If you deal with menstruation, or know someone who does, it’s worth looking into how and why CBD can help manage the struggle that comes with having periods.
The endocannabinoid system plays an important role in the reproductive system. There are endocannabinoid receptors found in the uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes, vagina, and vulva. Cannabinoids have been used to treat reproductive and sexual health concerns since Ancient Mesopotamia. Famously, even Queen Victoria used cannabis indica to help with cramps.
Cramps, Cramps, Cramps!
Cramps are an all-too-common (and extremely annoying) part of the menstrual cycle. In the first part of the menstrual cycle, the uterus builds up a lining of endometrial tissue. After ovulation, the body cuts off the blood flow to the endometrial lining, and it sheds. This is when bleeding (and cramping) occurs.
What causes cramps? Chemical substances produced by the body, called prostaglandins, are partly to blame. Prostaglandins are part of the body’s natural healing process and also part of the menstrual cycle. (You can think of prostaglandins like traffic cones on an under-construction road. They’re essential to keeping the road functioning, but if there’s too many, or if they’re in the wrong place, they cause problems.)
High levels of prostaglandins are associated with inflammation and pain, and prostaglandin levels are highest during menstruation, when cramps occur. This link between prostaglandins, pain, inflammation and your period is one of the places where CBD comes in. CBD has anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving effects, and these effects help alleviate cramps in a similar way to ibuprofen.
When menstrual cramps hit, many people’s first reaction is to reach for a bottle of ibuprofen. Ibuprofen and other NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including ibuprofen and naproxen) help with period pain. These drugs restrain the enzyme that produces prostaglandins (and lower prostaglandin levels results in less inflammation and cramping). CBD restrains the same enzyme, so it has the same prostaglandin-reducing effect as NSAIDs, but without the stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea that can be caused by drugs like ibuprofen.
Relief & Support Beyond Cramps
Beyond cramps, CBD has the potential to alleviate other menstruation-related issues.
The endocannabinoid system’s role in the reproductive system means cannabinoids could help with painful conditions like endometriosis (where the uterine lining grows outside the uterus). CBD interacts with cannabinoid receptors in the body in a way that could decrease pain-sensitivity stemming from endometriosis.
PMS (premenstrual syndrome) mood-swings could also be balanced by cannabinoids. Estrogen uses the endocannabinoid system to help regulate emotions. Since estrogen levels are lowest during PMS, phytocannabinoids like CBD could help balance some of the PMS emotional rollercoaster.
The menstrual cycle even affects sleep. Up to 30% of people report sleep disruption before and during menstruation, citing headaches, anxiety, nausea, and pain. CBD can help you get a good night’s sleep during your period by helping alleviate these symptoms. (Sleep Drops, anyone?)
The Bottom Line
Every body is unique, and everyone has different challenges related to their menstrual cycle. CBD can be part of a strategy to deal with these challenges:
- Topical CBD can be used on the lower back, stomach, or hips to help with localized pain related to cramps
- CBD Tinctures can provide longer-lasting relief as they stay in the system for 5-6 hours
- CBD Vaporizers Kits and Disposable Pens are easily portable and provide quick-acting relief, so they’re great for on-the-go use
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