‘CBD oil was the only thing that eased my intense period cramps’
Simona Mockute, 24, says for the first time in her life isn’t bed-bound during the start of her menstrual cycle since taking the product
For some women, menstrual cramps are annoying. For others, they can be severe enough to interfere with everyday activities for several days each and every month.
Simona Mockute would often find herself bedridden by her period pains, which she’d suffered with from the age of 11. The 24-year-old would also experience intense headaches.
She spent years, unsuccessfully, trying different methods to ease the pain. Painkillers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol were ineffective.
The model and interior designer told i : “The pain was so intense, it was a throbbing or cramping pain in my lower abdomen. The pain would radiate to my lower back and thighs.
“I couldn’t go to school, university or work for the first couple of days of my period, which each month is quite disruptive.
“I’d be crying from the pain. I could’t stand up or breath normally. It was horrible and it really affected my quality of life.”
Simona said the condition affected her mental health. “I felt angry a lot of the time, probably because I was so frustrated with my circumstances. I felt like a prisoner in my own body and mind.”
Told the pain was ‘normal’
Period pain occurs when the muscular wall of the womb contracts during your period to encourage the uterus lining to shed away as part of your monthly cycle.
This compresses the blood vessels lining the womb, which temporarily cuts off its blood supply – and hence oxygen supply. Chemicals that trigger pain are then released, along with hormone-like prostaglandins. These encourage the womb muscles to contract more, further increasing the level of pain.
“Whenever I’ve been to GPs about it, I’ve been told the pain is ‘normal’ and part and parcel of being a woman,” said Simona, who is originally from Lithuania and living in south west London.
Menstrual pain can sometimes be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
But conditions aside, it’s not known why some women experience more period pain than others. It may be that some women have a build-up of prostaglandins, which means they experience stronger contractions.
For reasons not entirely clear, menstrual pain is most common among young women in their teens and twenties; it usually moderates with age and often improves after giving birth.
The Mayo Clinic suggests a woman is at risk of menstrual cramps if she started puberty early, at age 11 or younger, and has irregular periods – as in Simona’s case. Having irregular bleeding, a family history of period pains and smoking are also factors, it said.
Period pain caused by underlying conditions
- Endometriosis – where cells that normally line the womb start to grow in other places, such as in the fallopian tubes and ovaries; these cells can cause intense pain when they shed and fall away
- Fibroids – non-cancerous tumours that can grow in the womb and can make your periods heavy and painful
- Pelvic inflammatory disease – where your womb, fallopian tubes and ovaries become infected with bacteria, causing them to become severely inflamed
- Adenomyosis – where the tissue that normally lines the womb starts to grow within the muscular womb wall, making your periods particularly painful
Relief through CBD
Hormonal birth control can reduce the severity of menstrual cramps but Simona says this method has not eased her agony.
“I would just curl up with a hot water bottle, or have a hot bath to try to get some relief,” she said. “The advice is to exercise but it can be impossible when you are in so much pain.”
Last year, she tried cannabidiol (CBD) oil – the non-psychoactive component of cannabis – and says she hardly suffers any period pain anymore.
The brand she uses – from CBD Armour – is made from hemp seed oil which the producers claim also provides a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids, which is known to help menstrual pain.
“I saw the effects in about two months, and my cycle has become more regular now.
“If I forget to take it, then the pain comes on so I feel sure it’s the CBD.
“It’s a huge relief to not have to have my life stop for a couple of days a month. I can go to work, go shopping and do normal things at the start of my period for the first time ever.”
Consult your doctor
Karin O’Sullivan, clinical consultant at sexual health charity Family Planning Association (FPA), urged people to see their doctor for advice.
“When it comes to managing period pain, different things work for different people,” she said. “There have been some studies that have shown CBD oil can inhibit certain types of pain however, there have not been enough studies with human subjects to be able to say what an effective dose might be and if it does affect menstrual cycles.
“We would recommend that anyone who is struggling with their periods speak with their doctor for advice on how to manage them.
“Some forms of contraception can be used in ways that regulate bleeds, meaning you have lighter and fewer bleeds or even none at all.
“Similarly, if you’re thinking of trying something that isn’t an over-the-counter remedy it’s important to speak to your doctor first as they will be able to advise you on how it might interact with any other conditions you have or medications you take.”
Prone to PMS or Period Cramps? Cbd Wants to Help
Of course, CBD hasn’t been rigorously studied in humans for most use cases. (The same goes for many of the herbs included in the aforementioned products.) Most of the evidence for CBD’s benefits for sexual health is largely anecdotal, or based on very small studies. But brands are banking on CBD’s enduring buzziness (and a slowly growing body of research supporting it) to create products tailored specifically for menstrual and reproductive health.
