Does CBD Work For Menstrual Cramps?

  • Menstrual cramps or dysmenorrhea is common in women, with 80% of the women’s population experiencing it at a point in their lives(1).
  • According to a study, CBD’s pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory characteristics might help with specific menstrual discomforts, like low back pain and lower abdominal cramps(2).
  • CBD may also help inhibit prostaglandin production(3). Prostaglandin is the hormone that is responsible for uterine contractions that cause menstrual pain.
  • Furthermore, CBD may be a natural and alternative treatment for dysmenorrhea and other premenstrual symptoms (PMS), such as mood swings and headache(4).

Why Women Are Using CBD for Menstrual Cramps

Menstrual cramps or dysmenorrhea is a common problem that women experience, especially during the menstrual cycle. Some women may feel severe discomfort and throbbing pain in the lower abdomen before or during their menstrual period(5).

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly prescribed to women experiencing period cramps. These drugs are used to treat fever, relieve pain, and reduce inflammation. 

Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen are typical examples of NSAIDs. These medications reduce the production of prostaglandins made by enzymes called cyclooxygenase. 

Prostaglandins are hormone-like substances that help in the female reproductive system regulation. These substances primarily control ovulation and trigger muscle contractions that cause menstrual pain(6)

Meanwhile, CBD is a natural alternative that may help with menstrual cramps(7). Studies show that CBD may hamper prostaglandin production without gastrointestinal side effects(8)

Prostaglandins are produced by two types of cyclooxygenase enzymes, namely COX-1 and COX-2. 

Though both enzymes make prostaglandins, COX-1 has an added function to protect the stomach and intestine lining. 

NSAIDs are COX-2 inhibitors that can ease period pain. However, common drug examples previously mentioned may also stop COX-1 from functioning. 

Blocking COX-1 can cause serious side effects, such as nephrotoxicity (acute kidney failure) and gastrointestinal disorders(9).

These pain medications are also known for their multiple side effects, such as heart attack, heart failure, and other cardiovascular problems(10)

CBD is a natural plant extract derived from Cannabis sativa. Under this strain are hemp plants that have lower concentrations of THC, making it non-psychoactive. 

THC is the compound found in the marijuana plant that makes people high. People who opt for non-psychoactive alternatives can look for CBD products.

How CBD Oil Works to Help Alleviate Symptoms of Menstrual Cramps

Common symptoms of menstrual cramps include frequent and mild to severe throbbing or cramping pain in the lower abdomen, hips, and lower back. 

Abdominal cramps are premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms experienced by women before their period. Other PMS symptoms include mood swings, food cravings, and bloating.

Though often associated with the menstrual cycle, the symptoms present can also be caused by secondary dysmenorrhea or other medical conditions in the female reproductive system, like endometriosis.

Endometriosis is a condition wherein endometrial tissue, or the uterine lining grows outside the uterus, possibly in the ovaries. This condition can cause severe pain and inflammation in the affected area.

There are currently no studies about the direct effects of CBD on menstrual cramps. However, studies suggest that CBD has anti-inflammatory and pain relief activities that may help with menstrual pain management(11)

CBD works with the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS is responsible for regulating inflammation and pain. It is recently known to impact female reproduction and fertility(12)

Cannabinoid receptors are located in different parts of the body. Endocannabinoids activate these receptors, bind with them to work with inflammation and pain reduction, and maintain the body’s homeostasis (equilibrium).

Cannabinoids, such as CBD and THC, can also trigger the receptors’ movements and functions, especially in managing pain and inflammation(13)

According to research, when cannabinoids activate the receptors, killer cells (called macrophages) inhibit the release of cytokines. 

Cytokines are proteins that enable inflammation. Cannabinoids then function as an anti-inflammatory agent.

Cannabinoids can also reduce painful period cramps. In a study, administered cannabinoids respond to pain by desensitizing the nerves and decrease the sensation of pain(14)

Uterine contractions can also be eased with cannabinoids. A study about reproduction and fertility showed that both CBD and THC could help relax muscle tissues and uterus contractions during pregnancy(15)

Uterine contraction is a common characteristic of menstrual cramps and pregnancy. The contractions during pregnancy are often described as intense menstrual cramps. They occur when the uterine muscles tighten as the woman’s body adjusts to the fetus’ growth. 

The Pros and Cons of CBD Oil for Menstrual Cramps

The Pros

  • Supporting studies mentioned show the inflammation, pain, and muscle contraction reduction of CBD that may help alleviate menstrual pain, one of the PMS symptoms(16). 
  • Unlike THC, CBD is non-addictive and non-psychotic(17), making it safe to use, even daily.
  • Based on a 2018 report from the World Health Organization (WHO), CBD is a controlled substance that is generally safe. It has not been fully proven to have any severe side effects(18).
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) supports further scientific studies and clinical researches about the use of medical marijuana.

