By decreasing prostaglandin levels during your period, you can reduce inflammation, pain and menstrual cramps. However, you cannot entirely eliminate prostaglandins.
This means that you could benefit from combining a prostaglandin-reducing treatment with other treatments that target the discomforts caused by prostaglandins.
CBD and other cannabinoids can also treat painful menstrual cramps in the following ways:
- Anti-inflammatory: Cannabinoids have many anti-inflammatory activities beyond reducing production of inflammatory prostaglandins. For instance, THC activates endocannabinoid receptors (CB2) located on your immune system’s killer cells (macrophages). When these receptors are activated, they prevent macrophages from releasing inflammatory proteins (cytokines).
- Pain-relieving: Although prostaglandins and other inflammatory molecules can make pain-perceiving nerves more sensitive, cannabinoids fight back by desensitizing these nerves. Both CBD and THC target nerve receptors that help decrease the sensation of pain (TRPV1 and CB1, respectively). Additionally, not only does CBD desensitize TRPV1, but those soothing effects can spread to neighboring pain receptors.
- Muscle-relaxing: Menstrual cramps are exacerbated by contractions of the smooth muscle lining the uterus — and cannabinoids are widely recognized to relax smooth muscles. THC and CBD both target different receptors embedded in the muscle tissue to relax contractions.
- Vascular-relaxing: Blood vessels are also lined with smooth muscle, and when cannabinoids trigger this smooth muscle to relax, blood flow increases. Increased blood flow could help provide relief to oxygen-starved tissues, further decreasing painful cramps.
A new product called Foria Relief offers marijuana compounds in the form of a vaginal suppository, and its makers claim it can relieve menstrual cramps. But is this product safe?
Experts say that, because of the lack of studies on the product, there’s no clear evidence that it is safe to use, or that it works.
Foria Relief contains 60 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and 10 mg of cannabidiol (CBD), along with cocoa butter. Both THC and CBD are active ingredients in marijuana; THC is responsible for producing the “high” effect of the drug.
The product became available last month in Colorado, where the recreational use of marijuana is legal, and California, where people need a physician’s recommendation to obtain marijuana for medical purposes.
- easily absorbed and stored in body fat
- move easily into your cells
- cross the blood brain barrier especially when ingested or inhaled
Maybe even more importantly, your body already has an abundance of its own cannabinoid receptors, especially in the tissues of the nervous system and the immune system.
Your body produces its own type of cannabinoids called endocannabinoids. These compounds and their receptors make up your body’s endocannabinoid system that is believed to play an important role in regulating body functions including pain and inflammation.
The most recognized of the cannabinoids in marijuana are:
- THC (tetrahydrocannabinol)
- CBD (Cannabidiol)
Both of these compounds are thought to have analgesic (pain-relieving) and anti-inflammatory properties. These cannabinoids interact differently with your body’s cannabinoid receptors. This is thought to result in an important difference between these two cannabinoids:
- THC is thought to be primarily responsible for the psychoactive property or the “high” associated with marijuana use.
- Whereas, CBD is not psychoactive and may even block the high associated with THC.
Natural Remedies for Cramps
- Apply heat: Hot water bottles may seem old-fashioned, but they can bring as much relief from menstrual cramps as NSAIDs — and oftentimes much faster. Heat increases blood flow to the area, which soothes the overworked muscles and delivers oxygen to oxygen-starved tissues. Some scientists also think that heat desensitizes the same pain receptors that CBD works on.
- Fish oil: Interestingly enough, multiple studies have demonstrated that daily fish oil supplements decrease pain and reliance on NSAIDs during periods. It turns out that prostaglandins are synthesized from omega fatty acids, and a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids could shift your body away from producing inflammatory prostaglandins.
- Magnesium: Do you ever crave chocolate around this time of the month? Women who take magnesium supplements during their periods have reduced pain and reduced inflammatory prostaglandin levels. Foods like chocolate, lentils, and avocados are high in magnesium — so go ahead and feed the craving.
- Treat early: Many doctors suggest that it’s best to start taking painkillers an hour or more before the cramps start. This is true whether you’re using NSAIDs, CBD, or other cannabinoid blends. If you hold off treatment until you’re in excruciating pain, the prostaglandins will already be in full demolition mode and harder to bring under control.
- Discuss your treatment plan with a doctor: Sometimes painful cramps and/or heavy bleeding can be a symptom of an underlying problem like endometriosis (another painful condition that can be soothed by cannabinoids). We encourage you to talk with your doctor about your symptoms and treatment plan in order to rule out other health problems, particularly if your symptoms don’t improve with standard treatments. Your doctor can help you determine if there are surgical or hormonal treatments that could be more effective.
There is no strong evidence at this time to support the benefits or the risks of medical marijuana use for the treatment of menstrual cramps. There are testimonials from women reporting relief from menstrual pain with the use of medical marijuana, but that doesn’t replace scientific evidence.
Studies are needed to determine how effective and how safe medical marijuana is for the treatment of menstrual cramps. More research into the therapeutic action of the non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD may be promising, although it is unclear as to what role cannabinoid-based therapies will play in the management of dysmenorrhea.
It is unlikely that medical marijuana-based products will be indicated as first or even second line therapy for menstrual cramps.
Perhaps medical marijuana will eventually be accepted as a third line treatment for women with severe and debilitating dysmenorrhea. In other words, medical marijuana may be an option for those women who would otherwise have to go under the knife and lose their uterus in order to get relief