If CBD is a cure-all for anxiety and stress, it begs the question: can it help with women’s health, like cramps, PMS symptoms and mastalgia? PMS is a miserable, disruptive experience for many women. Luckily, CBD oil may be able to help alleviate the negative symptoms of pain and mood associated with this condition. Many products containing CBD claim to help women with various health issues, including sleep, mood, symptoms of PMS or menopause, and sexual pleasure. Currently, very little evidence supports these extravagant promises, and there are concerns about the quality and safety of CBD products.
CBD for PMS? A Gynecologist Tells Us What’s Up
I t is 2019, and if you are not regularly grabbing a cannabidiol (CBD)-infused water before work, chewing a CBD gummy before bed or even dropping some CBD tinctures into your afternoon coffee, you might be missing out. Even dogs are using CBD. But let’s get one thing out of the way first: CBD will not make you high. Although it is an extract of the cannabis plant, CBD does not contain tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the mind-altering ingredient found in marijuana.
Proven as a natural remedy for anxiety, stress and insomnia, the CBD industry is booming. In fact, Brightfield, a cannabis research firm, says the CBD market is expected to reach $22 billion (yes, billion) by 2022. That is a lot of people feeling good about themselves. So good, that the 2018 Farm Bill was passed at the end of last year, making hemp — a form of cannabis with less than 0.3 percent THC, from which you can extract CBD — an agriculture crop instead of an illegal substance. (Two things to note: Recreational marijuana is legal in 10 states and the FDA still has regulations on CBD in food.)
But if the magic oil/pill/gummy/tincture seems to be a cure-all for these problems, it begs the question: Can it help with women’s health, like cramps, PMS symptoms and mastalgia? Could a suppository be the answer to period pain? Oil for breast tenderness? Lube for pain during sex?
Could a suppository be the answer to period pain?
Unfortunately, the answer is murky — at best.
“The benefits of CBD for women’s health are still controversial. There is a serious lack of trials [and] evidence-based data proving or disproving the benefits of CBD for women’s health disorders,” says Adeeti Gupta, M.D., founder of Walk In GYN Care.
But what about the products — like The Good Patch for PMS, Whoopi & Maya’s Medical Cannabis Bath Soak for menstrual relief or Foria Vaginal Suppositories for period pain — circling the wellness world? Gupta says there are no trials proving CBD is helpful for PMS symptoms. And, while it may seem like the answer for natural pain relief, Gupta warns against it. “One can use it and it is being used off label now at various places but there is no clear evidence in medical studies thus far that it helps or if it has just a placebo effect . Theoretically, CBD oil should help as a co-analgesic, meaning it can be used in addition to regular pain medication to help. However, studies have shown that CBD and THC used in low doses improve the pain scale only by 0.5 ( on a scale of 1-10). So, although there are theoretical benefits, we do not have clear data to support the benefits yet.”
And speaking of THC — the ingredient CBD is supposed to be formulated without — Gupta says, “we need to be wary of are any contaminants in the formulation that would contain THC.” The safest form is hemp oil formulations, but “if the CBD is not pure and has THC (marijuana) mixed in it … one can also experience withdrawal symptoms with prolonged use,” she adds.
While she does not recommend these products as a treatment option at this time, Gupta does have hope. “Even though at this point, we do not have adequate data and literature giving us support and clear guidelines as medical professionals to prescribe CBD for various conditions, we are hopeful that with time we will have more studies allowing us to utilize these if found to be an effective panacea for a lot of chronic, debilitating women’s health pain syndromes ,” she says.
Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) and CBD Oil: Women’s New Best Friend
From mood swings to bloating, the negative symptoms associated with PMS are varied and disruptive. Can CBD oil help to relieve them?
Like many conditions specific to female reproductive health, premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is both under-researched and poorly understood. While some women are able to find relief through diet, exercise, and traditional NSAID painkillers (aspirin, ibuprofen), many more suffer in silence.
