CBD and PMS: Does Cannabidiol Ease Premenstrual Syndrome?
More than 3 out of 4 women suffer from premenstrual syndrome (PMS). PMS sufferers experience back pain, acne, cramping, loss of sleep, aching breasts, headaches, joint pain, diarrhea, and bloating.
Cannabis has been used to reduce PMS symptoms since the 9th century. In the 1800s, it was often prescribed for reasons related to female health, including cramping and PMS. Cannabis was used by famous cramp sufferers like Queen Victoria in the 1800s. While science is starting to catch up to the anecdotal evidence, there is a considerable lack of double-blind trials for CBD (cannabidiol) research.
One of the reasons CBD is effective for PMS is because it addresses the scattershot of symptoms. Since CBD affects various mechanisms in the body, it can address multiple things at once.
MDXclusive has physician-recommended and trusted products to support your complaints. A transdermal CBD Patch absorbed through the skin into your bloodstream or CBD Oil Drops that are quickly absorbed under the tongue are options for those who suffer from PMS.
What is PMS?
While PMS isn’t fully understood, most scientists concur that it has to do with the specific hormonal changes that occur at a certain point in the menstrual cycle. PMS lasts as few as five days and as many as eleven days before menstruation. It often varies widely from month to month, depending on external circumstances surrounding the woman.
While CBD generally helps with some of the symptoms of PMS, a lack of exercise and poor diet choices also exacerbate symptoms. It’s vital to remain hydrated and eat a nutritious diet as a symptom reduction regimen.
The Menstrual Cycle
The menstrual cycle begins with menstruation and is the systematic process by which a woman’s body prepares for pregnancy. An entire cycle starts on the first day of your period and ends at the beginning of the next. It takes a month to go through the whole process, though some women experience different lengths or irregular periods that aren’t easily tracked.
These are the phases of the menstrual cycle:
Menstruation: This is your period. Your body is low on estrogen and progesterone as your uterine lining is being shed.
Follicular Phase: From the first day of menstruation until ovulation, the body raises estrogen levels in preparation for egg release.
Proliferative Phase: Uterine lining regrows.
Ovulation: The egg is released by the ovary. Estrogen levels peak.
Luteal Phase: Between ovulation and the next menstruation, the body is preparing for a pregnancy. Progesterone levels are highest.
Secretory Phase: In the case of nonpregnancy, the lining of the uterus prepares to shed.
Estrogen is important to female health. As it rises, the uterine lining thickens, and ovulation occurs in preparation for pregnancy. If a pregnancy doesn’t occur, estrogen levels lower and menstruation happens. When estrogen levels are high, it breaks down cannabinoids. When estrogen levels are lower, it boosts the endocannabinoid system.
Symptoms of PMS can start occurring early and heighten as menstruation starts. Hormones change rapidly depending on where a woman is at in her cycle, which is a major factor in the development of symptoms. Serotonin levels in the brain are also lower during PMS which contributes to sleep issues and depression.
What is CBD?
CBD is one of many compounds found in the cannabis plant and the federally legal CBD products contain no THC. THC is the compound in cannabis that gets you high. CBD is the second most common cannabinoid found in the cannabis plant that has no intoxicating qualities. Cannabinoids created by the human body are called endocannabinoids while the cannabinoids in plants are phytocannabinoids.
Everyone has an endocannabinoid system (ECS) with related receptors throughout the entire body, especially in connective tissue, glands, and cells of the immune system. CBD is an endocannabinoid and can be received by this receptor system. This system plays a huge role in homeostasis which means everything is running the way it should, so your body is working optimally.
CBD increases the effectiveness of the endocannabinoids already in the human body. There is more CBD in industrial hemp than in marijuana, though marijuana also contains some CBD. How much CBD is in a plant’s extract depends on the strain of the plant.
CBD oil is the most common form of CBD that you’ll find, though many other applications are on the market. A CBD oil is made from CBD that has been extracted from cannabis and then mixed in a carrier oil like coconut oil or olive oil. These oils are generally meant to be taken sublingually.
CBD works on the cellular level by maximizing cellular performance. Its anti-inflammatory properties affect the entire body since the endocannabinoid system is widespread. The ability of CBD to help with inflammation from the linings of blood vessels to large muscles is the basis for some of its therapeutic value in people experiencing PMS.
How Does CBD Help with Pain?
Although further research needs to be conducted regarding the relationship between CBD and pain, studies have begun to show a positive correlation between pain management, pain relief, and CBD. CBD’s effects on pain are one of the few facts about CBD that’s starting to be properly documented. There is hope that with more research, the FDA may approve CBD for pain.
When estrogen is the lowest, a woman’s threshold for pain is reduced. Estrogen levels dip the most during the premenstrual cycle making women more susceptible to PMS-related aches and pains. Since CBD affects the complex system that controls hormone balances, it can help raise estrogen levels which in turn increases pain tolerance. Increased pain tolerance will be perceived as a lessening of symptoms.
