CBD for PMS: How It Helps with Cramps & Other Symptoms
Research has shown CBD oil can alleviate pain & cramping, support mood, & alleviate other common side effects of PMS.
Learn how it works, how much to take, and what side-effects to watch out for.
If you’re one of the 95% of women who experience premenstrual syndrome, it may come as a pleasant surprise that cannabidiol (CBD) may alleviate headaches, cramps, irritability, anxiety, insomnia and other annoying symptoms .
It’s not a magic cure-all, of course, but research shows that CBD may be effective as an anti-pain, anti-inflammatory, and anti-anxiety supplement.
One of the problems with PMS is that it’s extremely complex. Every woman (and every person) has slightly different hormone levels and a unique genetic makeup.
This article will cover everything you need to know about using CBD for premenstrual syndrome. We’ll cover how PMS works and what the current research suggests for supporting this condition.
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Updated on October 19, 2021
Table of Contents
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Can CBD Oil Help With PMS?
PMS has a wide range of symptoms and involves the flux of two reproductive hormones — estrogen and progesterone.
CBD has little effect on these hormones directly but offers a variety of benefits that help alleviate symptoms involving pain, cramping, and mood.
The key benefits of CBD oil for PMS include:
- Relieves stress & anxiety symptoms
- Can help balance mood
- Alleviates pain
- Reduces nflammation
- Relaxes muscle tension & cramping
1. Relieves Stress & Anxiety Symptoms
CBD is considered a non-allosteric modulator — which is a fancy term that suggests it works by indirectly inhibiting certain activities in the brain. It uses the endocannabinoid system as the intermediary to stop the brain cells from firing, as opposed to allowing them to send signals.
While research on the endocannabinoid system is still being explored, this inhibitory behavior may explain why cannabidiol is known for being an anti-anxiety, anti-inflammatory, anti-convulsive, and anti-epileptic therapy .
2. May Help Balance Mood
While PMS is too complex of a topic for any single therapy to work as a cure-all, cannabidiol may be a good alternative to treat some of the symptoms related to serotonin — such as fluctuations in mood.
Since serotonin levels are thought to be affected by the changes in hormone levels during the luteal phase , cannabidiol’s interaction with serotonergic receptors may help relieve some of the symptoms arising from low serotonin levels .
Specifically, depression and anxiety are two negative emotional side effects that may benefit from taking cannabidiol through this interaction with serotonin.
3. Alleviates Pain
Cannabidiol has also been shown to relieve pain by blocking the signaling pathway for pain .
While the current research mainly focuses on cancer pain management and bone or joint problems (osteoarthritis), it isn’t too far of a stretch to think that cannabidiol may help relieve the muscle aches that happen as a result of PMS as well .
The endocannabinoid system regulates both the central and peripheral nervous systems. Since pain is transmitted via these nerves, ingesting cannabidiol has been shown in rats to help with reducing pain and inflammation .
Unfortunately, a review of clinical experiments in people shows conflicting results .
4. Reduces Inflammatory Load
Inflammation associated with premenstrual syndrome might also respond to cannabidiol.
However, inflammation is a complex immunological process involving many chemical cascades, feedback loops, and various cells from both the innate and the adaptive immune systems.
More research, specifically double-blind studies involving larger sample groups, need to be conducted to see if the cause of inflammation during PMS corresponds with the anti-inflammatory actions of cannabidiol [9, 10].
5. Alleviates Muscle Tension & Cramping
Most of the research on CBD and muscle has to do with treating spasticity in those with multiple sclerosis. Going back to the fact that CBD interacts with the endocannabinoid system and muscles are controlled by nerves, it is a logical step to think that CBD could have an effect on reducing muscle spasms .
Since the uterine cramping and spasms before and during menstruation, CBD, could in theory, affect and reduce cramping.
What is PMS? What Causes It?
Premenstrual syndrome happens before the menstrual phase (hence the name). If you’re not familiar with the phases of the menstrual cycle, don’t worry, we’ll cover it in greater detail below.
PMS symptoms usually begin to develop after ovulation, within a week or so before menstruation.
Scientists aren’t able to say exactly why the change in hormones causes both the psychological and physical symptoms, but the theory is that it has something to do with the link between estrogen and serotonin production in the brain .
The entire menstrual cycle is a rollercoaster of hormones, each one taking their turn to rise up before crashing back down again. All of this is a well-choreographed dance designed to prepare the body for falling pregnant.
How Hormone Changes May Lead to PMS
- Progesterone and estrogen rise and then drop quickly after ovulation
- During this rise is when you start to feel physical symptoms such as breast tenderness. You can think of this as the body getting ready for pregnancy
- Because estrogen is tied to serotonin, the drop in estrogen causes a drop in serotonin as well
- Drops in serotonin (the neurotransmitter that makes you feel happy) can then cause the psychological symptoms
The 3 Stages of the Menstrual Cycle
The menstrual cycle can be broken down into 3 phases: follicular, luteal, and menses.