The Cons

  • There are no published studies about CBD’s direct effect on period cramps.
  • External cannabinoids, such as CBD and THC, may have adverse effects on the female reproductive system, like reduced estrogen and progesterone production, which may lead to reduced fertility(19).
  • A research conducted on rats showed that manipulation of the ECS might have adverse effects on their reproductive system(20)

How CBD Oil Compares to Alternative Treatments for Menstrual Cramps

Aside from over-the-counter and prescribed medications for period cramps, there are natural remedies that may help relieve the pain experienced by women.

Heating pads are tried and tested remedies that serve as alternatives for NSAIDs. According to research, the effectivity of applied heat is the same with medications and is much quicker(21)

Applying heat on the lower abdomen while having menstrual pains can desensitize the pain receptors while increasing blood flow through the blood vessels.

Oral supplements that contain certain minerals and acids are also treated as supplementary treatments for period cramps.

Studies show that the daily intake of fish oil supplements can decrease abdominal pain felt during menstrual periods(22)

Fish oil is known for its omega fatty acids. A diet with high levels of this acid may stop the production of prostaglandins.

Like fish oil, taking magnesium supplements can reduce prostaglandin levels and pain brought by menstrual cramps(23)

Women can also eat high magnesium content foods, such as avocado and chocolates, as a substitute for supplements.

Vaginal suppositories are also emerging solutions for dysmenorrhea. These medical treatments are taken intravaginally using an oval-shaped applicator, which targets rapid cramp relief and muscular relaxation. 

Although CBD oil may also be considered as an alternative medicine for menstrual cramps, it targets several symptoms with little to no side effects.

Hemp oil from cannabis seeds contains omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids in a 3:1 ratio(24).

No clinical researchers are stating that CBD oil is a treatment for menstrual cramps. Nevertheless, using it may help manage symptoms, such as inflammation and lower abdominal pain.

How to Choose the Right CBD Oil for Menstrual Cramps

When choosing a CBD oil product, consider which product works best for menstrual cramps.

Isolate is the pure form of CBD oil and is usually extracted from the hemp plant. There is little to non-existent THC content in the product, making it an excellent pick for those who do not want to get high.

Broad-spectrum CBD oil offers the full benefits of the cannabis plant without the risk of getting high because this oil does not contain THC. This kind of oil is ideal for those who are allergic or sensitive to THC or those who are hesitant about using it. 

Meanwhile, full-spectrum CBD oil contains all the compounds and components found in the cannabis plant, including trace amounts of THC. 

Before purchasing any CBD oil product, it is best to talk to a doctor experienced in cannabis use for advice.

CBD Dosage for Menstrual Cramps

CBD dosage may vary from one person to another. However, there is still no recommended CBD dosage for menstrual cramps.

Still, the initial dosage for CBD oil should start low. It should be increased gradually until the right amount and effectiveness are achieved. 

Careful monitoring of symptoms and reactions is also helpful. Dosages should be logged in a journal to keep track of the effects of the product. The journal can be presented to a doctor that specializes in cannabis for expert advice and guidance.

How to Take CBD Oil for Menstrual Cramps

There are several forms of cannabis products available on the market. 

CBD oils and tinctures can be mixed with food and beverages or be taken in a sublingual administration. Some pills and capsules can be ingested, but it takes longer for them to take effect.  

Topical CBD products are also available for localized body pain and skin infections. These products come in creams, lotions, and salves. 

Another way to take CBD is through vaping. Using a vape pen, CBD is inhaled into the lungs and quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.

Some suppositories are infused with CBD. These medical treatments can be inserted vaginally and rectally, similar to how a tampon is inserted. 

Some CBD suppositories are made with hemp oil, cocoa butter, and coconut oil. They are soft, and they melt instantly inside the body. These products come in either 100mg broad- or full-spectrum CBD, but dosages per brand may vary.

Though suppositories work like tampons, it is not advisable to apply CBD oil on tampons. Doing so may result in bacterial vaginosis, an infection of the vagina caused by acidity imbalance. 

Vaginal irritation may occur since the female reproductive area is a delicate and sensitive part of the body.

For first time users, CBD can also be taken in the form of gummies and brownies for easy and worry-free intake.

Note that results may differ from one person to another. CBD products can also react negatively to other medications, such as antibiotics and anti-anxiety medications, so it is best to ask a doctor first before trying CBD.

Conclusion

Dysmenorrhea is caused by the release of prostaglandins and can be impacted by external factors, like stress. However, dysmenorrhea symptoms can improve as women age(25). Numerous medications can help alleviate symptoms and pain. 

CBD has yet to be proven as a treatment for period cramps. Various forms of the product can help manage symptoms, like pain, inflammation, and severe muscle contractions.

Women’s health and well-being should not be compromised in any circumstance. Consult an obstetrics and gynecology physician first before using CBD to help with menstrual cramps.


