Cannabis could be a powerful ally in the fight against menstrual pain and cramps. This is according to recent studies that highlight the anti-inflammatory and relaxing effects of products derived from the plant. Here are the details and where the research stands.
What is dysmenorrhoea
When we talk about dysmenorrhoea, we mean the set of pains associated with the menstrual cycle that accompany a woman for at least the first 24 hours after her period begins. Dysmenorrhoea can be classified as ‘primary’ or ‘secondary’: the former is characterised by lower abdominal pain that is not associated with other diseases or pathologies; the latter is usually associated with other pathologies inside or outside the uterus, such as endometriosis, adenomyosis or fibroids.
At the level of the uterus, pain is mainly caused by uterine contractions stimulated by prostaglandins (molecules associated with inflammation). These contractions, when strong, constrict the blood vessels that supply the uterus, temporarily depriving it of oxygen. Painful symptoms may also extend to the lower back and lower limbs and may be associated with nausea, vomiting, dizziness, profuse sweating, and diarrhoea, leading to a significant and negative impact on a person’s emotional, psychological, and functional health.
Cannabis for menstrual pain and cramps
It is precisely because of the inflammatory nature of such pain that researchers are beginning to question the possible applications of cannabis, known for its anti-inflammatory properties, and possible treatments to combat dysmenorrhoea and improve the quality of life of the more than 9 out of 10 women who suffer from it.
While the anti-inflammatory effects of cannabis and its derivatives have been confirmed by numerous research studies and applications, very few studies have chosen to focus specifically on the female organism, but research is making some progress.
CBD may help relieve menstrual cramps
Among the most recent studies is one from 2019, available on the website of the Online Journal of Complementary & Alternative Medicine. Entitled “Is CBD A Viable Option for Menstrual Symptoms?”, the research aimed to review the studies already conducted on the feasibility of using cannabidiol (CBD) as a therapeutic option for PMS and dysmenorrhoea, although the researchers point out that “no studies were found specifically for menstrual cramps. However, there are sufficient studies to support relief of acute and chronic pain”.
“CBD-based compounds have been studied and shown to treat and relieve symptoms such as chronic pain, inflammation, anxiety, depression, and insomnia, to name a few. Since many of these symptoms are common in women suffering from PMS, CBD may be an appropriate and natural alternative treatment when it comes to managing these events,” the researchers concluded. “It is clear that more research is needed on the use of CBD to treat the specific symptoms of PMS. There is a lack of studies on CBD-only treatments that do not include THC. There is also a lack of knowledge about the possible side effects of CBD. However, the results of this review conclude that CBD is a viable option for the management of menstrual symptoms“.
CBD and menstrual cramps: the 2022 study
A new randomised study from 2022 conducted by a team from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia and presented on the National Library of Medicine website, and conducted by a team from James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, tries to shed some light on the matter, with the aim of investigating the effects of cannabidiol isolate on menstrual cycle-related symptoms in particular.
Thirty-three women aged between 18 and 55 were involved in the four-month study. They were given between 160 and 320 grams of CBD isolate for five days each month, starting on the day the participants believed they had menstrual cycle-related symptoms. A questionnaire specifically designed for menstrual cycle related symptoms (MRSQ) was used to analyse the results.
The data are still being analysed and revised (last updated 11 January 2023) and the results have not yet been published. Further developments are awaited.