After many years of suffering from terrible pains with each passing month, I finally tried marijuana for menstrual cramps – and it worked like a charm.
I’ve been struggling with severe menstrual cramps (stomach pain, nausea, exhaustion, sometimes even vomiting) ever since my late teens.
You have no idea how many times I had to cancel plans. I’d spend that entire day in bed, doing basically nothing but enduring pain.
I’m the type of person who only takes medications when they’re 100% necessary. So most of the time I tried to avoid pills, but sometimes pain and nausea would become so unbearable that I had to take a double dose just to make it through the day.
Of course, I consulted my gynecologist and the tests showed everything was fine, but the cramps were there every month to make my life a living hell.
As I started college, I got acquainted with pot and started smoking it occasionally with my friends. I noticed that using cannabis made me feel much better when I’m on my period.
The pain and nausea were really diminished, and I could eat and sleep again. I felt like pot gave me my life back on “those” days.
Centuries of pot for menstrual pain
By all means, I’m not the first who found relief from menstrual cramps with pot.
A long time ago, in a 16th-century Chinese text, cannabis was listed as a remedy for reducing cramps during menstruation. (1)
I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that one of the most powerful women in history was a “medical cannabis patient”, using the plant for menstrual cramps.
It was no other than Queen Victoria.
The Queen previously tried opium, coca, wine, and chloroform before her physician Sir John Russell Reynolds prescribed cannabis to ease painful menstruations. Sir Reynolds openly recommended pot for “simple spasmodic dysmenorrhoea”. (2)
It seems that women have been using cannabis for menstrual cramps for centuries. However, even with so many countries where medical marijuana is legal today, painful periods are nowhere to be found as a condition qualifying for medicinal cannabis.
What is dysmenorrhea, aka menstrual cramps?
Dysmenorrhea is a medical term for pain accompanying menstrual bleeding. Some women are lucky enough not to have painful periods.
There are two types of this condition: primary dysmenorrhea and secondary dysmenorrhea.
Primary dysmenorrhea is what most women would experience as menstrual cramps. This type of dysmenorrhea is not caused by any other disorder of the woman’s reproductive system, and it usually comes back every month.
Pain can begin a day or two before the menstruation and last anywhere from 12 to 72 hours. This type of “normal” menstrual pain is oftentimes accompanied by nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fatigue. As a woman grows older, the cramps usually lose their severity.
In the case of primary dysmenorrhea, the uterus contracts throughout the whole cycle, but during menstruation, it contracts additionally.
When it contracts forcefully, the uterus presses against nearby blood vessels, cutting off the supply of oxygen to the muscle tissue of the uterus. So basically we feel pain because there isn’t enough oxygen in the uterus during a contraction.
Besides accompanying symptoms like the feeling of pressure and pain in the belly, the pain can also spread to hips, lower back, and inner thighs.
With secondary dysmenorrhea, the symptoms including nausea and vomiting aren’t that common. The pain is usually caused by infections, myomas or other conditions related to reproductive organs. The pain would then begin earlier in the cycle and last longer than common cramps.
So if you feel unusual pain for more than 2-3 days, you should see your doctor.
Dysmenorrhea is usually treated with ibuprofen and/or birth control pills. However, long-term use of ibuprofen can upset the stomach and cause many side effects. It’s no surprise that many women are looking for a safer, more natural way to treat painful menstruations.
Cannabis and menstrual pain
As I mentioned before, menstrual pains are caused by contractions of the uterus. Numerous studies have already confirmed that cannabis has powerful pain-killing properties and that it’s very effective in relieving muscle spasms.
But when I tried to find a clinical study, a review or research on using cannabis for menstrual cramps, I found almost none.
The major benefit of cannabis for women with menstrual issues is definitely its pain managing effects.
The most abundant cannabinoid in cannabis, THC, binds to CB1 receptors of the endocannabinoid system which are found in both central and peripheral nervous systems, meaning they’re also present in pain circuits. (3)
When THC is introduced into our system, it activates CB1 receptors of the cells and weakens the strength of pain signals. (4)
In states and countries with a medical cannabis program, pot has been used for managing different types of pain for quite some time now: chronic pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, spinal cord injuries. But no menstrual pain.
Dysmenorrhoea is mentioned in a couple of studies about cannabis and pain but without any precise details. (5)
However, many women around the globe figured this out and began self-medicating to diminish the pain during those days.
This 2012 study (7) wasn’t about menstrual cramps but revolved around multiple sclerosis and pot. However, the study reveals a lot about cannabis’ muscle relaxation properties which we can definitely apply to the topic at hand.