As researchers continue to unearth the potential benefits of CBD oil, its use as a more natural, alternative treatment option for a number of conditions and ailments is becoming more recognised. From its pain-relieving properties to mood-improving effects, cannabidiol (CBD) looks to be an ideal candidate in the treatment of PMS symptoms.
As with any new treatment plan, it’s important you consult your doctor before using CBD oil to manage your PMS. You might also consider speaking with a cannabis doctor who specializes in using cannabidiol as a medical treatment.
Here’s everything you need to know about using CBD oil for PMS and whether it can serve as a viable option for you.
Benefits of Using CBD Oil for PMS
Premenstrual syndrome is brought on by a shift in hormone and neurochemical levels about 5-11 days prior to a woman getting her period. The characteristics and duration of PMS differ from woman to woman, but CBD oil may still provide some form of relief without the side effects of well-known pharmaceuticals and without the ‘high’ of marijuana .
CBD Oil vs. Common Pharmaceuticals
The volume and variety of PMS symptoms can make treating this condition a challenge. While making healthy lifestyle changes can help, medications are sometimes needed; the most commonly recommended pharmaceutical treatments can provide relief, but often have side effects that can create new issues altogether. This is where cannabidiol oil may be able to help.
|Common PMS Medication for…||Notable Side Effects||Compared to CBD Oil|
|Mood changes: Antidepressants/SSRIs (Prozac; Paxil; Zoloft; Lexapro)||Nausea; drowsiness; nervousness; headaches; insomnia||CBD oil does not produce any of these side effects and may even help reduce anxiety and depression|
|Pain & Inflammation: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) (aspirin; ibuprofen; naproxen; celecoxib)||Stomach pain and ulcers; dizziness; liver problems; kidney problems; high blood pressure||CBD oil has been shown to reduce pain and inflammation without any of these side effects|
|Bloating: Diuretics (Aldactone)||Skin rash; nausea; headaches; stomach pain||Because of its anti-inflammatory effects on the digestive tract cannabidiol may help reduce bloating without these side effects|
|A combination of symptoms: Hormonal contraceptives (birth control pills; IUDs; contraceptive patches; hormonal injections)||Headaches and migraines; anxiety; blood clots; weight gain; ovarian cysts; fatigue; mood changes||CBD oil has been shown to produce a variety of physical and emotional benefits without these side effects|
CBD Oil vs. Marijuana
The Cannabis sativa plant is believed to contain as many as 100 compounds known as phytocannabinoids, each with their own unique properties. While tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has proven health benefits , it is also the cannabinoid responsible for the ‘high’ typically associated with marijuana use.
For those looking to reap the health benefits of the cannabis plant without experiencing the intoxicating and mind-altering effects of THC, there is an equally beneficial cannabis extract called cannabidiol , or CBD. In other words, CBD oil will not get you high, and can easily be worked into your daily routine if you choose to use it to manage PMS.
Effectiveness of Using CBD Oil for PMS
The effectiveness of using CBD oil to treat PMS specifically is still being researched. However, several studies have produced promising results as far as using cannabidiol to treat many of the symptoms associated with PMS goes. From cramping to anxiety, soreness to irritability, and weight gain to depression, CBD oil may provide some long overdue and much-needed relief.
CBD Oil for Multiple PMS Symptoms
CBD oil’s anti-inflammatory effect on the body’s CB2 receptors could help reduce several mood-, weight-, and pain-related symptoms of PMS.
CBD impacts the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors located in your brain and central nervous system; the CB2 receptors regulate pain and inflammation by regulating immune responses in the body. Through its effect on the CB2 receptors, CBD oil has been shown to alter this response, stopping inflammation before it begins .
While many women rely on anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen for PMS relief, it’s not until recently that researchers have been able to draw a causal connection between inflammation and premenstrual symptoms. In a 2016 study published in the Journal for Women , researchers measured levels of inflammation in middle-aged women who were close to getting their period. As internal inflammation increased, so did the negative effects of PMS, which included changes in mood, breast and back pain, and weight gain. (The only PMS symptoms that didn’t appear to be linked to increased levels of inflammation were premenstrual headaches.)