1. Follicular Phase
Eggs develop in little nests in the ovaries called follicles. During the follicular phase, the follicle that will eventually release a mature egg produces the hormone estrogen. This follicle is stimulated by a pituitary hormone called the Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) .
FSH also stimulates the production of yet another pituitary gland hormone called Luteinizing Hormone (LH), which causes the egg to go through meiosis (cell division).
As estrogen levels rise with the growing follicle, the uterus lining thickens with tissue and blood vessels to get ready for implantation of a fertilized egg and pregnancy. Once the egg is mature, there is a spike in LH and the egg is released from the follicle — this marks the point of ovulation. The body is now ready to conceive a baby.
Estrogen, LH, and FSH levels begin to drop while progesterone starts to rise as it’s released from the same follicle that released the egg previously.
2. Luteal Phase
After ovulation is achieved during the follicular phase, we enter the luteal phase .
Here, estrogen rises again with progesterone and the uterus lining continues to grow. From the ovary, the egg will travel to the uterus via the fallopian tubes.
If fertilization were to occur, it would happen during this period of 3-4 days.
If no fertilization occurs, there’s no need to continue to support the highly vascularized and dense tissue of the uterus (using up a lot of the body’s resources). The corpus luteum dies and both estrogen and progesterone levels drop once again.
3. Menses or Menstruation
Menstruation is the process through which the cells lining the uterus go through programmed cell death (apoptosis) and shed .
Blood and tissue are expelled from the vagina and women may suffer from cramping which is the contraction of the uterine muscles to help shed the lining.
Signs & Symptoms of PMS
Because there are four different hormones at play here, PMS can present itself in various ways. Not all women get all the symptoms and not every symptom occurs every month. Jet lag, sleep, alcohol and smoking, and stress can all affect PMS.
Psychological Symptoms of PMS
The emotional changes that happen post-ovulation, during the luteal phase, may include the following:
- Emotional sensitivity
Physical Symptoms of PMS
Along with the changes in mood, physical symptoms will also occur.
These physical symptoms include:
- Breast tenderness
- Abdominal bloating
- Muscle and joint pain
- Inflammation 
Current Treatment Options for PMS
There are many ways to treat mild to severe PMS, including drugs, hormone therapy, acupuncture, hot packs, supplements, and much more.
The scientific evidence behind things like acupuncture is limited and most of the advice appears to be anecdotal . Even exercise, a commonly suggested way to relieve PMS symptoms, showed inconsistent results when tested. Some groups responded while others showed no significant reduction in discomfort .
Hormonal options involve taking estradiol and/or progesterone pills in order to better regulate the fluctuations of these hormones in the luteal phase. Some studies have shown that this method is effective, while others showed no difference in alleviating the symptoms of PMS [19, 20].
What Else Can I Do To Relieve PMS Symptoms?
Aside from taking CBD, making sure to keep your serotonin levels at a normal level can help relieve PMS symptoms. Things like exercise, sleeping well, keeping stress levels low, and eating dark chocolate are all ways to make sure your serotonin level doesn’t dip too low.
Key Takeaways: Can CBD Help With PMS?
While the research on the use of cannabidiol on PMS symptoms still requires further exploration, the hope is that this article gave you a bit more insight into the causes of PMS and how CBD can be used to reduce PMS symptoms.
We know that CBD doesn’t directly treat PMS in its entirety. However, certain symptoms such as cramps, anxiety, and pain can somewhat be lessened by taking CBD.
Unlike other conditions, PMS symptoms and the severity of them vary month to month depending on the level of stress and other uncontrollable life issues that may arise unexpectedly. So, while it’s impossible to fully eliminate PMS due to its close ties with fluctuating reproductive hormones, it is possible to target particular symptoms on a case by case basis.
Best CBD Oil for PMS – February 2022
Antidepressants are prescribed for the mood symptoms associated with PMS. Meanwhile, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are given to ease cramping and breast discomfort (5) .
Some over-the-counter NSAID painkillers include aspirin, ibuprofen , and naproxen (6) . However, these medications have their corresponding side effects.
Antidepressants may cause headaches, joint and muscle pain, insomnia, skin rashes, nausea, stomach upset, diarrhea, reduced blood clotting capacity, diminished sexual desire, performance, interest, or satisfaction (7) .
NSAIDs may result in several symptoms targeting the stomach and gut, such as gas, bloatedness, stomach pain, heartburn, nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting (8) .
Thus, some women use cannabidiol (CBD) for symptoms associated with PMS, such as mood swings and bloating (9) .
Researchers found that CBD might help with the symptoms associated with PMS.
A 2019 review suggested that CBD might be helpful with PMS pain and other symptoms (10) .
