Many women are used to having horrendous cramps, mood rollercoasters, and daunting fatigue once a month. Yes, aunt Flo comes with a lot of trouble. Menstrual pain is hell sometimes, but can medical marijuana be of any help?
While various over-the-counter medications seem to soothe period symptoms in many women, they come with a fair share of side effects and tend to lose the impact over time.
Consequently, in an effort to find a natural, side effects free treatment for period pain and craps, some women are turning to Mary Jane.
As of recently, there’s a lot of debate about whether medical marijuana can alleviate the painful effects of period cramps.
In 2017, New York legislators that have legalized medical marijuana in the state proposed a bill to add dysmenorrhea (fancy word for period cramps), to the list of conditions that warrant taking the drug, including Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis and HIV. The bill is currently on the floor calendar.
But this attempt was not as groundbreaking as one would think, as the burgeoning medical cannabis market already had a number of products for that time of the month. In fact, Whoopie Goldberg made headlines in 2016 for launching a line of pot-infused products for menstrual pain like a bath soak, a balm, sipping chocolate, and herbal tinctures.
“I want to go nice and slow with this. I don’t want this to be a joke to people. It’s not a joke to women,” Goldberg told USA Today at the time.
Medical Marijuana for Menstrual Pain: What does the science say?
While some health experts are still reluctant to consider medical cannabis for treating menstrual pain and cramps, the plant has a colorful history of being used exactly for this purpose.
Director of Research and Development of the International Cannabis and Cannabinoids Institue, Ethan Russo, MD who dedicated much of his career to proving the medical effects of cannabis has found evidence that marijuana has been used for women’s health for centuries.
According to Russo, in 16th century China, cannabis was given as a medicine for period-related pain. Some 300 years later, cannabis reportedly found its place in the royal palace in England when it was given as the go-to medicine to Queen Victoria for menstrual cramps, prescribed by her royal physician. Yet, there is no mention in the medical literature of marijuana for treating ailments.
Modern-day medicine is still skeptical about the credibility of cannabis as a treatment for menstrual pain. Gynecologists and health experts cite the lack of research and only anecdotal evidence for their reluctance to advise their patients to use the plant for period cramps.
In a 2015 research conducted by the University of British Columbia, 85% of the 192 women surveyed said they had used marijuana to treat menstrual pain, and 90% said ‘it was effective at relieving the pain.’
However, other researchers indicate that cannabis might have side effects on the hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle. But, so have contraceptive pills.
Menstrual pain is most commonly caused by the release of prostaglandins-hormone-like substances, that trigger cramps in the uterus by reducing blood supply and causing horrific spasms. To date, there’s not much in the medical arsenal to treat dysmenorrhea, except for oral contraceptives that stop ovulation and therefore prostaglandin production, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or ibuprofen.
Meanwhile, women in California and Colorado use ‘cannabis tampons’ with a cookie dough scent.
The idea is that CBD, the non-psychoactive component found in cannabis, has pain relief properties therefore it can help the muscles to relax and prevent spasms. The tampons made by Floria include both of the active ingredients found in cannabis, THC and CBD.
The cells lining the vaginal wall absorb the cannabinoids and block the nerves from signaling the pain signals to the brain. The absorption is done locally, so it reduces the psychoactive high from the drug.