Cannabis and PMS

What is PMS?

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is a combination of physical and emotional symptoms that affect some women after ovulation and before the start of their menstrual period. Doctors believe PMS happens in the days after ovulation when estrogen and progesterone levels begin falling dramatically if you are not pregnant. PMS symptoms go away within a few days after a woman’s period starts. CBD for period cramps can help 

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says as many as 3 in 4 women get premenstrual syndrome symptoms at some point in their lifetime. For most women, PMS symptoms are mild. Less than 5% of women of childbearing age get a more severe form of PMS, called premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). Women who have high levels of stress, have a family history of depression or have a personal history of either postpartum depression or depression are at a higher risk of experiencing PMS.

Physical symptoms of PMS include tender breasts, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, gassiness, cramping (dysmenorrhea), headache, backache, clumsiness, and lower tolerance to noise or light. The emotional and mental symptoms include irritability, hostility, feeling tired, difficulty sleeping (insomnia), appetite changes, food cravings, trouble with concentration, bad memory, anxiety, depression, crying spells, mood swings, and diminished sex drive. These symptoms can often coincide with preexisting health problems like depression. CBD for pain might be the solution for some. 

What Can Help PMS?

Doctors often prescribe birth control, anxiolytics (medication to treat anxiety), and antidepressants in an attempt to reduce PMS when mild pharmaceuticals like ibuprofen are not enough, but these medications often have severe unwanted side effects. As the medical community has acknowledged the importance of lifestyle in managing menstrual health, interest in natural avenues for treating premenstrual syndrome has grown. The public has discovered certain remedies to work as well as pharmaceuticals without the risks. 

A 2016 report published in Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports found that yoga helped several symptoms improve in women who were experiencing PMS. Another 2016 paper found positive but inconclusive results using meditation in treating depression and anxiety in women with premenstrual syndrome. The HHS Office on Women’s Health has determined women benefit from taking calcium and vitamin B6 supplements. They advise that proper diet and exercise are essential not only for managing PMS but also in maintaining a healthy reproductive system. A volume of research has found that a certain percentage of women benefit from consuming specific fats to diminish PMS symptoms. It’s thought that evening primrose oil (GLA) and fish oil (EPA & DHA)  help research subjects who are deficient in their essential fats.

Cannabis as a Treatment for PMS

Cannabis has been earning the attention of women across America as a multifaceted treatment for PMS, but this is actually a resurgence for the natural remedy. In an 1889 report published by the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal, John Farlow, MD wrote about women using “marijuana preparations before marriage to alleviate premenstrual symptoms and subsequent dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps).” In 1993, authors Grinspoon and Bakalar published Marihuana, the Forbidden Medicine, which they updated in 1997. The book contains numerous testimonials from patients and doctors documenting clinical efficacy of cannabis where other drugs were ineffective. An entire section with case studies was included on “premenstrual syndrome (PMS), menstrual cramps, and labor pains, supporting excellent symptomatic relief at low doses without cognitive impairment.”

Recent peer-reviewed studies have found the active cannabinoids in marijuana provide relief for a variety of PMS symptoms. The majority of research done on cannabis has focused on the plant as a whole, and cannabinoids THC and CBD. Researchers have concluded that marijuana can help headaches, back pain, cramping, sleep problems, appetite changes, anxiety, and depression. A 2017 survey by BDS Analytics found “four out of ten surveyed female cannabis consumers turn to marijuana as a natural alternative to manage mood swings brought on by menstruation, menopause or mental health conditions. Relief from premenstrual pain as well as cramps also registered as major drivers, with 39% of women consumers using cannabis to cope with their symptoms.” Their research suggested older women “transitioning through menopause may choose cannabis products to supplement or replace estrogen therapy, with 35% of menopausal consumers choosing cannabis to improve their sleep and 32% choosing cannabis to relieve their symptoms.” The effects of CBD on the body are normally very positive. 

Different Types of Cannabis May Be best for Different Symptoms.

All marijuana is not created equal. The cannabinoids contained in the essential oils of the cannabis and hemp plants vary in concentration by strain. With 104 presently identified cannabinoids in the plant, selective breeding has created an evolution in the ratio between the two primary components, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). These two chemicals tend to have an inverse relationship in cannabis varieties on the market. High THC strains have low levels of CBD and CBD dominant strains tend to contain much less THC. While the other 102 cannabinoids exist in some amount in any cannabis oil, they have not been well studied nor bred to reach high concentrations. As research builds, scientists may find other compounds beneficial for treating PMS in the herb. CBD effects are non-psychoactive as they are with THC. 

THC and CBD have both yielded positive results as a treatment for nausea, headaches, sleep problems, and pain. Specific symptoms of PMS have different outcomes when sufferers use THC vs. CBD. While scientists have found that THC often increases anxiety, CBD has a growing body of evidence as an anti-anxiety treatment. CBD has also improved insomnia and sleep quality in multiple studies; whereas THC aids sleeplessness, but experiments have determined that it may diminish the overall quality of sleep. 

THC gives mixed results in improving energy, causing drowsiness for many. This can be due in part to the terpene content of the oil. Though anecdotal evidence suggests it can, there hasn’t been a conclusive study on using CBD as a treatment for chronic lack of energy. It does show promise treating the broader condition of depression which includes energy-loss as a frequent symptom. It’s also worth noting that depression is one of the more common complaints of women suffering from PMS.

Most medical studies, whether they be on pharmaceuticals or natural medicine have subjects who do not respond well. They don’t necessarily get worse. They just don’t get better. What’s excellent about cannabis in this regard is side effects are usually mild, in fact practically nonexistent when it comes to CBD. More serious treatments for PMS come with a host of dangerous side effects, making cannabis worth consideration. A huge percentage of people who try cannabis and CBD products have positive results. CBD oil benefits for pain appear undeniable. 

Consumer Reports conducted a nationally representative survey of 1,003 American adults in 2018. 13% of Americans said that they’d used CBD to help with symptoms related to a health issue. Nearly 90% of those who had used CBD said it helped ease symptoms related to their condition. Women dealing with PMS may find marijuana an integral part of a natural holistic approach to dealing with PMS, whether alone, or in combination with exercise, healthy eating, and even medication.  CBD for period cramps is becoming a common solution for many. 



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