CBD has pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects that may help improve symptoms of menstrual pain. Learn more about how to use CBD for period cramps here.
Menstrual cramps or dysmenorrhea is the throbbing, aching pain in the lower abdomen that occurs before and during women’s periods.
The intensity and duration of menstrual cramps can vary from person to person — some cases can be so severe that women may have to take time off work as the pain can radiate from the abdomen to the lower back and legs.
Many people are reaching for more natural solutions for menstrual cramp pains, and CBD is among the most popular for its gentle effects.
CBD has been extensively studied for its potential towards supporting a healthy inflammatory response and analgesic (pain-relieving) properties that may help alleviate some of the pain from menstrual cramps.
This article dives into how CBD may help address menstrual cramp symptoms and how to use it.
Before we begin on how CBD oil may help address painful menstrual cramps, it’s helpful to understand more about the menstrual cycle as a whole with a small crash course.
The average menstrual cycle is roughly 28 days and consists of four phases:
It’s during the menstruation phase where cramps occur. If a fertilized egg doesn’t attach to the thickened uterine lining (endometrium), the body starts to break it down.
The expulsion of menstrual fluid (a.k.a period blood) contains blood, cells from the uterine lining (endometrial cells), and mucus.
The abdominal cramping pain comes from the throbbing sensation of the uterus contracting to expel this lining. Hormone-like compounds called prostaglandins and prostacyclins involved with inflammation trigger these uterine muscle contractions, which can also cause swelling and pain.
It’s been observed that higher levels of prostaglandins result in more intense cramping sensations .
However, there are other causes for extremely painful menstrual cramps and pelvic pain, which may include:
CBD doesn’t have direct processes involved with the menstrual cycle, but it may help to indirectly offer premenstrual syndrome support through its interaction with the endocannabinoid system, which is tasked with regulating hormone function, inflammation, and pain perception.
Let’s jump into how CBD may support menstrual cramps through current medical research.
There isn’t much research examining CBD and menstrual cramps specifically, but studies show CBD can block the signal pathway for pain in cancer management and bone and joint issues . CBD might help with cramping and other muscle-related soreness.
In a pre-clinical study, CBD blocked pain transmission to the central nervous system through specific interactions at the vanilloid receptors (TRPV1). When CBD binds to TRPV1, it activates a process to mediate pain perception and control inflammation .
CBD may help relieve period pain through its muscle relaxant properties.
There have been extensive clinical studies of CBD use with people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In this disease, the immune system attacks the protective covering (myelin sheath) of cells in the central nervous system, leading to movement-related problems, including tremors and poor muscle coordination.
Researchers found that a CBD/THC spray helped reduce muscle spasticity, helping alleviate pain and provide better coordination at a cellular level .
Perhaps the most impressive effect of CBD is its potential as an anti-inflammatory compound.
Prescription NSAIDs are effective for pain relief because they block specific enzymes that trigger the inflammatory response from releasing.
CBD is unique in that it targets the COx-2 enzyme, which isn’t affected by regular NSAIDs, to reduce inflammation without causing side effects linked with over-the-counter pain relievers .
Calming the mind also helps the body relax, which can significantly improve the intensity of pain.
During the menstrual phase, reproductive hormones are all over the map, affecting mood and stress levels. CBD has many benefits towards supporting healthy stress levels and regulating mood.
CBD can boost GABA activity in the brain, a neurotransmitter that counteracts the stress response, allowing you to enter a relaxed state.
On top of this, CBD regulates serotonin and dopamine levels in the brain, positively impacting our sense of contentment and well-being .
These two hormones help mitigate the perception of pain, which can be more profound in providing pain relief than opioid-based drugs.
CBD comes in various potencies and forms, giving users multiple options for using it for comfort and more accurate dosing.
Smoking CBD products is the fastest way to feel the effects of CBD, and it’s the most potent because of its high bioavailability.
You can also use CBD concentrates smoked out of a vape or dab rig.
When you smoke CBD, most of the active compounds enter the bloodstream via the lungs in a matter of minutes. It bypasses the digestive system and liver processing, breaking down many active ingredients, making it more potent.