How it (theoretically) works
CBD is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties, and inflammation is connected to a variety of reproductive health concerns. “CBD—or, preferably, whole hemp oil—can be beneficial for a host of female issues including menstrual cramps, premenstrual syndrome, headaches, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and fatigue,” says integrative OB-GYN Felice Gersh, MD.
CBD is also believed to support the endocannabinoid system—an internal network of receptors and chemical messengers that helps the body maintain homeostasis in the face of environmental stressors. While there’s a lot that we’re still learning about the endocannabinoid system, research suggests that if a person’s hormones are imbalanced, it can negatively impact their natural levels of endocannabinoid molecules. This is where CBD can come into play. ” Cannabinoids like CBD support our endocannabinoid system by decreasing the breakdown of our own endocannabinoids,” says Soyona Rafatjah, MD, medical director of PrimeHealth. “This, in turn, leads to the positive benefits that we see from stimulating our cannabinoid receptors, from pain relief to reduced inflammation to improved mood—all of which can [potentially] improve our menstrual cycle experience.” Hence the appeal for people looking for more natural solutions to their period woes.
The new products in the space
Again, we’ve had CBD lube and other such products for a while now. But the latest round of CBD-infused reproductive wellness products combine the cannabinoid with other herbal ingredients that are supposed to promote a healthy menstrual cycle. The inaugural collection from Winged is one example: Its Happiness Soft Gels supplements ($40) contain female hormone-supportive herbs like evening primrose oil, black cohosh, and chaste tree berry (also known as vitex) alongside CBD.
Winged founder Jessica Mulligan says she launched the line after noticing that there were few CBD brands “tailored specifically to women’s needs.” And indeed, the ingredients are legit—although it should be noted that not all herbs are super well-supported by robust research. “Evening primrose may help reduce the symptoms of PMS and cyclic breast tenderness, as can chaste tree,” says Dr. Gersh.
Ned takes this concept a step further with its new Natural Cycle Collection ($178). “O ne of the most common questions we received after launching our original full spectrum hemp collection was whether or not CBD can help with period symptoms,” says Brittany Weeden, curator of the Natural Cycle Collection. “It was a no-brainer that we had to develop products that are not only safe to take over the long term, but could also help support the endocrine system and uterus.”
FYI: there are also foods you can eat to help support a healthy menstrual cycle:
The collection contains four products —Period Ease Blend Oil ($44), a CBD tincture to take orally with herbs such as black cohosh, cramp bark, and valerian root; Period Soothe Salve ($40), a CBD balm for cramps made with freshly harvested roses and lavender buds; Hormone Energize Roll-On ($36) that promotes energy; and a Hormone Balance Blend Oil ($72) that contains red raspberry leaf and stinging nettles. These two ingredients are associated with improved reproductive health, reduced PMS symptoms, and less cramping, says Annie Miller, botanist, product developer and herb cultivator at Ned.
To help prevent the other minor annoyances that people with vaginas experience on the reg—urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, and the like—cannabis-based lube brand Quim has developed a daily-use oil called Happy Clam ($48), which it likens to “an eye cream for your vagina.” Along with full-spectrum hemp CBD oil, Happy Clam also contains antibacterial and antifungal MCT and tea tree oils, irritation-soothing violet extract, and damiana, an aphrodisiac herb that, anecdotally, can contribute to more powerful orgasms. Unlike the other above-mentioned products, Happy Clam is meant to be applied directly to your labia and vagina, which could be irritating. (Your friendly reminder to always skin-test any new products before putting them anywhere near your bits.)
Is it worth trying?
Some of the benefits promised by these products should be taken with a grain of salt, especially since they often rely on ingredients who haven’t been particularly well-studied. (Including, yes, CBD.) But in general, Dr. Gersh thinks that CBD is safe for most people. However, she recommends those who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should steer clear of CBD and other medicinal herbs. It’s also a good idea to vet supplement products with your health practitioner first to ensure that their ingredients won’t interfere with any conditions you have or medications you’re taking.
However, for those who want an alternative solution to their down-there dilemmas, CBD could be another tool in the PMS-fighting toolkit—if you’re willing to shell out for the pricey products. But some people have found the results well worth it. “It’s incredibly powerful to allocate some of the time and budget we spend on our faces and workout routines to our life-giving organs,” says Quim CEO and co-founder Cyo Nystrom. “They’re a gateway to our holistic wellness.”