  1. Women’s Health Concern. (2020, April 6). Period pain. Retrieved from https://www.womens-health-concern.org/help-and-advice/factsheets/period-pain
  2. P Cavner, J. (2019). Is CBD A Viable Option for Menstrual Symptoms? Online Journal of Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 2(5), 1–3. https://doi.org/10.33552/ojcam.2019.02.000548
  3. Zuardi, A. W. (2008). Cannabidiol: from an inactive cannabinoid to a drug with wide spectrum of action. Revista Brasileira de Psiquiatria, 30(3), 271–280. https://doi.org/10.1590/s1516-44462008000300015
  4. P Cavner, J. op. cit.
  5. InformedHealth.org [Internet]. Cologne, Germany: Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care (IQWiG); 2006-. Period pain: Overview. 2008 Feb 22 [Updated 2019 Aug 1]. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279324/
  6. Sugimoto, Y., Inazumi, T., & Tsuchiya, S. (2014). Roles of prostaglandin receptors in female reproduction. Journal of Biochemistry, 157(2), 73–80. https://doi.org/10.1093/jb/mvu081
  7. P Cavner, J. op. cit.
  8. Takeda, S., Misawa, K., Yamamoto, I., & Watanabe, K. (2008). Cannabidiolic acid as a selective cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitory component in cannabis. Drug metabolism and disposition: the biological fate of chemicals, 36(9), 1917–1921. https://doi.org/10.1124/dmd.108.020909
  9. Zarghi, A., & Arfaei, S. (2011). Selective COX-2 Inhibitors: A Review of Their Structure-Activity Relationships. Iranian journal of pharmaceutical research : IJPR, 10(4), 655–683.
  10. Hospital for Special Surgery. (n.d.). Guidelines to Reduce NSAID Side Effects | Anti-inflammatory. Retrieved from https://www.hss.edu/conditions_guidelines-reduce-side-effects-nsaids.asp
  11. P Cavner, J., op. cit.
  12. Walker, O. S., Holloway, A. C., & Raha, S. (2019). The role of the endocannabinoid system in female reproductive tissues. Journal of Ovarian Research, 12(1), 3. https://doi.org/10.1186/s13048-018-0478-9
  13. Takeda, S., op. cit.
  14. Barrie, N., & Manolios, N. (2017). The endocannabinoid system in pain and inflammation: Its relevance to rheumatic disease. European journal of rheumatology, 4(3), 210–218. https://doi.org/10.5152/eurjrheum.2017.17025
  15. Houlihan, D. D., Dennedy, M. C., & Morrison, J. J. (2010). Effects of abnormal cannabidiol on oxytocin-induced myometrial contractility. REPRODUCTION, 139(4), 783–788. https://doi.org/10.1530/rep-09-0496
  16. P Cavner, J. op. cit.
  17. Bergamaschi, M. M., Queiroz, R. H., Zuardi, A. W., & Crippa, J. A. (2011). Safety and side effects of cannabidiol, a Cannabis sativa constituent. Current drug safety, 6(4), 237–249. https://doi.org/10.2174/157488611798280924
  18. World Health Organization (2018, June). Cannabidiol (CBD) Critical Review Report. Retrieved from: https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/WHOCBDReportMay2018-2.pdf
  19. Brents L. K. (2016). Marijuana, the Endocannabinoid System and the Female Reproductive System. The Yale journal of biology and medicine, 89(2), 175–191.
  20. Caligioni C. S. (2009). Assessing reproductive status/stages in mice. Current protocols in neuroscience, Appendix 4, Appendix–4I. https://doi.org/10.1002/0471142301.nsa04is48
  21. Akin, M. (2001). Continuous low-level topical heat in the treatment of dysmenorrhea. Obstetrics & Gynecology, 97(3), 343–349. https://doi.org/10.1016/s0029-7844(00)01163-7
  22. Rahbar, N., Asgharzadeh, N., & Ghorbani, R. (2012). Effect of omega-3 fatty acids on intensity of primary dysmenorrhea. International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, 117(1), 45–47. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijgo.2011.11.019
  23. Parazzini, F., Di Martino, M., & Pellegrino, P. (2017). Magnesium in the gynecological practice: a literature review. Magnesium Research, 30(1), 1–7. https://doi.org/10.1684/mrh.2017.0419
  24. Leizer, Cary & Ribnicky, David & Poulev, Alexander & Dushenkov, Vyacheslav & Raskin, Ilya. (2000). The Composition of Hemp Seed Oil and Its Potential as an Important Source of Nutrition. Journal of Nutraceuticals, Functional & Medical Foods. 2. 35-53. 10.1300/J133v02n04_04.
  25. Hong Ju, Mark Jones, Gita Mishra, The Prevalence and Risk Factors of Dysmenorrhea, Epidemiologic Reviews, Volume 36, Issue 1, 2014, Pages 104–113, https://doi.org/10.1093/epirev/mxt009
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