For those dealt the rough blow of painful periods, you’ll know how debilitating it can be. Cramping, exhaustion, headaches, and pain can make it a real challenge to keep up your daily activities as per normal.
If you’re looking for relief from your period pain, CBD might help. This naturally occurring compound packs a healthcare punch, and we’ve rounded up the research to help you decide if CBD oil could help you manage your period pain.
What is CBD?
CBD is a naturally occurring chemical found in cannabis and hemp plants. This tiny compound has been associated with a range of potential health benefits including reduced anxiety, improved sleep, and neuroprotection (1, 2, 3). CBD’s popularity has grown as research has discovered more and more about its health benefits.
You can purchase CBD in a range of forms, but you’re most likely to come across CBD oil, a versatile and easy-to-use product.
How can CBD help period pain?
CBD may be able to help with period pain by targeting the pain directly and by targeting the main symptoms of period pain—inflammation, mood swings, and headaches. While research is needed that investigates the effects of CBD on period pain, current research around CBD’s effects on more general pain and inflammation tell us that CBD shows a lot of promise as a potential treatment for period pain.
CBD’s pain-relieving potential is thought to largely lie in its ability to target serotonin receptors. Serotonin is a hormone that plays an important role in pain management. Research tells us that CBD can target serotonin receptors directly, possibly leading to an increase in serotonin and a reduction in pain (4).
CBD’s potential anti-inflammatory powers are thought to occur thanks to the compound’s various effects on inflammatory markers. Whether it’s stopping the expression of inflammatory proteins, activating inflammatory-blocking receptors or suppressing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, CBD has shown an impressive ability to alter inflammatory processes and possibly help to reduce your inflammation (5, 6).
Research on CBD and period pain
- A 2020 study published in the JAMA Network Open journal investigated the effects of CBD on various conditions. The effects of CBD were determined by collecting self-reported effects from over 276 posts of CBD users in a Reddit community. The study found that people reported benefits from CBD including relief from muscle cramps, muscle tension, inflammation, and menstrual disorders. While this study relied on self-reported effects and more robust and targeted research is needed to determine whether CBD does affect the side effects of menstruation, it is an encouraging early study (7).
- Pain is a common side effect that can occur when you get your period, but research shows that CBD has a lot of promise as a pain reliever. A 2018 study published in the journal Pain investigated various cannabinoids, including CBD, for their effectiveness on patients with various pain conditions. The study found that 29% of participants who used cannabinoids saw their pain levels reduce by 30% (8). It’s important to keep in mind that patients involved in the study measured general cannabinoids and more research into CBD’s analgesic effects specifically is needed.
- There’s a reason you feel a little bloated when you have your period. Prostaglandin, the hormone that triggers menstruation, also causes cramping and inflammation. Research tells us that CBD may be able to reduce inflammation and help you manage the painful swelling that comes with menstruation. A 2020 review of CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects found that CBD can influence inflammation in a number of ways including by modulating TRP channels and by blocking the effects of pro-inflammatory receptors (9).
- CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties were further demonstrated in a 2015 study, where it was found to counteract the effects of pro-inflammatory cytokines and several other inflammatory markers in an experimental model for multiple sclerosis (10).
- Headaches can also be an unwanted painful side effect of it being that time of the month. Luckily, CBD may be able to help you treat them. A 2020 review found that CBD was able to provide significant relief from the pain experienced by patients experiencing chronic headaches (11). While this study does not investigate menstrual-related headaches, in particular, it does highlight the ability of CBD to improve other headache disorders and that is encouraging.
- CBD was further shown to improve headache pain in a 2017 review. The review found that CBD managed to reduce headache duration and severity in patients with cluster headaches (12).
Side effects of CBD
One impressive benefit of CBD that we haven’t discussed yet is its minimal side effects. CBD is largely thought to have a high safety profile, with doses as high as 1,500 mg being used safely and effectively in studies (13).
Side effects that you may experience are largely mild and infrequent but can include lethargy, reduced appetite, diarrhoea, and sleepiness (14). One side effect that you don’t have to worry about with CBD is experiencing a high. While CBD is derived from cannabis, it is not responsible for the psychoactive effects of the plant.
The bottom line
Periods are bad enough without cramping, inflammation, or headaches. The good news is that CBD shows a lot of promise in improving all of these symptoms.
While current research is promising it is important to keep in mind that these studies don’t directly investigate CBD’s effects on period pain. More research in this specific area is needed before we can determine just how effective CBD is on the pain experienced during menstruation. What we do know, however, is that CBD has a high safety profile, so why not give it a go the next time you experience period pain?
|Medically reviewed for KLORIS by Sarah Neidler, PhD|