MS patients who experience issues with muscle spasticity were obliged to smoke a joint, or what looked like a cannabis cigarette (the placebo group).
After a washout period, they switched the groups. While consuming cannabis, patients experienced a 30% decrease in muscle spasticity and reported a lessening in levels of pain.
In the past few years, CBD became a rising star in the cannabis world for many reasons, but most importantly because it’s a natural antidepressant. (8)
When you’re having a painful period, it interferes with all other aspects of your life, including your mood. Severe cramps make the entire body feel horrible, both physically and mentally.
Just a few puffs of a high-CBD strain or a couple of drops of CBD oil work magic on your overall mood.How to use cannabis for menstrual cramps?
Most women are baffled when they realize how fast and effective weed can be for menstrual pain.
If you’re thinking about trying weed to manage your cramps for the first time, here are some tips to get you started.
Smoking and vaping are the quickest ways to feel relief with cannabis.
When you smoke/vape, the cannabinoids reach the bloodstream more rapidly comparing to other consumption methods, with the user feeling the first effects 5 to 10 minutes after taking the first toke.
Several different factors, such as the time of day, how busy you are at that time, the intensity of the pain, etc., will determine the type of strain you should use.
High CBD strains are usually reserved for daytime use since they won’t make you feel high and sluggish like high-THC strains.
However, it seems that strains with high THC content work best for menstrual cramps.
But don’t worry, you can use cannabis without getting really intoxicated and still reap all of the medicinal benefits of THC.
Just try a strain with a 1:1 ratio of THC to CBD, because cannabidiol (CBD) will significantly decrease the psychoactive sensations associated with THC.
If you’re from Canada, you can also find your perfect strain by using our Strainblazer tool, where you can adjust multiple parameters that will precisely filter your results.
Find the right strain for you
Whether you want to relieve anxiety, pain or depression, the right strain is out there. Use our online tool to narrow the search.
Cannabis tampons and suppositories are slowly spreading on the market, and there are a couple of options, including both THC and CBD suppositories.
A few companies like Foria and Whoopi Goldberg’s cannabis tampons have been on the market in a couple of states for some time now. They are pill-sized suppositories designed to be used vaginally just like any other suppository/tampon. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes for them to start working.
What I realized reading other women’s comments about their experiences with marijuana for menstrual cramps is that many of them found THC suppositories to be far more effective.
Several companies offer multi-purpose cannabis-infused topicals for external use.
Many arthritis patients have been using these infused creams directly on the skin to reduce pain and inflammation.
Rubbing a little bit onto your belly will make your muscles relaxed, and the cramps much less painful.
Cannabis oils are also a great way to medicate yourself, without the dangerous substances that are released upon combustion. A few drops can make a huge difference for your menstrual cramps.
In the past couple of years, I’ve seen significant efforts in some states to add dysmenorrhea to the current list of qualifying conditions for medical cannabis.
Let’s hope this trend will quickly spread to other states and countries.
- Russo EB, Dreher MC; Mathre ML; Women and cannabis: medicine, science, and sociology; Binghamton, NY: Haworth Herbal Press, c2002
- Reynolds, J. Russel; Therapeutic Uses and Toxic Effects of Cannabis Indica, Lancet 1 March 1890; 637-638. Reprinted in Mikuriya, 1973, 145-149
- Manzanares J, Julian M, Carrascosa A.; Role of the Cannabinoid System in Pain Control and Therapeutic Implications for the Management of Acute and Chronic Pain Episodes; Curren Neuropharmacology; July. 2006; 4(3):239-257
- Guindon J, Hohmann AG; The endocannabinoid system and pain; CNS and Neurological Disorder Drug Targets; December 2009; 8(6):403-21
- R Noyes Jr, DA Baram; Cannabis analgesia; Comprehensive Psychiatry; 1974;
- Russo EB; Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain; Therapeutic and Clinical Risk Management; February 2008; 4(1):245-259
- Corey-Bloom J, Wolfson T, Gamst A, Jin S, Marcotte TD, Bentley H, Gouaux B; Smoked cannabis for spasticity in multiple sclerosis: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial; Canadian Medical Association Journal; July 2012; 184(10):1143-1150
- de Mello Schier AR, de Oliveira Ribeiro NP, Coutinho DS, Machado S, Arias-Carrión O, Crippa JA, Zuardi AW, Nardi AE, Silva AC; Antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like effects of cannabidiol: a chemical compound of Cannabis sativa; CNS and Neurological Disorder Drug Targets; 2014; 13(6):953-60