CBD For PMS: Can It Help?

CBD can help alleviate the PMS symptoms that often disrupt women’s lives.

Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is an assortment of physical, emotional, and behavioral changes that occur 1 to 2 weeks before menses, some of which can be relieved by taking cannabidiol (CBD).

Menstrual periods are a fact of life for most women from around age 12 to menopause, usually somewhere in a woman’s early 50s. Most women get some mild physical signals such as tender breasts or a craving for sweets. For others, however, the onset of menstruation is a very difficult time.

PMS affects 75% of menstruating women. Symptoms often begin developing after ovulation, a week to 10 days before the onset of menstruation.

Scientists can’t really explain why hormonal changes cause PMS’ psychological and physical symptoms. The working theory is that the brain’s estrogen and serotonin production are somehow linked. Added to that are the suddenly increasing and decreasing hormone levels that trigger ovulation and menstruation.

Many people who use CBD promote its positive effects in relieving pain and nausea. Dr. Julie Holland, a psychiatrist and psychopharmacology specialist, has found CBD may be well suited to treating women’s hormonal and emotional issues. Holland theorizes that it could be useful in the treatment of PMS symptoms and the symptoms of perimenopause.

Symptoms of PMS

Most women experience at least some of the symptoms below. The assortment and severity of symptoms vary from woman to woman.

Premenstrual symptoms may include some of these physical reactions:

  • Bloated stomach
  • Cramping
  • Tender breasts
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain
  • Swelling, or edema, in hands and feet
  • Weight gain
  • Changes in bowel habits
  • Hunger or cravings
  • Acne
  • Headache, migraines
  • Poor sleep patterns

Emotional signs of PMS may include:

  • Tension or anxiety
  • Depression
  • Crying

Behavioral signs can be:

  • Sudden mood swings
  • Self-imposed social isolation
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed or out-of-control
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Forgetfulness
  • Loss of mental acuity
  • Feeling lethargic or tired

Many women don’t realize they are experiencing PMS until they stop to ask themselves a few pointed questions:

  • Do the changes I experience hinder my daily life?
  • Do the symptoms create tension or cause trouble with friends and family?
  • Have I experienced symptoms the week before my period for at least 3 consecutive months?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may be experiencing PMS.

There are ways to deal with PMS: dietary changes, sleep changes and exercise. You can also learn relaxation techniques to soothe the mind and body.

How CBD helps with PMS

Ethan Russo, M.D., a board-certified neurologist, and psychopharmacology researcher, conducted a historical review of cannabis in 2002. In that review, he discussed the use of cannabis, including hemp, to treat cramps in the 16th century.

As early as 2500 BCE, the Chinese recommended CBD for pain in the Chinese pharmacopeia. There is a long history of cannabis use for “female disorders” in Eastern cultures.

There has been no specific research into the use of CBD as a treatment for PMS symptoms. There are, however, some studies into CBD’s use to ease symptoms such as pain, anxiety, and sleep quality.

CBD for PMS-related pain

Continuing preclinical studies in animals have shown CBD can help reduce acute and chronic pain. While there are no direct clinical studies, there are observational studies. Such studies have asked respondents to answer such questions about why they use CBD and if it’s effective. In general, their responses indicate CBD helps with the pain of Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis, as well as headaches, muscle aches, and cramps. The latter 3 are symptoms of PMS.

The Journal of Clinical Investigations published a study in 2017, showing that CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties are a potential treatment for headaches, backaches, and other PMS symptoms. CBD acts as a co-analgesic, meaning it can be used with regular pain medication to help.

CBD for PMS emotional and behavioral swings

Stress and inflammation have a symbiotic linkage; stress leads to inflammation, which leads to more stress—a vicious cycle. The body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) combats both conditions. ECS has receptors, CB1, and CB2, throughout the central nervous and gastrointestinal systems to maintain a healthy balance through neurotransmitters.

A 2014 research review summarized the findings that supported using CBD to treat depression. The authors concluded that CBD appears to be an antidepressant. However, only animal studies have been done to date; human trials need to be done to confirm the early indications.

Another research review, published in 2015, investigated the use of CBD for anxiety management. The authors concluded there was convincing evidence that CBD helps manage anxiety, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety, and public speaking.

CBD for gastrointestinal issues

A powerful antioxidant, CBD’s anti-inflammatory properties can help with bloating and soothe nausea. CBD also is a diuretic that can help relieve fluid retention.

A recent report in the American Journal of Gastroenterology concluded CBD can help with diarrhea, constipation, and other digestive issues.

The British Journal of Pharmacology, in 2011, reported that CBD influences the ECS to bring relief from nausea and vomiting.

How CBD helps with PMS

CBD indirectly stimulates CB1 and CB2 receptors in the endocannabinoid system to be more active and effective. CBD targets the ECS receptors to produce more pain relief, muscle relaxation, and anti-inflammatory benefits.

A non-allosteric modulator, CBD changes a protein’s activity by binding it to a specific location on an effector molecule, which uses the ECS to suppress particular brain cell activity. An example of how this works is in treating depression and anxiety, and more specifically, as related to PMS.

The takeaways

Because the severity and symptoms of PMS vary each month because daily life events also vary. Since the symptoms change in intensity and frequency from month-to-month, it’s easy to use CBD to target PMS symptoms as they arise each month.

The investigations into CBD for PMS are only preliminary, and there needs to be more research. What is known is that CBD doesn’t treat PMS so much as alleviate symptoms, such as cramping, pain, and anxiety or depression.

Current research doesn’t focus on the benefits of CBD for PMS. But the research that does exist suggests that using CBD to treat PMS seems to be worth investigating.

author avatar
Andrew Mattison

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