When cannabidiol indirectly activates CB2 receptors, a series of anti-inflammatory responses are triggered in the body . So, by using CBD oil to regulate inflammation by way of CB2 activation, you could see relief from a number of negative PMS symptoms.
CBD Oil for PMS Pain Relief
Cannabis has been used for centuries to relieve menstrual and PMS pain; even Queen Victoria was alleged to have been prescribed cannabis by her physician to treat her menstrual cramps!
While there are many cannabinoids present in cannabis, recent research on using CBD to manage chronic pain has made it reasonable to assume that CBD plays a major role in providing relief from ongoing physical symptoms, like the headaches and soreness, that many women with PMS experience.
CBD oil impacts the body’s glycine receptors, which play a large role in pain perception. A 2012 study examining CBD’s effect on these receptors concluded, “These cannabinoids may represent a novel class of therapeutic agents for the treatment of chronic pain.” The study found CBD’s interaction with glycine receptors was separate from its activation of CB2 receptors, meaning CBD oil could provide relief from PMS pain and inflammation by simultaneously affecting two different pain and inflammation mechanisms in your body.
It is worth noting that THC can also help when it comes to PMS pain related to cramping. Period cramps are the result of contracting muscles and studies into the use of THC and CBD for muscle spasticity found the combination to be effective as both a pain reliever and a muscle relaxant. If you live in a state where the medicinal and recreational use of cannabis has been legally approved, you might consider using a full-spectrum CBD oil that contains THC to manage the pain and frequency of PMS cramps. To find out the legal status of cannabis products in your state, see our state-by-state guide .
Of course, if you’d prefer to not use THC in managing your pain, CBD could still provide relief from the pain you experience with premenstrual syndrome.
CBD Oil for Mood
Sudden mood changes and general low mood are common symptoms of PMS; if you’ve experienced bouts of anxiety, depression, or irritability before menstruation, you’re not alone. Luckily, CBD oil has been found to play a role in regulating mood, especially in people suffering from anxiety and depression .
CBD is an anandamide reuptake inhibitor , meaning that it increases the amount of anandamide that is available in the brain. Anandamide is a neurotransmitter known as “the bliss molecule” because it’s responsible for feelings of positivity and regulates motivation, joy, and general feelings of happiness. So, CBD oil’s effect on anandamide levels in your brain could help remedy feelings of melancholy and irritability you may experience during PMS.
Cannabidiol is also an adenosine reuptake inhibitor . Adenosine is a chemical in your body which may play a role in mood regulation through its effect on certain neurotransmitter pathways. According to a 2009 review of multiple studies conducted on adenosine’s role in a wide array of cognitive processes, including those related to anxiety and depression, activation of A2A adenosine receptors leads to increased dopamine production, which is crucial for combatting depression. Because CBD oil makes adenosine more available, A2A receptors are better activated, leading to higher dopamine production and ultimately an elevated mood, reduced anxiety, and increased clarity.
Similar to the way in which CBD oil can help reduce physical pain brought on by PMS, the research indicates that CBD affects two different neurological processes, both of which could yield a better and more stable mood prior to menstruation.
How to Take CBD Oil for PMS
Untreated pain, inflammation, and mood disturbances would certainly make day-to-day functioning difficult for any person. If you have found that you’re treading water when dealing with the symptoms of PMS, it may be time to consider CBD oil.
Before you begin, it is important that you talk to your doctor . While CBD oil is considered relatively safe and has little to no known side effects, it can interact with some prescription medications .
Once you have the go-ahead from your doctor, you’ll need to decide how you’d like to take CBD oil for your PMS. There are lots of different ways to take CBD oil and the delivery format you choose will depend on your preferences and your specific needs.
For example, for sudden and severe PMS symptoms, a CBD oil vape product may be the best solution. Vaping is one of the fastest ways to get CBD oil into the body, however, it also yields effects for a relatively short amount of time (typically 1-2 hours).
