Girl flu. Shark week. That time of the month. The red wedding (hello Game of Thrones’ fans!). Code red. We are of course talking about periods.
Periods are bad enough at the best of times, but they can frequently be unbearable. As women, we are still expected to go about our daily business despite losing almost 100ml of blood a day!
With period cramps, anxiety and tenderness plaguing us once a month, many are left wondering where to turn to – there is only so much ibuprofen one can stomach!
Why not opt for something more natural? CBD is a great alternative and can provide innumerable health benefits to the user. Many of these are relevant to our periods also.
Unfortunately, the illegality of cannabis around the world has substantially hindered scientific research. This means that, to date, there have been no studies directly examining CBD and its relationship to the menstrual cycle. This said, there have been numerous studies that have looked into the relationship between CBD and specific symptoms that are relevant to periods.
First of all, let us begin by defining exactly what CBD is, as it is commonly misunderstood.
What is CBD?
The cannabis plant contains over 100 individual and unique cannabinoids. However, to keep things simple for the intent of this article, we will focus on its two most active components – CBD and THC.
To begin with, THC is the psychoactive component of cannabis that is responsible for causing the ‘high’ often depicted in stoner films. This is absolutely not the case with CBD.
CBD is a non-psychoactive substance. This means that it does not alter the user’s brain functions in any way. This is something that people often get confused with when it comes to CBD.
There are three main types of CBD that are available to purchase:
- Full Spectrum CBD – Full spectrum CBD contains a wide range of terpenes, cannabinoids and flavonoids. It also contains trace elements of THC. The actual legal limit of THC varies by country. In the US, this limit is 0.3%, whereas in the UK it stands at 0.2%. This is not enough to intoxicate the user or make them ‘high’.
- Broad Spectrum CBD – Broad spectrum contains all of the flavonoids, terpenes and cannabinoids mentioned above, but crucially does not contain CBD. This makes it a more popular choice for those who are required to undergo routine drug tests.
- CBD Isolate – This is CBD in its purest form. It does not contain any other flavonoids, terpenes or cannabinoids. CBD isolate is normally sold crystalised, or as a powder.
This article will be specifically focussing on the benefits of CBD capsules. These are soft gel capsules, containing CBD that has been formulated with MCT oil or another alternative carrier oil such as hemp seed oil. In many cases, they also contain a number of specific terpenes, flavonoids, sterols and polyphenols.
While there is an overwhelming plethora of delivery methods available to the consumer, CBD capsules are an excellent choice. They offer a certain level of discretion, are easy to consume and are convenient for anyone living life on-the-go.
Let us move on to discuss exactly how CBD can help with those pesky period pains.
How Does CBD Help with Period Pain?
To begin with, CBD is a powerful anti-inflammatory. There have been a number of studies that have assessed this particular property of the versatile cannabinoid.
Perhaps the most prominent of these was conducted in 2016 by Hammel, Zhang, Abshire et al (Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis). They found that applying topical CBD to rats significantly reduced their inflammation and levels of pain. Furthermore, there was also no change in the rats’ exploratory behaviour, indicating a lack of effect on brain function. Although we are lacking clinical studies on humans, anecdotal evidence, coupled with existing animal studies provide a positive outlook.
So, how does this translate to helping us fight those persistent period pains?
The pain caused by your periods is a result of inflammation, which is caused by prostaglandin. Prostaglandin is an inflammatory chemical that is released between ovulation and the start of your period and is responsible for muscle contractions in your uterus (i.e. cramps). In theory, if CBD reduces inflammation, which in turn is causing your cramps, it should be effective in reducing the severity of your cramps.
Furthermore, primitive research carried out in 2008 by Takeda, Misawa, Yamamoto and Watanabe (Cannabidiolic acid as a selective cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitory component in cannabis) suggested that CBD can inhibit the enzyme responsible for producing prostaglandin. This means that CBD may well also combat the root cause of the problem, as well its symptoms! While further research is required, the signs are extremely promising.
On top of its robust ability to combat pain at source, CBD can also be a tremendous boon when it comes to our mental health. I don’t know about you, but I for one, often feel my anxiety ramped up during that time of the month – so much so that it often keeps me awake at night.
CBD has proven to be an excellent weapon when it comes to battling anxiety. This is perhaps one of the most researched aspects of CBD. The most eminent study conducted into CBD and anxiety was undertaken by Crippa, Derenusson and Ferrari in 2010 (Neural basis of anxiolytic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) in generalized social anxiety disorder: a preliminary report).
After giving CBD Capsules to participants who were suffering from social anxiety disorder (SAD), they all reported an overall reduced level of anxiety. There is no doubt that CBD can help manage anxiety and other issues that accompany that, such as increased irritability and stress.
Sleep is also something that is never more important than we are on our period. All of the above combine to aid sleep, but there have also been specific studies that have looked into CBD’s relationship to sleep.
The most recent study into sleep and CBD was conducted in 2019 by Shannon, Lewis, Lee and Hughes. They provided a sample of 72 adults struggling with insomnia CBD capsules every day for a month. After this month, 66.7% of patients reported improved sleep quality, as well as an easier time getting to sleep.
CBD capsules are also more of a slow burn, as they last longer than CBD oil, which is required to be taken more frequently. This makes it a great choice of product for aiding sleep.
We all know that a good night’s sleep can do a world of good!
As stated throughout this article, there are a plethora of reasons as to how CBD can help us navigate through the minefield that is our period.
CBD is certainly the healthy alternative when it comes to battling the aforementioned symptoms. Not only is it natural, but it also has far more benign side effects in comparison to pharmacological alternatives such as ibuprofen, naproxen or ketoprofen.
In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated in 2017 that “does not appear to have abuse potential or cause harm.”
It is also crucial to note how CBD should be used properly. Many people attempt to use it in a similar fashion to ibuprofen, or paracetamol and take it whenever symptoms arise. This is incorrect.
CBD builds up in your endocannabinoid system over time and should be taken for a period of 8-10 weeks on a consistent basis to promote full efficacy.
It is important to always consult your doctor before trying CBD for the first time. Furthermore, it is also wise to request a Certificate of Authenticity (CoA) from your CBD retailer so that you know exactly what the CBD product that you are buying contains. This ensure that there are no harmful additives present and that the CBD is of a high quality.