The most common remedy for pain symptoms during PMS is using NSAIDs or other over-the-counter pain relievers. These options have a ton of side effects that aren’t present when CBD is used for pain. CBD is also non-addictive, so it’s a much better choice than opioids. CBD can also be taken concurrently with any of the medications mentioned.
CBD lotions, salves, and patches are a great way to deal with the localized pain that PMS can cause, like lower back pain. Applying a product like this topically to the affected area can help.
How Does CBD Help with Mood Swings?
People have reported that their anxiety is reduced greatly using CBD, and science backs that up. It allows users to unplug and relax without any negative side effects. It’s been proven that CBD helps alleviate depression and anxiety, which can be a monthly visitor for many women during the last part of their menstrual cycle.
There are cannabinoid receptors on the glands of the endocrine system all over the human body. Endocannabinoids like CBD can influence hormone secretion levels, which can change a variety of processes.
Hormones allow parts of the body to communicate with each other through chemical signals. The parts that go into this swap of chemical signals between hormones and other bodily functions is known as the endocrine system. In a way, cannabinoids control the signal strength of hormones by making them more or less effective as they’re received by receptors around the body.
CBD also influences our hormonal systems by helping to balance them when they’re a little haywire. This helps reduce irritability which is a classic of PMS moodiness. PMS also affects the brain, and CBD can help with the production of certain neurotransmitters that help regulate anxiety, depression, and the ability to relax.
CBD can help control estrogen, an important hormone in the female body. Since estrogen levels affect how much serotonin is produced in the brain, a dip in estrogen during the premenstrual phase can lead to depression, loss of interest, and mood swings.
The main cannabinoid that our body makes is anandamide. Ananda means bliss in Sanskrit, and this hormone is responsible for feelings surrounding happiness. When levels of this compound are up, stress is reduced. When the stress hormone cortisol is released, anandamide levels go up to try and bring everything back into balance. CBD also slows the reabsorption of anandamide, helping to keep elevated amounts in the brain. It’s shown that anandamide levels vary widely at different times in the menstrual cycle, so it’s not surprising that our emotions are fluctuating right along with it.
Emotionally, CBD can help women stay grounded by keeping them from stressing, feeling hopeless, or worrying about the future. Since CBD affects the systems that regulate emotions, it can be the perfect leveling out you need when the predictable and emotional PMS beast is on your shoulders.
Lower doses of CBD are effective for anxiety without bringing on drowsiness or sedation. If you’re wanting to take CBD for those pesky PMS mood swings, start with a 20 mg dose and slowly raise it to 180 mg as needed.
How Does CBD Help with Cramps?
Cramps occur when the smooth muscle of the uterus contracts. The uterus contracts toward the end of a menstrual cycle to stimulate the shedding of the uterine lining called the endometrium. CBD targets receptors in muscles that keep the smooth muscle from contracting.
Estrogen levels fluctuate widely during the menstrual cycle, and low levels are responsible for a dramatic decrease in pain tolerance during the premenstrual phase. Cramping sometimes feels severe because of this.
CBD is a known anti-inflammatory and acts as a muscle relaxer. Endocannabinoid receptors exist throughout the female reproductive tract with a large density being in the uterus. As every sufferer from PMS knows, the pain and discomfort from bloating and diarrhea can wreak havoc on a woman’s life. CBD reduces inflammation in the digestive tract and aids in passing better bowel movements which is a relief to a woman in the throes of PMS.
Prostaglandins are a chemical in the body that plays a huge role in uterine shedding while also stimulating cramps. This chemical is also responsible for the inflammation that causes painful cramping. CBD stops an enzyme that’s used to create prostaglandins, therefore reducing their quantity when it counts. If there aren’t as many prostaglandins in your system, then symptoms of bloating and cramping can be reduced.
Traditional pain medications for cramps inhibit another enzyme as well as the enzyme affected by CBD. This contributes to symptoms like diarrhea and bloating because the extra blocked enzyme is associated with the stomach and intestinal lining.
Instead of ingesting CBD for pain, you have the option of using a vaginal suppository. Using cannabis vaginally to relieve symptoms is over 4000 years old, and the rectal and vaginal walls quickly absorb CBD. The vagina has receptors that respond positively to the presence of CBD and CBD also bypasses the liver and digestive tract. One way to do this is to use a nontoxic CBD mixture designed for vaginas on a tampon. Some women swear by this saying the pain relief far surpasses heating pads and pain pills.
If you do go the suppository route, be very careful that the product you’re using will break down properly in the vagina. Too much oil or another irritant can lead to discomfort, bacterial vaginosis, and thrush.
