For many women, the time of the month when they get their period is among the most unpleasant of days, when the only thing that can be looked forward to is when the onslaught of lower abdominal pain will finally be over. While some women don’t have to deal with extreme body issues, there are those for whom dysmenorrhea – the medical terms for severe menstrual cramping – is an almost unmanageable condition. Without much knowledge into what can fix the problem, many women turn to over-the-counter drugs like Midol and Tylenol to treat the symptoms.
While legalization around the use of recreational and medical marijuana is changing all the time, there is still a lot that is unknown about the potential of marijuana in treating depression, treating cancer and helping with a host of other illnesses that affect the body. As history would have it, marijuana was prescribed to Queen Victoria in the 19th century by her physician J.R. Reynolds, who believed it helped with menstrual cramping. Yet, what medical marijuana can do for women is a largely unknown.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, up to 20 percent of American women who have menstrual cramps experience the debilitating pain of dysmenorrhea, which can interfere with their ability to complete daily tasks. Whether you are among that number or you know someone who experiences extreme pain from menstrual cramps, there are a few marijuana-based solutions that offer a glimmer of hope and an alternative to allopathic treatments.
The Details on Dysmenorrhea
Most women are no strangers to the menstrual cramps that can come along with their monthly period, but they may not be aware of what exactly causes these excruciating pains. In fact, it’s the release of prostaglandins in the body which cause muscle cramps, reducing blood flow to the uterus and leading to these lower body spasms.
Unfortunately, while painful cramping is something that most women have experienced in their life, there is little that eases the pain and little research into how exactly medical marijuana can help. While there are a variety of suggested home remedies for cramps including exercise, chamomile tea and even acupuncture, there’s much belief that the cannabis plant may be able to help given it’s capacity for calming and relaxation. As a plant-based substance, marijuana does not come with many of the side effects associated with prescription drugs.
A Brief History of Marijuana and Menstrual Cramps
Queen Victoria may be the most famous user of the cannabis plant to deal with the pain of menstrual cramps, but the plant does have a history of alleviating many symptoms associated with women’s health issues. According to a 2002 review, medicine that was made of a combination of hemp seed, saffron and mint was used to assist with childbirth back in 2000 BC. In addition, a 1596 medical document from China suggested that cannabis flowers could fight against the symptoms associated with menstruation. So, at this cultural point, while marijuana is not a medical means of dealing with many of the issues associated with menstruation, there is enough evidence in the cannabis’s long history to suggest that it can combat some of the associated symptoms. With more research into this powerful plant’s capability, there’s hope that we’ll soon have more certainty about what it can do.
The Medical State of Things
Since it’s classified as a Schedule 1 drug, there is still a lot of research into the potential of the marijuana plant that is lacking. Yet, because marijuana has long been used in order to alleviate anxiety and deal with the side effects of cancer chemotherapy, there is hope. According to Statista.com, retail sales for medical marijuana in the United States in 2013 were 1.6 billion, while the projected minimum sales for 2018 are 2.9 billion, making for a sizeable increase. Fortunately, legislation may be set to change in many progressive jurisdictions. In New York, where people suffering from cancer, AIDS and epilepsy (among other ailments) can use medical marijuana, Assembly Bill A00582 would add dysmenorrhea to the list of conditions that can utilize medical marijuana. As the bill states, “Not only will this improve women’s wellbeing and productivity during menstruation, but it will advance New York State in one of the country’s fastest growing industries.”
Can Cannabis Help?
Marijuana may be commonly used to deal with many common ailments, but there is still little that we know about the cannabis plant’s potential for treating cramps. Fortunately, what we do know is that there are many CB1 and CB2 receptors located in the uterus, which means that the cannabinoids found in marijuana may be able to positively stimulate these receptors and regulate the body. According to Dr. Penny Whiting of JAMA Network, there is no evidence for or against the use of cannabis to help specifically with menstrual cramps. While she determined that medical marijuana could work to reduce chronic pain and even lessen nausea, vomiting and sleep issues, there would need to be more research to ascertain any definitives. While the plant’s past use as a solution for menstruation provides some positivity, what will really answer these questions are more in-depth studies into the plant’s true potential.
Some Possible Solutions and Strains
There may not be any surefire solutions, but there’s significant anecdotal evidence that marijuana and CBD oil benefits these timely body pains. In some states, women can use marijuana tampons, which are made from tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). The theory behind them is that the body will absorb the cannabinoids and will not send the pain signals to the brain, thus helping the user avoid menstrual cramps. While there’s no definitive proof that these tampons work, there are some recommended strains for dealing with menstruation and menstrual cramps. If you’d like to test them out, Pennywise and Super Lemon Haze work to fight body pain and have anti-inflammatory qualities. As well, the high THC content in both the Dream Queen and White Widow strains can help to control the spasms associated with period pain in a way that is both natural and plant-based.