However, further research is warranted on CBD’s effects on PMS and related medical conditions.
CBD for Anxiety and Depression
A 2019 study reported that CBD might have a calming effect on the central nervous system . The authors observed that CBD reduced anxiety and improved sleep in patients during the first month of the research (11) .
Another study found in the journal Frontiers in Psychology concluded that repeated CBD administration significantly decreased anxiety in 37 teenagers with a social anxiety disorder (12) .
A study in the Iranian Journal of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences revealed that the rate of depression was higher in students who had PMS than those without the condition (13) .
A systematic review of animal models published in the journal CNS and Neurological Disorders Drug Targets suggested that CBD had anxiolytic and antidepressant effects on the animal test subjects (14) .
A 2019 study investigated CBD’s antidepressant effects on male rodents and found that a single dose of CBD induced antidepressant properties in Swiss mice. The authors believe that CBD may be a promising fast-acting antidepressant drug (15) .
CBD for Pain Relief
PMS symptoms may include several physical signs related to pain, such as uterine cramping, bloating, muscle pain, headaches, and period cramps (16) .
A study found in the European Journal of Pain examined CBD’s purported ability to reduce pain and inflammation in rat models of arthritis (17) .
CBD gels were transdermally applied to the test subjects, which showed a significant reduction of joint swelling and pain.
The researchers also observed that 6.2mg and 62mg of CBD per day had pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects on the mice test subjects. CBD administration did not affect higher brain function.
A review published in the journal Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management suggested that Sativex, an oral spray made from CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol ( THC ), might be promising in the treatment of central and peripheral neuropathic pain, cancer pain, and rheumatoid arthritis (18) .
The researchers also noted that CBD was well-tolerated in the clinical trials included in the review.
THC is the psychoactive phytocompound found in the cannabis plant . It mainly comes from marijuana, a strain of the Cannabis sativa plant.
Unlike THC and medical marijuana , CBD does not have mind-altering effects on users.
Another study in 2016 suggested that CBD combined with THC might be useful muscle relaxants (19) .
CBD for Acne
Acne flare-ups are associated with PMS (20) .
Research found in the Journal of Clinical Investigation revealed that CBD suppressed sebocyte proliferation and had anti-inflammatory effects that might be promising in treating acne (21) .
Sebocytes are sebum-producing cells that contribute to the excessive production of sebum and result in acne vulgaris (22) .
Sebum is the oily and waxy substance produced by the sebaceous glands.
How CBD Oil Works to Alleviate Symptoms of PMS
According to research, CBD and the endocannabinoid system (ECS) might be potential targets for alleviating PMS symptoms.
The ECS is involved in several essential body functions, such as pain perception, memory, mood, and appetite (23) . It has cannabinoid receptors that interact with cannabinoids to help the ECS perform these vital functions.
Cannabinoids may be classified as endocannabinoids (produced by the body), phytocannabinoids (derived from the Cannabis sativa plant, such as CBD and THC), and synthetic or laboratory-derived cannabinoids (24) .
A 2018 study stated that CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties reduced inflammation by acting at different ECS receptors, including cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2 receptor), resulting in the downregulation of enzymes involved in prostaglandin production (25) .
Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances responsible for triggering pain and inflammation, resulting in uterine muscle contractions. High levels of prostaglandins may lead to more severe menstrual cramps (26) .
A 2020 review on CBD use for chronic pain suggested that CBD might interact with glycine receptors to diminish inflammation and hyperalgesia (heightened pain sensitivity) in mice models of neuropathic pain (27) .
Glycine receptors are channels involved in motor control and pain perception in humans (28) .
The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for PMS
- Animal and human studies have shown that CBD might help treat PMS symptoms.
- Compared with NSAIDs and antidepressants, CBD’s safety profile is more favorable (29) .
- No studies are outlining the physical dependence potential of CBD in animals and humans (30) . Thus, CBD abuse is unlikely.
- More research on CBD’s effects on PMS and the menstrual cycle is warranted.
- CBD use may result in common side effects, like changes in appetite or weight, diarrhea, and tiredness (31) .
- CBD for PMS treatment has not been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) .
How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for PMS
A randomized study in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reported that Ginkgo biloba might be an effective natural remedy for PMS with manageable side effects (32) .
A 2019 study in the Journal of Menopausal Medicine reported that evening primrose oil might be beneficial for the treatment of conditions affecting women’s health , including PMS (33) .
However, the researchers noted that immediate body response to evening primrose oil should not be expected. They recommend regular evening primrose oil use of up to four or six months.
Compared with CBD, Ginkgo biloba may have more severe side effects, including allergic skin reactions, bleeding disorders, diarrhea, seizures, stomach upset, nausea, and palpitations (34) .
