The Queen’s Cannabis
In the late nineteenth century, neurologist and physician Sir J. Russell Reynolds prescribed a cannabis tincture to Queen Victoria to relieve cramping associated with the ruler’s menstrual cycle. “When pure and administered carefully,” he wrote, “[cannabis] is one of the most valuable medicines we possess.”
This wasn’t limited to Queen Victoria. In 1883, the British Medical Journal published stories related to treating heavy bleeding (or “mennoraghia”) with cannabis. Even earlier in 1564, the German medical text The Kräterbuch of Tabernaemontanus stated, “women stooping due to a disease of the uterus were said to stand straight again after having inhaled the smoke of burning cannabis.” Cannabis has historically been used by innumerable women to relieve menstrual pain, and thanks to modern medicine and recent legalization, we can now begin to understand why it works.
Why Are Periods So Painful?
Starting at puberty, bodies with uteruses follow a monthly cycle triggered by hormones. The uterus develops a nutrient-rich tissue lining spurred by progesterone and estrogen; after ovulation, those hormones begin to wane.
During the luteal phase, which begins when an egg is released, many people experience Premenstrual Syndrome, or PMS, which can include mood swings and cramps. Hormone-like compounds called prostaglandins peak during menstruation, causing inflammation of endometrial tissue, vasoconstriction (the tightening of blood vessels), muscle contractions, and other uncomfortable symptoms.
While even a healthy period can be uncomfortable, there are also many health issues that can cause excessive bleeding and debilitating pain. Regular pelvic health screenings can help detect endometriosis, cervical cancer, and other health concerns. If you experience irregular bleeding between cycles, extremely heavy bleeding, intense fatigue, or an irregular cycle, talk to your healthcare provider. These symptoms can signal deeper issues.
Can Cannabis Help with Menstrual Pain and PMS?
As an anti-inflammatory and analgesic, cannabis can relieve muscle pain, relax uterine spasms, reduce pain associated with breast swelling, and address nausea and cramping. The calming, mood-leveling effects of cannabis can help you cope with the mood swings of PMS and PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder).
Anyone who experiences discomfort related to a monthly hormonal cycle can benefit from using cannabis-derived products to relieve pain. This includes cis woman, trans men, trans and post-menopausal women on hormone replacement therapy, and many nonbinary individuals.
What Cannabis Strains Work Best for Period Pain?
For people that can tolerate the intoxicating “high” of cannabis, smoking or vaping, strains that have relatively high levels of CBD (like Harlequin, Key Lime Remedy, or Blackberry Web) can be extremely effective at providing quick relief. THC alone (whether in a high-THC strain or edibles) may not be as effective at relieving pain and inflammation.
Edibles may provide longer-lasting body based relaxation and pain relief. Try selecting gummies and chocolates that contain both THC and CBD, like Revolution CBD Orange Fruit Goobies or Ingrown Farms Chocolate-Dipped 1:1 Pretzels.
What Marijuana Products Target Menstrual Symptoms?
In states like California and Colorado, brands like Foria and Whoopie Goldberg’s Whoopie and Maya have begun selling medicinal cannabis topicals, soaks, and suppositories specifically targeting menstrual pain. While those companies haven’t set up shop in Illinois yet, there are many general use cannabis products that can address specific symptoms.
Those who may want to avoid the intoxicating effects of cannabis (such as minor patients) may prefer topical products that relieve muscle pain and reduce inflammation by soaking into the skin. Try Mary’s Medicinal Muscle Freeze, Progressive Treatment Solutions CBD Body Oil, or Cresco Extra Strength Pain Cream on your next backache.
Though intended for anal use, Shelby County Community Suppositories are sometimes inserted into the vagina. As the solid coconut oil and cannabis oil dissolve, they can have a relaxing effect on pelvic pain. Oils can weaken materials like latex and silicone, so we advise against using suppositories in conjunction with menstrual cups (like the Diva Cup), condoms, or sex toys.
What Else Can I Do to Relieve Pain During My Period?
Moist heat, like a bath with Avexia Epsom Salts, can also be extremely helpful for menstrual pain. Hot water bottles, heating pads, and heat therapy patches provide on-the-go relief.
Don’t forget to drink plenty of fluids and consider over-the-counter, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen. When used in conjunction with cannabis, NSAIDs can help manage your body’s inflammatory response to waning progesterone levels.