Earlier this year, I did some research for Tonic on the use of cannabis to treat symptoms of PMS, namely period pain. Since then, I’ve started using cannabinoid-based products to treat the severe dysmenorrhea—fancy word for cramps—that I’ve endured for most of my adult life. And, you guessed it, it’s working, like a dream.
If this all sounds a bit new age to you, it’s not. Women have been using weed to treat period pain since the 1800s, and the recent resurgence of this knowledge is responsible for the influx of period pain relief products containing active ingredients of cannabis showing up in your Instagram feed. You’ve probably heard of FORIA and Whoopi & Maya, to name but a few of these.
Interested in giving good old Mary Jane a try to treat your period pain? First, be mindful of the legal situation in your area. And second, a quick science lesson. Cannabis contains two active ingredients: cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). CBD and THC have a number of the same medical benefits, providing relief from pain and other conditions, but it’s THC that elicits the, err, “euphoric” feeling you get from cannabis.
There’s a tonne of anecdotal evidence to suggest that CBD and THC products are effective in the relief of menstrual pain and conditions such as endometriosis, but unfortunately the scientific data is lacking. The majority of doctors accept that cannabis provides relief to patients, but have little understanding of how it’s actually working to treat the pain.
Basically, there’s still a lack of understanding as to whether it’s CBD or THC that’s working. “Do we really need to use THC to get relief, and if we’re using THC, how is it working? Is it because we’re finding relaxation or euphoria versus actually blocking pain receptors?” Leah Millheiser, a clinical assistant professor and obstetrician/gynecologist at Stanford Health Care told me.
The positive effects of CBD (which is restricted but can be applied for in New Zealand) may go beyond just period pain. For Ali Francis, a friend of mine and co-founder of The Baking Supply Company—essentially My Food Bag for Marijuana edibles—10-20 mg of CBD oil each morning has drastically reduced her symptoms of endometriosis. “After about a month and a half, I had next to no PMS, and went from taking eight midol per day for a week, to literally nothing but a couple Advil here and there. [It] has completely changed my life,” she told me.
Unfortunately, while there’s growing awareness around the medicinal benefits of CBD for pain, there’s still a stigma around its use. That we already know, but what’s interesting to note is that humans actually have an endocannabinoid system— a group of receptors designed to receive cannabis, which regulate the way we move, feel and react—in place in their brains already. Go figure.