CBD May Ease Menstrual-Related Symptoms Like Irritability And Stress, Study Finds

Newly published research exploring the possible impact of CBD on menstrual-related symptoms found that oral doses of the cannabinoid helped alleviate symptoms such as irritability, anxiety, stress and other measures when compared to participants’ baseline measures. Depression scores, however, did not change.

Authors—including researchers from Arkansas, Auburn and James Madison Universities as well as the Colorado-based CBD company Charlotte’s Web—say it’s the first study to examine the effect of cannabidiol on menstrual-related symptoms (MRS) as well as on irritability in general.

“Results revealed reductions…in MRS, irritability, anxiety, global impression of change, stress, and subjective severity scores when comparing baseline to all 3 months of CBD consumption,” the authors concluded.

“Though past work has suggested cannabis may be a viable option for MRS intervention,” they wrote, “to our knowledge, this study is the first to examine the effects of CBD on MRS directly.”

Findings, they concluded, suggest “that CBD may be an effective treatment in alleviating MRS.”

“Importantly, changes in symptoms appeared in the first month of CBD consumption and persisted over the 3 consumption months.”

“Given the prevalence of MRS as well as the relative lack of effective options in treating the entirety of experiences that occur because of MRS,” the study says, “further investigation of CBD as an intervention option for MRS is warranted.”

Effective remedies for MRS are scarce, researchers noted, with go-to management options involving lifestyle changes like a modified diet, use of over-the-counter pain medications or behavioral remedies such as a heating pad. Treatments for more severe psychological symptoms, meanwhile, are only effective for some people and often come with side effects.

“Clinically relevant psychological symptoms,” the study says, “are most often treated with pharmacotherapy (e.g., selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor’s) or hormonal interventions (e.g., birth control); however, these interventions have only shown clinically relevant improvement in approximately 60% of those who engage with the interventions, and side effects often occur with use (i.e., nausea, night sweats).”

For the trial, participants were asked to take CBD softgels orally twice a day for five days beginning on the first day of menstrual-related symptoms, repeating that process for three months. Participants were divided roughly in half, with 17 given a 160-milligram dose of CBD twice per day and 16 given 320 mg of CBD twice per day.

People who had already used cannabis or cannabis-containing products within the past 30 days were excluded from the study, as were people currently trying to become pregnant; people with a significant disease, disorder, or mental health condition; people under 18 or older than 55; and underweight or obese individuals. One individual reportedly withdrew because of skin irritation after consuming a single dose of CBD.

Results, authors found, “revealed reductions in monthly ratings of MRS, subjective severity of symptoms, global impression of change, anxiety, stress, and irritability in both dosing conditions when comparing Months 1, 2, and 3 of CBD consumption to baseline. Notably, changes in symptoms across primary outcomes (i.e. MRS) appeared in the first month of CBD consumption and persisted consistently across subsequent study months for most outcomes.”

The research was published in the journal Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology. All authors disclosed having received financial or nonfinancial support from cannabis companies such as Charlotte’s Web and Canopy Growth Corporation.

The report noted some limitations in the research. “First,” for example, “we used a relatively homogenous sample that potentially oversampled individuals who suffer from moderate severity of MRS. Though having a homogenous sample with regards to MRS reduces potential confounds, CBD may only affect a specific range of symptom severity.”

Participants were not compensated and were asked to self-report CBD consumption at prescribed dosages and times. “Future work should consider verification of consumption using more rigorous verification methods,” researchers suggested, such as video confirmation of taking CBD.

The trial also didn’t have a placebo control. Authors acknowledged the observed reductions in symptoms “may have resulted from a placebo effect, as various cannabinoid expectancy effects have been documented across a range of symptoms associated with MRS, such as pain, anxiety, and stress.”

“This study provides early evidence for CBD as an option for managing MRS,” they concluded, “and more research is needed to further determine the utility and optimize CBD administration for reducing MRS with various possibilities for future directions.”

While some people have reported using CBD-infused products such as vaginal suppositories to ease menstrual symptoms, far more research around cannabinoids as they relate to sex and gender has focused on sexual pleasure.

At least four states this year—Ohio, Illinois, New Mexico and Connecticut—are currently set to consider adding female orgasmic disorder (FOD) as a qualifying condition for medical marijuana in what supporters say is a response to a growing body of research suggesting marijuana can improve orgasmic frequency, ease and satisfaction in people with FOD.

A 2020 study in the journal Sexual Medicine, meanwhile, found that women who used cannabis more often had better sex.

Because past findings indicated women who have sex with men are typically less likely to orgasm than their partners, authors a study in the Journal of Cannabis Research said marijuana “can potentially close the orgasm inequality gap.”

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Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.

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