The most effective dose for period cramping isn’t known, but it’s recommended that it be a heftier dose than you’d take for something milder. Take this dose every day, and after approximately 3 months, noticeable symptom reduction should occur on a reliable basis.
How Does CBD Help with Break Outs?
Getting zits during PMS is common, and topical CBD products can help because they reduce inflammation. Since estrogen plays a part in skin health by stimulating the production of hyaluronic acid and collagen, taking CBD orally to normalize estrogen production will also normalize your skin health.
Topical CBD products are also helpful but through a different mechanism. When hormones are thrown off, a skin oil called sebum can be oversecreted. CBD slows down the production of this oil and is also an antioxidant that helps with wrinkling and skin recovery.
You don’t want to stop the production of sebum; it’s what protects your skin from the outside world. However, when too much of it mixes with dead skin cells and dirt, it clogs pores and causes pimples. CBD is also antimicrobial, and it stops skin cells from overproducing which reduces dead cells that lead to acne.
CBD oil applied topically was shown in a study to keep cytokines related to inflammation from activating. Cytokines are another chemical messenger in our body which may influence the triggering of acne.
For those that are sensitive to benzoyl peroxide or retinol, common ingredients in acne treatment, CBD is worth a shot. If you’re going to incorporate a CBD product into your skincare regimen, it’s recommended you do it twice a day for maximum benefit. While you can use CBD on current breakouts to relieve swelling and inflammation, it takes long-term use to help prevent acne from developing in the first place.
How Does CBD Help with Sleep?
Restless sleep and sleep disturbances are common in women experiencing PMS. Since CBD reduces stress and anxiety while lowering blood pressure, taking it before bed can aid in getting a restful night’s sleep. It is also a relaxant, which also aids a person with drifting off when they’re resting.
To get the full sleep-inducing effects of CBD, you’ll need to take a higher dose about an hour before bed. CBD’s mild sedation properties require a hefty consumption of CBD. A good dose to go with is 160 mg as this not only puts you to sleep but keeps you asleep longer. If the duration of your sleep isn’t the concern, a dose as low as 40 mg is enough for the relaxation to kick in so you can drift off into slumber.
Since CBD affects hormones, it affects the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol levels in a healthy human are highest when there is a threat or danger, and everyday activities that cause stress can signal the body to create more of this hormone. It inhibits sleep as it keeps the mind amped up. CBD slows down the production of cortisol which improves sleep quality.
People that suffer from insomnia have high cortisol levels all night while normal sleepers peak in the morning upon awakening. This leads to the racing mind that keeps people awake. Research has shown that a dose as high as 300-600 mg of CBD can quickly drive down cortisol levels which can help insomniacs settle into sleep.
Since CBD’s side effects are negligible in the general population, they’re also a great choice for sleep over benzodiazepines and anti-psychotics like Seroquel. Seroquel can have terrible side effects like restless legs while also creating a dependency so that the user must take the drug to sleep. CBD comes without all those strings attached.
What’s the Difference Between CBD and Melatonin?
The melatonin hormone increases at dusk and decreases at dawn in response to light. It’s the body’s messenger that helps regulate the circadian rhythm. Melatonin supplements work by supplying your body with a dose of this hormone so that you can go to sleep. It directly works on the systems that make us tired whereas CBD induces sleep through de-stressing and relaxation.
Melatonin is a great choice for people who have an unbalanced circadian rhythm, like those with jet lag or shift workers with inconsistent schedules. Since CBD affects hormonal levels, on sleepless nights it can induce the production of the body’s own melatonin. There are also CBD and melatonin combinations on the market which are worth considering if you’re already a fan of melatonin.
Does CBD Have Side Effects?
Like anything, some people will not tolerate CBD well. While it has a much lower chance of causing side effects than other drugs on the market for the various symptom of PMS, it can interact with some prescription medications and reduce their effectiveness.
One of the benefits of CBD is it's not habit-forming. If you take the plunge into CBD use for your PMS symptoms, you can discontinue use without any sort of withdrawal whenever you want. Other prescription medications require that you taper off them slowly. Because CBD is non-addictive, it’s considered a great substitute for drugs like opioids.
A Final Note on CBD and PMS
Cannabinoids are what link physiology to the mind. They are one of the many messengers used by the brain, and receptors throughout the body to regulate levels of certain chemicals so that the body is running as smoothly as it can.
PMS can be relieved by CBD. Patients with endometriosis have been shown to have fewer endocannabinoid receptors than the average female population and introducing more endocannabinoids into that system can help relieve symptoms.
CBD can be taken as a preventative measure against PMS symptoms, or it can be taken to scale back symptoms as they appear.
Always consult with your physician before picking up any kind of new CBD regimen for your PMS symptoms. Anecdotally, CBD helps with PMS. It may also help with perimenopause. Science is now catching up to try and prove these points.