturally gets anxious about the upcoming pain—CBD can help with that anxiety. It helps with mood in much the same way.”

Ready to use CBD for menstrual relief? Try tinctures from Humboldt Apothecary. “Sweet Jane 1:1 can be very helpful for women who suffer from cramping, joint/muscle pain, and headaches,” says Cleverdon. “The balanced ratio of THC to CBD is ideal to reduce pain, inflammation, and muscle spasms.” Want to sip something warm as you deal with cramps? Try Kikoko teas. “Sympa-Tea was developed for general health and wellbeing, and is fantastic for menstrual anything: cramps, mood, pain, grumpiness, anxiety, sleep,” says Jones. “It has 20 mg of whole plant, organically grown CBD, and only 3 mg of THC. It also has turmeric, ginger and black peppercorns, all known anti-inflammatories. And CBD builds up in the body, meaning the more often you take it, the better.”

A Journal of Cannabis and Culture
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