A large proportion of women have several symptoms before and during their period, no matter their age, physical condition or medical record. Furthermore, the days before the start of menstruation are sometimes the hardest for most of them, with a group of symptoms commonly called PMS or premenstrual syndrome. For centuries, medical marijuana has been used across the world for its therapeutic potential, and menstrual cramps are not an exception. In this article we’ll focus on how cannabis can help relieve these symptoms, and we’ll tell you everything you need to know if you decide to use marijuana to treat them.
What is premenstrual syndrome or PMS?
PMS or premenstrual syndrome is a group of symptoms which appear a few days before the start of menstruation, also known as luteal phase. These are some of the most commonly found symptoms during this phase, also during menstruation:
- Breast pain
- Tiredness and fatigue
As anyone can imagine, it is hard to have a normal daily life with these symptoms, so treating them has been one of the main goals of medicine since its very beginning. We have studies that confirm that 84% of women suffer from some of these symptoms during each and every period. And, as happens with many other medical conditions, marijuana appears in ancient pharmacopeias from around the world as a good remedy to relieve these symptoms, which are mainly caused by hormonal imbalances.
Cannabis and menstrual pains
The medicinal properties of cannabinoids, especially those related to pain relief, have been used for milennia. We have testimonies to that in places as far afield as China or England, where J.R. Reynolds used to prescribe it to Queen Victoria for her menstrual cramps. Let’s take a look now at how cannabis can help alleviate each of these symptoms:
Breast pain reduction
During the days before the start of menstruation, many women suffer from breast pains and hipersensitivity, which is caused by an increase in the production of progesterone that, in turn, causes inflammation of milk ducts. While we still don’t have conclusive studies directly relating cannabis and reduction of breast pain, it is believed that the anti-inflammatory properties of marijuana may help in these cases.
Relief of abdominal cramps
As happens with the previous case, researchers believe that the anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic effects of cannabis – especially those of THC or tetrahydrocannabinol – may help relief abdominal cramps during the days before the period starts, which are caused by contractions of the uterus. A very wide range of patients claim that cannabis does help combat cramps, nausea and other symptoms also associated with the digestive system.
Relief of headaches and migraines
Several studies point cannabis as a very useful substance to treat headaches and migraines. It has also been observed that almost half the women surveyed directly relate migraine and menstruation, which can be explained by the abrupt drop in estrogen levels during the premenstrual phase. This drop also causes the brain to have less resources to reduce perception of pain, which is then felt with increased intensity. Keep in mind that smoking is not recommended to treat headaches or migraines with cannabis, since some of the substances released during combustion actually cause headaches or may promote migraines. Using edibles or cannabis vaporizers is recommended in this case.
Treat insomnia and sleeping disorders
Many women claim problems for sleeping properly during both the premenstrual and menstrual phases. As we’ve seen in other examples, the sedative and narcotic properties of some cannabis strains can greatly help fall into a deep and restful sleep. According to the experts, this problem culd be caused by a drop in progesterone hormone rates, which depend on the phase of the menstruation cycle and suddently drop a few days before it starts. The effects of cannabis on sleep are well known by the scientific community, and both THC and CBD have shown very promising results when it comes to treat sleeping disorders.
Reduction of mood changes
The different fluctuations in the production of hormones during the menstrual cycle cause the aforementioned symptoms plus mood changes. Thus, many women must face a true “emotional roller coaster” caused by these hormonal imbalances, feeling anxiety, stress or depression. The wide range of effects of the cannabis plant on your body – from sedative to uplifting – can help you compensate these mood changes and deal with them more easily, especially thanks to the antidepressive properties of diverse cannabinoids and terpenes.
Estrogen during menstruation
Despite several hormones play their role during the menstrual cycle (progesterone, prolactin, cortisol, etc), it is probably estrogen the most important of all of them. Oftenly, and as you may have experienced if you’re a cannabis smoker, the effect of the plant is milder during your period, which is caused by a sharp decrease in estrogen levels. Indeed, estrogen directly interacts in the way your body deals with cannabinoids: the more estrogen, the better your body absorbs compounds like THC, so smaller amounts of weed are needed to obtain the same effect when estrogen levels are high. However, and as we already know, estrogen levels drop during your period, so the effects of cannabis are always milder precisely when they’re most needed.
Moreover, estrogen has another wonderful property: it is capable of decreasing the activity of enzyme FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase). What does it mean? Well, it means that more anandamide is released in your body, since one of the tasks of FAAH is to block its release. Anandamide is an endocannabinoid which helps combat anxiety and stress, so high levels of estrogen – and thus increased levels of anandamide – increase your defences against these symptoms. In this way, estrogen acts like another cannabinoid comonly found in marijuana, CBD or cannabidiol.
Be that as it may, and since the therapeutic properties of cannabis differ from one plant to another (and from one person to another), it is very important to write down what plants you’re growing, their effects, dosages, and everything you’ll need to know to determine what plant works best for you to treat these annoying symptoms.
Studies and publications on cannabis and menstruation consulted for the writing of this article:
- Using marijuana to cope with the pain and other symptoms of medical abortions and menstrual periods, E. Wiebe, S. Jaffar, J. Zelmer, B. Byczko
- Prevalence of menstrual pain in young women: what is dysmenorrhea? Giovanni Grandi, Serena Ferrari, Anjeza Xholli, Marianna Cannoletta, Federica Palma, Cecilia Romani, Annibale Volpe, Angelo Cagnacci
- Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects, Ethan Russo
- Effects of Medical Marijuana on Migraine Headache Frequency in an Adult Population, Rhyne DN, Anderson SL, Gedde M, Borgelt LM
- Hypnotic and antiepileptic effects of cannabidiol, Carlini EA, Cunha JM
- Cannabidiol induces rapid-acting antidepressant-like effects and enhances cortical 5-HT/glutamate neurotransmission: role of 5-HT1A receptors, Linge R, Jiménez-Sánchez L, Campa L, Pilar-Cuéllar F, Vidal R, Pazos A1, Adell A, Díaz Á
- Genetic Disruption of 2-Arachidonoylglycerol Synthesis Reveals a Key Role for Endocannabinoid Signaling in Anxiety Modulation, Brian C. Shonesy, Rebecca J. Bluett, Teniel S. Ramikie, Rita Báldi, Daniel J. Hermanson, Philip J. Kingsley, Lawrence J. Marnett, Danny G. Winder, Roger J. Colbran, Sachin Patel
- The Discovery and Development of Inhibitors of Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase (FAAH), Katerina Otrubova, Cyrine Ezzili, Dale L. Boger