Does CBD Work for PMS?

  • A 2019 review published in the Online Journal of Complementary and Alternative Medicine suggested that CBD might help treat premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms(1)
  • A systematic review noted CBD’s anxiolytic (anxiety-reducing) and antidepressant effects on animal test subjects(2). Anxiety and depression are symptoms associated with PMS.
  • A study in the European Journal of Pain revealed that CBD reduced joint swelling and pain in rodent test subjects(3). Joint pain and period pain are PMS signs. 
  • A study archived in the Journal of Clinical Investigation revealed that CBD had anti-inflammatory properties that might be useful in treating acne(4), a symptom of PMS.
  • Research showed that the use of CBD might have therapeutic benefits on the mood-related conditions and physical symptoms of PMS. However, further research is warranted on CBD’s effects on PMS.

Why People Are Using CBD for PMS

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

The Pros

  • 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.

The Cons

  • 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).

    Understanding PMS

    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
    • Anxiety
    • Irritability, mood swings, or anger
    • Social withdrawal
    • Poor concentration
    • Libido changes
    • Appetite changes and intense food cravings
    • Insomnia

    Physical Symptoms

    • Alcohol intolerance
    • Constipation
    • Muscle pain or joint pain
    • Fatigue
    • Headaches
    • 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).  

    Conclusion

    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. 