The tricky thing about smoking CBD is that it’s hard to dose accurately. You risk taking too much at one time, increasing the chances of side effects like dizziness, drowsiness, and diarrhea — which isn’t practical for daytime use.
Eating CBD is perhaps the most approachable introduction to CBD. They come in various formats from oils, capsules, gummies, and chocolate and allow you to take your desired dose with more accuracy.
CBD oil and other forms of edibles list the CBD content on the bottle. It’s best to match the strength of CBD you’re purchasing to the dose you’re after for easier on-the-go dosing, and it’s more cost-effective on the wallet.
You may find that you need a higher dose of edible CBD compared to smoking it. This is because your digestive system starts to break down cannabinoids before it enters the bloodstream. To account for this, you have to experiment with doses until you find your desired effects.
To make it easier for you, we have a helpful CBD oil dosage calculator.
Keep in mind that it will take longer to feel the onset of effects compared to smoking. Depending on your metabolism, it may take 20–45 minutes, but the effects last longer (4–6 hours).
Topical CBD products like creams, lotions, and gels work by interacting with the endocannabinoid receptors in the skin. These work best for localized pain for muscle and joint soreness.
You want to make sure that the CBD topical you’re using has a high strength of CBD in it (10 mg/mL or more), or you may not find the results you’re after for supporting period pain.
The benefit of using topicals is that you can reapply as much as needed throughout the day without risking some of the negative side-effects of ingesting too much CBD, like fatigue, drowsiness, or digestive issues.
Another way to administer the benefits of CBD to relieve menstrual cramps is through the vaginal and rectal walls. These cavities are filled with blood vessels that absorb cannabinoids quickly while avoiding destruction by the digestive system and liver.
CBD suppositories are hard to come by, but in this case, they’re particularly useful for delivering the benefits of CBD quickly and closer to the source of pain.
Foria has a CBD suppository made of cocoa butter and coconut oil infused with CBD extract in the shape of a tampon. You insert the CBD suppository into the vagina and allow the body heat to melt and deliver the CBD into the bloodstream.
Some users report making their own CBD oil tampons by soaking regular tampons with CBD to relieve pain and inflammation from their periods. We don’t recommend doing this as neither product was designed for that use. You risk giving yourself a vaginal infection.
When shopping for CBD products to manage your period pain, you’ll encounter three types of extracts:
Experts and cannabis enthusiasts agree that full-spectrum extracts deliver the most potent and well-rounded benefits to support pain, inflammation, and stress. This is because while CBD is a powerful compound, it’s not as strong on its own.
Other cannabinoids and terpenes help to amplify the effects of CBD in the endocannabinoid system and can even offset some of the potential negative side effects.
You can’t always take the CBD oil for face value, so always check to see that the brand offers a certificate of analysis by an accredited third-party lab to prove the cannabinoid profile, potency, and safety.
While CBD is a powerful compound, it won’t solve all your problems.
The best way to combat period pain is by taking a holistic approach. There may be foods in your diet and stress levels contributing to the severe menstrual pain you’re experiencing. You should address your lifestyle and look to other natural, gentle remedies you can apply for pain relief.
Here are some other helpful tips for reducing period pain:
Before taking any medication and CBD products purchased online for severe period pain, we recommend speaking with your doctor to ensure that it won’t interact with prescribed medication or worsen underlying health conditions.
There are over-the-counter medications for menstrual cramps like ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, and Midol) to ease period pain or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin that limit the extent of inflammation, thus reducing pain.
For severe cases of menstrual cramping, doctors may prescribe birth control medication. Birth control medications are a form of hormone therapy that decreases the level of prostaglandins in your system, limiting the symptoms of period pain along with preventing pregnancy.
CBD is one of the main active compounds from the cannabis plant, with muscle relaxing and anti-inflammatory properties that show potential for supporting menstrual pain.
With so many CBD products on the market, there are many ways you can use CBD to provide you with relief.
We recommend shopping for a full-spectrum product, as it will include minor cannabinoids and terpenes that also support CBD’s pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects and provide you with greater support.