When Aunt Flo comes to visit, you may feel like Carrie in Steven King’s novel: you’re covered in blood and out for revenge.
Why can’t she quit being a menace that results in hours of stomach pain and a temperament that would make the bravest loan shark quail?
While we may not be able to rid ourselves of her completely, ladies, we don’t have to settle for over-the-counter pain medications that may not work. Instead, there is another alternative: cannabis.
It’s widely used for an assortment of conditions. Why not for cramps?
But does weed help with cramps or is it all a bunch of hype? If you’re ready to boot Aunt Flo’s nasty side effects out the door, it’s time to find out.
What Causes Cramping?
Almost every woman has experienced the throbbing or twisting pain in their lower abdomen during a menstrual cycle. But what causes the pain we hate so much?
In one word, it’s our uterus. Each month, the uterus thickens to prepare for pregnancy. When we disappoint its expectations, it sheds its lining and the waiting egg with it.
During this shedding process, the uterus may contract to help with progression. This is thanks to prostaglandins (hormone-like substances) that trigger the uterine muscle to contract.
Some women only experience mild cramping during their menstrual cycles. Others have pain so severe it impacts daily activities.
If you’re in the latter group, you’re not alone. Over 20% of women suffer from extreme pain that interferes with activities.
Those below the age of thirty, anyone who started puberty early, women with family histories of menstrual cramps and smokers are at higher risk for experiencing the agony monthly.
Types of Dysmenorrhea
The fancy term for “cramps” is “dysmenorrhea.” There are two major types of dysmenorrhea.
Primary dysmenorrhea refers to the condition most women have, where it feels as if their insides are being twisted with a knife. This type is commonplace.
Pain usually begins a couple days before menstruation or when bleeding starts. It may be accompanied by discomfort in the lower abdomen, back or thighs. For some women, they also get to enjoy fatigue, nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea.
Pain scales range for women with primary cramps. Some may experience only mild discomfort while others undergo extreme suffering.
The pain associated with secondary dysmenorrhea derives from a disorder in the individual’s reproductive organs. Common disorders include the following:
- Endometriosis: The tissue that lines the uterus is also found on other organs.
- Adenomyosis: The tissue that lines the uterus grows into the uterus’s muscular wall.
- Uterine fibroids: Benign lumps line the uterus.
- Infections: Commonplace infections include yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis.
In secondary dysmenorrhea, pain usually begins earlier and lasts longer. On the plus side, accompanying effects such as vomiting and diarrhea are rarely experienced.
It’s important to note irregularly long periods and/or extreme pain is not normal. If you experience either, visit your local doctor.
The Problem with Current Treatments
Are there current treatments that alleviate the pain? Yes, but they come with their own benefits and risks.
Currently, over-the-counter pain medicines and prescription medications are provided for severe cramps. Medicines range from the popular Mydol to prescription-strength ibuprofen to birth control.
The problem? Well, there are several.
Firstly, for women who experience severe cramps, the pain is comparable to having a heart attack (literally). Unfortunately, over-the-counter meds and higher doses of pain medication may not cut it.
Furthermore, these medicines come with their own risks with continued use, including kidney damage.
Secondly, doctors often turn to birth control to manipulate periods. As the numerous recalls and lawsuits have shown, some birth control measures are dangerous and come with life-threatening side effects, such as blood clots and breast cancer.
Finally, there is the fact that many physicians wave off the period pain. To an extent, cramps are a natural part of having a period. Therefore, many doctors assume female patients are overreacting.
In fact, it takes an average of 10 years for a woman to be diagnosed with endometriosis because of this issue. The consequence is many women suffer in silence.
Unfortunately, few studies have been conducted on safe and effective alternatives to treat dysmenorrhea.
Cannabis’s Use Throughout History
As a result of the side effects associated with current medicines, many women are turning to natural remedies and cannabis to relieve their pain. Not surprisingly, weed has been used for similar circumstances throughout history.