    1. 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
    2. de Mello Schier, A. R., de Oliveira Ribeiro, N. P., Coutinho, D. S., Machado, S., Arias-Carrión, O., Crippa, J. A., Zuardi, A. W., Nardi, A. E., & Silva, A. C. (2014). Antidepressant-like and anxiolytic-like effects of cannabidiol: a chemical compound of Cannabis sativa. CNS & neurological disorders drug targets, 13(6), 953–960. https://doi.org/10.2174/1871527313666140612114838
    3. Hammell, D. C., Zhang, L. P., Ma, F., Abshire, S. M., McIlwrath, S. L., Stinchcomb, A. L., & Westlund, K. N. (2016). Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis. European journal of pain (London, England), 20(6), 936–948. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejp.818
    4. Oláh, A., Tóth, B. I., Borbíró, I., Sugawara, K., Szöllõsi, A. G., Czifra, G., Pál, B., Ambrus, L., Kloepper, J., Camera, E., Ludovici, M., Picardo, M., Voets, T., Zouboulis, C. C., Paus, R., & Bíró, T. (2014). Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes. The Journal of clinical investigation, 124(9), 3713–3724. https://doi.org/10.1172/JCI64628
    5. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020, February 07). Premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/premenstrual-syndrome/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20376787
    6. Pain Relievers. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/painrelievers.html
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    8. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/11086-non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory-medicines-nsaids
    9. Olson, R., MD, & Rittenburg, E., MD. (2019, November 18). Why are women using CBD products – and do they work? Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/why-are-women-using-cbd-products-and-do-they-work-2019111818317
    10. 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
    11. Shannon, S., Lewis, N., Lee, H., & Hughes, S. (2019). Cannabidiol in Anxiety and Sleep: A Large Case Series. The Permanente Journal, 23, 18–041. https://doi.org/10.7812/TPP/18-041
    12. Masataka, N. (2019, November 8). Anxiolytic Effects of Repeated Cannabidiol Treatment in Teenagers With Social Anxiety Disorders. Retrieved from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02466/full
    13. Sadr, S. S., Samimi Ardestani, S. M., Razjouyan, K., Daneshvari, M., & Zahed, G. (2014). Premenstrual syndrome and comorbid depression among medical students in the internship stage: a descriptive study. Iranian journal of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, 8(4), 74–79.
    14. de Mello Schier, A. R. op. cit. 
    15. Sales, A.J., Fogaça, M.V., Sartim, A.G. et al. Cannabidiol Induces Rapid and Sustained Antidepressant-Like Effects Through Increased BDNF Signaling and Synaptogenesis in the Prefrontal Cortex. Mol Neurobiol 56, 1070–1081 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12035-018-1143-4
    16. Mayo Clinic Staff. op. cit. 
    17. Hammell, D. C., Zhang, L. P., Ma, F., Abshire, S. M., McIlwrath, S. L., Stinchcomb, A. L., & Westlund, K. N. (2016). Transdermal cannabidiol reduces inflammation and pain-related behaviours in a rat model of arthritis. European journal of pain (London, England), 20(6), 936–948. https://doi.org/10.1002/ejp.818
    18. Russo E. B. (2008). Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Therapeutics and clinical risk management, 4(1), 245–259. https://doi.org/10.2147/tcrm.s1928
    19. Zettl, U. K., Rommer, P., Hipp, P., & Patejdl, R. (2016). Evidence for the efficacy and effectiveness of THC-CBD oromucosal spray in symptom management of patients with spasticity due to multiple sclerosis. Therapeutic advances in neurological disorders, 9(1), 9–30. https://doi.org/10.1177/1756285615612659
    20. Mayo Clinic Staff. op. cit. 
    21. Oláh, A., Tóth, B. I., Borbíró, I., Sugawara, K., Szöllõsi, A. G., Czifra, G., Pál, B., Ambrus, L., Kloepper, J., Camera, E., Ludovici, M., Picardo, M., Voets, T., Zouboulis, C. C., Paus, R., & Bíró, T. (2014). Cannabidiol exerts sebostatic and antiinflammatory effects on human sebocytes. The Journal of clinical investigation, 124(9), 3713–3724. https://doi.org/10.1172/JCI64628
    22. Schneider, M. R., & Paus, R. (2010). Sebocytes, multifaceted epithelial cells: lipid production and holocrine secretion. The international journal of biochemistry & cell biology, 42(2), 181–185. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocel.2009.11.017
    23. Manzanares, J., Julian, M., & Carrascosa, A. (2006). Role of the cannabinoid system in pain control and therapeutic implications for the management of acute and chronic pain episodes. Current Neuropharmacology, 4(3), 239–257. https://doi.org/10.2174/157015906778019527
    24. Chilakapati, J., & Farris, F. (2014). Cannabinoids. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780123864543002670
    25. Pellati, F., Borgonetti, V., Brighenti, V., Biagi, M., Benvenuti, S., & Corsi, L. (2018, December 04). Cannabis sativa L. and Nonpsychoactive Cannabinoids: Their Chemistry and Role against Oxidative Stress, Inflammation, and Cancer. Retrieved from https://www.hindawi.com/journals/bmri/2018/1691428/
    26. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020, April 08). Menstrual cramps. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/menstrual-cramps/symptoms-causes/syc-20374938
    27. Argueta, D., Ventura, C., Kiven, S., Sagi, V., & Gupta, K. (2020, April 30). A Balanced Approach for Cannabidiol Use in Chronic Pain. Retrieved from https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphar.2020.00561/full
    28. Avila, A., Nguyen, L., & Rigo, J. M. (2013). Glycine receptors and brain development. Frontiers in cellular neuroscience, 7, 184. https://doi.org/10.3389/fncel.2013.00184
    29. Iffland, K., & Grotenhermen, F. (2017). An Update on Safety and Side Effects of Cannabidiol: A Review of Clinical Data and Relevant Animal Studies. Cannabis and cannabinoid research, 2(1), 139–154. https://doi.org/10.1089/can.2016.0034
    30. World Health Organization. (2018). CANNABIDIOL (CBD) Critical Review Report. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/medicines/access/controlled-substances/CannabidiolCriticalReview.pdf
    31. Iffland, K. op. cit.
    32. Ozgoli, G., Selselei, E. A., Mojab, F., & Majd, H. A. (2009). A randomized, placebo-controlled trial of Ginkgo biloba L. in treatment of premenstrual syndrome. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.), 15(8), 845–851. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2008.0493
    33. Mahboubi M. (2019). Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) Oil in Management of Female Ailments. Journal of menopausal medicine, 25(2), 74–82. https://doi.org/10.6118/jmm.18190
    34. Ginkgo Biloba: Side Effects, Dosages, Treatment, Interactions, Warnings. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.rxlist.com/consumer_ginkgo_biloba/drugs-condition.htm
    35. Sales, A.J.  op. cit.
    36. Zettl, U. K. op. cit.
    37. Linares, I. M., Zuardi, A. W., Pereira, L. C., Queiroz, R. H., Mechoulam, R., Guimarães, F. S., & Crippa, J. A. (2019). Cannabidiol presents an inverted U-shaped dose-response curve in a simulated public speaking test. Revista brasileira de psiquiatria (Sao Paulo, Brazil : 1999), 41(1), 9–14. https://doi.org/10.1590/1516-4446-2017-0015
    38. Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with the Use of E-Cigarette, or Vaping, Products. (2020, February 25). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/basic_information/e-cigarettes/severe-lung-disease.html
    39. Mayo Clinic Staff. op. cit. 
    40. Endometriosis. (2019, October 16). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometriosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354656
    41. Iffland, K. op. cit.
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