CBD oil capsules and edibles are probably the easiest methods of administration. CBD capsules and edibles may take a little longer to work, as the CBD oil has to pass through the digestive system before entering the bloodstream, but they provide a consistent and long-lasting dose.
CBD oil drops are also a nice option, and work fairly quickly as the CBD oil is absorbed through the thin lining of the mouth. As far as time to take effect and longevity of effects go, CBD oil drops fall somewhere in between vapes and edibles. Using CBD oil drops also makes it easy to track, control, and adjust your dosage as needed.
If you’re experiencing acute physical pain or soreness, a CBD topical applied directly to the area of discomfort may do the trick. There are also CBD companies like Endoca that sell vaginal suppositories which may be useful in reducing the pain of menstrual cramps.
Adding CBD oil to your daily routine is a great way to take advantage of CBD’s cumulative effects, which range from stabilizing hormones to reducing inflammation, even when not experiencing PMS symptoms.
CBD Oil Dosage for PMS
Just as no two women experience PMS in the same way, no two people will respond to CBD oil in the same way. This means that there is no universal dose for CBD oil. Always start with the dosage recommended on the CBD product you are using.
For further guidance, we at CBD Oil Review have analyzed hundreds of products and come up with a standard serving suggestion:
The CBD Oil Review Serving Standard is 25mg of CBD, taken twice daily.
If this amount doesn’t give you the results you’re looking for, we recommend increasing the serving size by 25mg every 3-4 weeks until you find relief.
For more information about CBD oil dosage in general, you can check out our Dosage Guide .
If you found this article interesting, you may also enjoy:
- The Women’s Guide to CBD Oil
- Does CBD Oil Affect Your Hormones?
- Can You Use CBD Oil While Breastfeeding?
- CBD Oil and Fertility: What You Need To Know
- Ellen B. Gold et al. (2016) The Association of Inflammation with Premenstrual Symptoms – Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/jwh.2015.5529?journalCode=jwh
- Prakash Nagarkatti et al. (2010) Cannabinoids as novel anti-inflammatory drugs – National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2828614/
- Wei Xiong et al. (2012) Cannabinoids suppress inflammatory and neuropathic pain by targeting α3 glycine receptors – National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22585736/
- Uwe K. Zettl et al. Evidence for the efficacy and effectiveness of THC-CBD oromucosal spray in symptom management of patients with spasticity due to multiple sclerosis – National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4710104/
- Dale G Deutsch A Personal Retrospective: Elevating Anandamide (AEA) by Targeting Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH) and the Fatty Acid Binding Proteins (FABPs) – National Library of Medicine https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27790143/
- Anandamide – PubChem® https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/Anandamide
- Joseph Maroon et al. (2018) Review of the neurological benefits of phytocannabinoids – National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5938896/
- Hai-Ying Shen et al. Adenosine A2A Receptors in Psychopharmacology: Modulators of Behavior, Mood and Cognition – National Center for Biotechnology Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2769003/
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Why are women using CBD products — and do they work?
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil and other products containing CBD are being touted as a natural, organic remedy for a wide range of women’s health concerns. Sellers of these products make many claims: CBD has calming effects on sleep, mood, and anxiety; eases hot flashes and improves bone density by balancing hormonal changes of menopause; and has anti-inflammatory properties that clear skin, cure acne, and calm rosacea. It’s promoted for PMS symptoms like bloating and mood swings. And CBD-infused lubricants claim to boost arousal and enjoyment of sex. So, how much of this is true?
First, what is CBD?
CBD is a major ingredient in cannabis plants (like hemp and marijuana). It comes in different strengths and forms, often as CBD oil, but also in pills and powders. It can be absorbed through the skin, ingested, or inhaled. (Vaping it, however, may not be safe, as this blog post and web page from the CDC explain.)
Unlike marijuana, pure CBD products don’t make you feel high. A different ingredient in marijuana called THC makes people feel high.
Does CBD have proven benefits?
So far, there’s not much evidence on the medical benefits of CBD, partly because laws on marijuana made it difficult to study. Until we learn more, it’s wise to keep in mind that few high-quality studies have been done.