A 2019 study found that a single dose of CBD induced antidepressant-like effects in mice 30 minutes following CBD drug administration (35) . This period is shorter than the time it takes before the impacts of evening primrose oil are seen.
How to Choose the Right CBD for PMS
A study reported that CBD and THC might help with pain in patients with multiple sclerosis (36) . However, federal laws allow the use of trace amounts of THC only.
It is also believed that using all the ingredients of the cannabis plant produces a synergistic effect that would generate the full therapeutic benefits of the plant, known as the entourage effect.
CBD oil with federally-approved THC amounts of less than 0.30% and other cannabis plant ingredients, like terpenes, flavonoids, fatty acids, and essential oils, is called full-spectrum CBD.
This type of CBD product is recommended, especially for the treatment of menstrual pain and PMS symptoms. However, THC may be detected by some drug tests.
Individuals who want to avoid such problems may purchase broad-spectrum CBD oil. This type of oil has all the ingredients of a full-spectrum oil except for THC.
People who are after pure cannabidiol only may buy CBD isolates, which are made from pure CBD .
When purchasing CBD, go for certified organic, hemp-derived products to ensure high quality.
CBD Dosage for PMS
Due to a lack of regulation from the US FDA, there is no standard dosage chart for CBD use in treating PMS.
The primary rule is to start low and slow and gradually increase CBD dosage when no adverse reactions occur.
Women must find the CBD amount appropriate for the treatment of their PMS. A 2018 study stated that CBD use presented an inverted U-shaped or bell-shaped dose-response curve (37) .
The researchers found that among male subjects administered with 150mg, 300mg, and 600mg of CBD, only the patients who took 300mg of CBD exhibited reduced anxiety. Therefore, too little or excessive amounts of CBD do not guarantee the efficacy of the substance.
Women who are planning to use CBD for their PMS symptoms are encouraged to keep a journal documenting the substance’s effects on their bodies. This journal may be used during consultations with their obstetrician-gynecologist.
Medical advice from professionals should always be sought before using CBD for painful periods .
How to Take CBD for PMS
CBD comes in various formats and formulations. The most common CBD formats include CBD oils and CBD tinctures. These tinctures (drops) may be applied sublingually (under the tongue) for added efficacy.
Oils may be applied directly to painful areas during bouts of PMS. Some oils contain menthol and peppermint-infusions, which may have additional soothing effects.
These oils may also be mixed with food and beverages to mask CBD’s naturally grassy taste.
Topicals, such as lotions , salves, ointments, and balms, may be used for targeted pain relief.
CBD may also be ingested via gelcaps, pills, edibles, and gummies. These formats allow consistency in the CBD dosage being taken.
For instantaneous relief, CBD may be taken through vape pens. The main challenge when vaping CBD is that it may be challenging to determine the amounts of CBD inhaled in every draw.
Women with PMS should also use CBD vape pens with caution, as vaping may cause lung problems (38) .
PMS is a collective term referring to the signs and symptoms women experience before getting their period (39) .
Symptoms may be emotional, behavioral, or physical. They may include:
Emotional and Behavioral Symptoms
- Crying spells
- Depressed mood
- Irritability, mood swings, or anger
- Social withdrawal
- Poor concentration
- Libido changes
- Appetite changes and intense food cravings
- Alcohol intolerance
- Muscle pain or joint pain
- Fluid retention, which may lead to weight gain
- Abdominal bloating
- Breast tenderness
- Acne flare-ups
PMS symptoms may recur in predictable patterns. Hence, women may prepare for them in advance.
Another painful disorder that may occur during menstruation or throughout the cycle is endometriosis . This inflammatory condition is characterized by tissues, similar to walls lining the inside of the uterus, growing outside the womb (40) .
Human and animal studies show that CBD may have therapeutic effects on symptoms associated with PMS. Compared with conventional PMS medications, like NSAIDs and antidepressants, CBD has a more favorable safety profile (41) .
Studies show that CBD’s properties may help treat some PMS symptoms, like anxiety, depression, pain, and acne.
Studies suggest that CBD may be more effective as an analgesic when combined with THC.
However, despite THC’s purported benefits , medical cannabis and cannabis products are not legal in all US states.
Hence, the best CBD for PMS is full-spectrum CBD oil. It contains federally-legal amounts of THC and all the ingredients of the Cannabis sativa plant, which work together to generate the plant’s maximum therapeutic benefits.
Other natural remedies for PMS include the use of Ginkgo biloba and evening primrose oil. However, CBD may be safer, and its effects may be more instantaneous.
CBD is not recommended as a cure-all . However, there is growing evidence supporting CBD as an effective remedy for PMS symptoms.
Further research is warranted, especially human studies, on CBD’s effects on PMS and women’s menstrual cycles. More research should also be done on CBD and women’s health and well-being .
Before taking CBD for PMS, consult with an obstetrician-gynecologist first.