Queen Victoria is famous for having used cannabis to relieve her menstrual pain. In ancient Egypt, translations of texts indicate Egyptians utilized ground cannabis mixed with honey that was introduced to the vagina. It’s suspected the mixture eliminated cramps.
Does Weed Help With Cramps?
The short answer to this question is “yes.” As with any medicine, however, there are several things to consider.
How Can It Help?
Utilizing cannabis doesn’t stop cramps, but it may address the pain. Very few studies have been conducted on this possible medicinal alternative, so doctors are speculative about its effectiveness.
However, the lining of the uterus contains numerous endocannabinoid receptors. Cannabinoids bind to these receptors, lessening the pain women experience. Cannabis used for other painful conditions works in much the same way.
Even so, many physicians remain doubtful about its usefulness, citing a lack of evidence to support its effectiveness. What many don’t say, however, is that very, very little research has been done on this particular use . . . making evidence hard to come by.
Hundreds of women swear by the cannabis products currently on the market, so it does seem to work for many.
Types of Medications
There are several choices females have in regards to medicine. Whoopi Goldberg is particularly known for her line of goodies, which are aimed at relieving women of their monthly hell.
This list is by no means exhaustive. You can discover more about possibilities for relief at this website.
A popular purchase is marijuana tampons, or suppositories. Foria is one of the leading companies developing these products. These suppositories are meant to provide relief without the accompanying high, and reviews indicate they work in as few as 20 minutes.
The suppositories are comprised of cocoa butter, THC oil, and CBD. When inserted, the vaginal wall absorbs the medication into the bloodstream, lessening pain and relaxing the muscles.
One woman with endometriosis told Buzzfeed using bath salts was like “an out-of-body experience.” Although it didn’t eliminate her pain, it made it bearable. And that’s saying a lot from a woman suffering the effects of endometriosis.
As with supplements, bath salts do not give you a “high,” but they do provide a body buzz to minimize pain.
Crabby and irritable because your uterus is a loser? Try an edible.
At a Canada convention discussing the effects of cannabis use on menstrual symptoms, several women spoke up about edibles. In fact, one woman claimed edibles worked better than any other alternative for managing pain.
Edibles come in many shapes and forms, such as suckers, chocolate (every woman’s favorite during their week of hell) and gummy bears. Users do report varying levels of effects for these, so it may be best to test one out on a day off before using it on routine work days.
CBD oil and tinctures are also available.
Topical ointments and rubs are also on the market. The same woman who claimed bath salts minimized the pain from her endometriosis also suggested using rubs.
She reported, “Rubbing the balm on my abdomen during a bad bloat and pain day made it feel like I was rubbing a warm heating pad with nice lotion all over it.”
Balms do not provide body highs and the relief may be restricted to the outer area rather than the inner, but reports indicate they help with cramping somewhat.
Finally, women can also choose to smoke or vape the pain away. Most suggest purchasing a hybrid strain, which provides a lovely balance between pain management and mood control.
Users report smoking out of bowls, from joints and through vapes to relieve their pain is effective.
Of course, smoking does result in a mind and body high so it should be used responsibly. Additionally, cannabis remains illegal in many states (and is still illegal at the federal level), so users should take this into consideration.
Some suggested strains include:
- Dutch Treat
- Purple Urkle
- Agent Orange
- Blue Dream
- White Widow
First and foremost, women contemplating using cannabis for cramps must understand that few studies have been done to verify its safety or usefulness. Furthermore, not all women experience the same effects from treatments.
Many medicines have not been approved by the FDA.
So, in a nutshell, does weed help with cramps? The science behind its uses in other forms of pain management and countless testimonies from women across the world cry “yes.”
However, research has yet to verify its effectiveness and safety, so females should tread carefully before picking up any magic brownies.
Or not. The choice is in your hands (and influenced by your uterus).
If you want to find out more tips about managing that bad-mouthed Aunt Flo or curbing the Red Tide when it comes your way, read our article about menstrual cups.
Yes, they are totally a thing.