When they’re at their worst, menstrual cramps and PMS symptoms can do much more than ruin your mood. From migraines to bloating, depression and nausea, women have been toughing it out through monthly bouts of pain since the dawn of humanity. For many, none of the available remedies make much of a difference.
Conventional treatments to ease menstrual pain include Midol, ibuprofen, hormonal birth control (pills, IUDs, patches or implants) and anti-depressants. Your doctor or well-meaning friend might suggest some herbal tea to settle your stomach. But these options aren’t terribly satisfying. Not everyone is keen to medicate themselves continually for a condition that has no end in sight or go through minor surgery for an IUD. And few of us find that warm drinks can cure what ails our inflamed and spasming organs.
“I was prescribed Naproxen in my teens and I have tried various birth controls. Nothing worked,” says Sarah, 30. “It made me nauseated and tired. Not a fun combination.”
For about a year Sarah has been using medically prescribed CBD oil to combat her symptoms. “CBD always alleviates headaches and cramps for me. It places me into a more positive headspace making a huge difference mentally during my period.” She takes two to three millilitres per day and then goes about her business. “It does not get me high and relieves pain. I can go to work, enjoy social functions, and be active.”
After her frustrating bout with prescription meds, taking control of her own pain management was an empowering move for Sarah. “It feels good knowing what I am putting into my body. Being able to receive medical CBD oil and medical cannabis has completely changed my way of life for the better.”
Feeling confident that you’ll be able to tackle symptoms makes all the difference in this lifelong battle. That may be why people like Whoopi Goldberg are selling “medical cannabis products aimed to reduce menstrual discomfort.” The anti-inflammatory properties1 of cannabinoids are strong contenders against menstrual cramps and bloating.
This soothing effect on our tissues is a welcome relief. But for some women, their period brings symptoms are a lot more severe than a sore stomach. Up to 8% of women suffer from something even more debilitating than your average monthly misery. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) is a hormone-induced mood disorder, a more severe case of the depression and irritability common in PMS that can require medication. It often prevents sufferers from normal, daily functioning
For Claire, who’s suffered from PMDD for years, it was more than just a few days of pain and bloating. “I felt completely separate from myself.” She describes her symptoms as “frightening” and attended study clinics, consulted with gynecologists and worked with psychologists in an attempt to treat her physical and mental symptoms.
“It's frustrating because there is definitely a sense that other people think it isn't a real problem, or that you should be able to suck it up,” says Claire. She tried progesterone, which made her symptoms worse and was suggested to try an IUD by a resident who admitted they weren’t familiar with PMDD.
“I was surprised [they] recommended solutions instead of referring me to someone more knowledgeable.”
Eventually, her psychotherapist recommended CBD, which Claire had used previously for pain management. She took it orally before bed, and while it had some positive effects, she eventually realized that a combination of various natural substances worked best for her.
Now she works with a naturopath who is managing her pain with natural remedies. And while CBD was just one step on her health journey, it was an important one towards the path the best suited Claire’s body and lifestyle. “When I was taking the CBD, I liked that it was natural,” she says, “as opposed to just taking something like a painkiller to numb or circumvent the symptoms.”
Getting in tune with our body is part of the experience of having a menstrual cycle. Luckily, medical science is slowly getting on-board to help us understand and access what our bodies need. In addition to many new, tech-savvy ways to track our period and get info on our flow, we have the power of growing research into cannabis and the mechanisms behind inflammation, cramping, and hormonal response. With these tools, we can take control of the way we deal with the pain and live better during our periods.