- In 2018 the FDA approved a drug derived from CBD to treat rare forms of childhood epilepsy. This medication was shown in randomized clinical trials to reduce the frequency of seizures (see here and here).
- A few studies have found CBD may improve anxiety, but the studies were small and of poor quality (see here and here).
- Some laboratory research on human cells suggests CBD may have anti-inflammatory effects on oil-secreting glands in the skin. This might have implications for acne and other inflammatory skin disorders, but further research is needed to confirm this. And while CBD in skin products is unlikely to harm you, most dermatologists agree that there are more effective and better-studied medications and treatments for acne and inflammatory skin disorders.
Other potential benefits of CBD aren’t clear. No high-quality research shows that CBD improves sex drive, decreases pain, treats depression or mood disorders, decreases PMS symptoms like bloating and cramps, or relieves symptoms of menopause like hot flashes. This may change as more studies are done, but for now, the jury is out.
Are CBD products safe?
The short answer is this: pure CBD seems to be safe for most people. However, we don’t have rigorous studies and long-term data to prove whether or not a wide range of CBD products are safe for everyone. For example, there is no evidence to suggest that CBD is safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding, or for people who are immunocompromised.
Because CBD products aren’t regulated by the FDA in the way that drugs are, there is huge variation in quality and, quite possibly, safety. In 2017–2018, counterfeit CBD oil was found that contained synthetic cannabinoids and led to a poisoning outbreak in Utah.
Testing shows purity and dosage can be unreliable in many products. One study found less than a third of the products tested had the amount of CBD shown on the label. Another study of 84 CBD products bought online showed that more than a quarter of the products contained less CBD than stated. In addition, THC (the component that can make you feel high) was found in 18 products.
Does CBD cause side effects?
CBD can cause side effects like dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, and drowsiness. Additionally, it can interact with certain medicines, such as blood thinners and antiseizure drugs. If you would like to start using CBD products, it’s best to first talk to your doctor.
There are a lot of extravagant product claims out there about the benefits of CBD for women, but little high-quality research supports them. CBD oil and other CBD products aren’t well regulated. It’s possible what you are buying is counterfeit or contaminated. Before using CBD — especially if you plan to vape or ingest it — first talk with your doctor or healthcare provider to learn whether it could be safe and helpful for you.
About the Authors
Rose McKeon Olson, MD , Contributor
Rose McKeon Olson, MD, is a resident physician in internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She has special research interests in gender-based violence, social medicine, and global health equity. See Full Bio
Eve Rittenberg, MD , Contributor
Eve Rittenberg, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a primary care internist at the Fish Center for Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Her interests include women’s health, trauma-informed care, … See Full Bio
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I am a 55 year old woman who has suffered with neuropathy since 2004 (amplified by a trauma in 2011); as well as a sciatic nerve issue and other complication since my trauma. One thing I found out (very quickly!), many of the drugs (natural or not) are either recomended for short term relief and used very long term, or the probable cause of added, often more sever, side effects. I don’t believe, for me personally, any medication that has the potential to do more harm than good, especially when it can only treat symptoms and not the cause, would be ideal, unless there is ‘no other option’ or perspective hope. Limited and controlled ecersizes along with diet, seem to have worked best for me personally; but, yes it is very difficult many days. However, I plan to watch my grandchild grow-up, and I plan to do that watching with as clear a mind as possible for today and tomorrow. Side-effects of CBD have been relatively unstudyed or unpublished for lack of verification. That is not promising. All of that being said, I am sure for some people CBD oil could be a God send of relief, most especially for some seizure and cancer patients.
Cannabis Sativa and Hemp are two different plants. Marijuana is not a plant, it’s a slang term used by rhetoric spewing racists seeking to profit from a new prohibition. How can you publish this when you clearly don’t know the basics?
As a woman with a cervical level spinal cord injury, who has experienced many benefits through the use of CBD … this article had absolutely no relevance to its title.