How CBD Works In The Female Body

CBD 101
How CBD Works In The Female Body

Let’s just come right out and say it—having a period is tough. Abdominal cramping and lower back pain may occur as estrogen levels drop sharply. Uncomfortable headaches or severe migraines, which cause extreme sensitivity to light and sound, can occur. The sleep cycle gets disrupted, metabolism and gastrointestinal function can be thrown off, and moods may become difficult to regulate.

Options for relief have historically included popping a painkiller or lying down with a hot water bottle on the stomach, in hopes that it'll be enough. For many people, though, it's not—yet there aren't many other options out there.

The evidence of CBD’s ability to safely treat so many different ailments of the body and mind without intoxicating effects makes it a promising option for women's health. CBD allows women to customize their serving size depending on which symptoms they want to treat, and to what degree—positioning CBD as the ultimate self-care tool for women wanting an alternative to prescription or over-the-counter medications.

How CBD Effects Pain Associated With Menstruation

Breast Tenderness & Abdominal Cramping 

For hundreds of years, women have been using cannabis mixed with animal fats to create skin rubs that would help with soreness and swelling. Today, we know this works because CBD can decrease inflammation and act as an analgesic (or pain-reliever) that rivals the potency of aspirin, hydrocortisone, and NSAIDs such as ibuprofen. 

Headaches & Migraines

The drop in estrogen before menstruation can lead to terrible headaches and migraines. Treatment of headaches as they occur typically include a combination of pain-relief meds (like ibuprofen or aspirin), however continual use of these comes with warnings of possible liver or other GI damage. CBD has proven to be a promising (and natural) solution for headaches both before they occur and as they are happening. 

Cannabis has been used since the 9th century to treat migraines, and recent studies in the last 50 years have suggested CBD can play a therapeutic role in treating both acute and chronic headaches. Topicals such as balms, lotions, and gels can provide targeted relief to a specific area on an as-needed basis—whereas capsules and oil tinctures can be incorporated into one’s daily regimen for more systemic relief to target chronic pain.

How CBD Effects Sleep Issues

Many individuals suffer from "premenstrual insomnia” and struggle to attain restful sleep in the days leading up to, and during, their periods. Anxiety and depression can prevent the mind from getting good rest (or even falling asleep in the first place), and muscle pain can prevent the body from fully relaxing throughout the night. By promoting better sleep, CBD can help in a few different ways. Whether by having a relaxing effect on the mind, or by reducing pain symptoms of abdominal cramps, CBD can be an effective sleep aid in overcoming premenstrual insomnia. 

How CBD Effects Emotional Regulation, Anxiety & Depression

CBD has also been shown to significantly reduce the amount of anxiety, discomfort, and cognitive impairment in both stressful situations and in individuals with social anxiety disorder.  This is supported by imaging studies demonstrating decreased levels of “stress activation” in the brain after CBD administration. While more research needs to be done, CBD may be able to help with the increased levels of anxiety and difficulty with emotional regulation that can occur due to hormonal shifts in the body. 

Differences In How Cannabis Is Metabolized In Women 

About two weeks into a woman’s cycle, the body experiences a spike in estrogen that will soon trigger ovulation. Psychology professor Rebecca Craft from Washington State University showed that the peak in estrogen also leads to a spike in drug sensitivity right around the time of ovulation. Working with rats in her laboratory, Craft found that “you get a very clear spike in drug sensitivity right when […] estrogen levels have peaked and are coming down.”

Increased sensitivity can mean many different things. Generally, it means female bodies experience more positive effects at a certain dose than what male bodies may experience at the same dose. While increased drug sensitivity around the time of ovulation may denote that the female body can establish a tolerance for CBD more quickly, these generalized findings simply describe the natural differences between different bodies and their metabolic processes. Every individual has a different tolerance and preference for the type of CBD experience they prefer.

Conclusion

As always, the most important consideration in choosing which CBD product and serving size will work best for you is to be more cognizant of what you may or may not be sensitive to. It is important to approach the changes in the body throughout the month in the same way that you would approach CBD use.

Meaning, just as you should be aware of what serving sizes and formulations work for you, and make you feel best, you should be aware of what your body’s patterns of sensation and feeling are throughout your cycle. Taking a self-exploration approach paired with awareness will ensure you can find just the right CBD offering for your particular needs at any given time.

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Sources:

¹Russo E. B. (2008). Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Therapeutics and clinical risk management4(1), 245–259. https://doi.org/10.2147/tcrm.s1928

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