The Science Behind Cannabis and PMS

Does cannabis really work like western medicine? This is the debate that often comes up when women looking for some form of relief from premenstrual symptoms ask when considering cannabis as an effective treatment.

cannabis for PMS

The truth is, herbs were our earliest form of medicine, dating way back to 3000 BC. And cannabis is one of the oldest, most effective, albeit most misunderstood herbs. 

A Brief History of the Herb 

Cannabis has been used to treat uterine conditions such as PMS for centuries. Even at the beginning of western medicine, it was still thought of as an effective remedy. Take a look at articles published in the late 19th and early 20th century, and you’ll find a huge body of evidence supporting the use of cannabis for PMS, pregnancy and delivery. 

Herbal medicine began to take a backseat in the 20th century when scientists started to chemically produce the properties that were already existent in medicinal herbs. This was the evolution of the pharmaceutical industry. 

The endocannabinoid system, a network of receptors found within the central and peripheral nervous systems, is particularly receptive to the compounds found in cannabis, namely THC and CBD.

Terpenes – The Magical Key 

The other less recognized half of this equation is that of terpenes, the essential oils produced by plants and spices. Think of taking a hike in a damp pine forest. That clarity of mind you feel is because of the terpene called pinene, the essential oil produced by pine trees. Terpenes are a lot like natures aromatherapy, and those properties can be used to relax the body’s ECS (endocannabinoid system). 

Cannabis contains the following terpenes, among others:

  1. Pinene – also found in pine needles and helpful in anti-inflammatory processes
  2. Linalool – also found in lavender and known for its analgesic and anaesthetic properties
  3. Beta-caryophyllene – also found in black pepper and known for protecting the cells of the digestive tract
  4. Limonene – also found in citrus, which can have anti-anxiety and anti-depressive effects 

So when you consume cannabis, the entourage effect is that combination of THC and CBD together with the terpene profile of the strain you’re smoking. 

There is some evidence to suggest that women who suffer from severe cramping associated with endometriosis sometimes have impaired endocannabinoid systems. This would suggest that using cannabinoids is an effective treatment for PMS and cramps. 

How Can Cannabis Help Premenstrual Syndrome? 

Firstly, CBD has been proven to have anti-inflammatory effects, and swelling of the uterus is often a source of pain during menses for women. CBD also impacts temperature controlling nerve receptors through which it can desensitize pain nerve fibres. 

Cannabis also has a long well documented history in treating nausea, often being given to chemotherapy patients as a means of reducing the terrible side effects. Many women suffer from nausea during PMS and so cannabis would be an obvious natural answer to help reduce this. 

High quality and reliably sourced cannabis products don’t come cheap, and experts generally recommend a tincture as a reliable means of reducing PMS symptoms. 

Topical salves that can be massaged onto the lower abdomen can also provide relief. It’s important to note that the relief from a topical cream may not be quite as immediate as that of a tincture, but a gentle massage combined with CBD can certainly ameliorate discomfort. Many salves are also combined with other pain-relieving ingredients such as capsaicin and menthol or camphor. 

Cannabis suppositories that are locally absorbed by the tissues that are inflamed can also provide a good amount of relief.

If you would prefer to light up your way to PMS relief, these strains may be best suited for the job:

  • For cramps, a-pinene or beta-caryophyllene terpene dominant strain is best. Something like Sour Diesel. 
  • For fatigue, a-pinene or limonene dominant strain like Super Lemon Haze or Blue Dream can be helpful.
  • For malaise and moodiness often associated with OMS, a linalool and limonene dominant strain like Pink Kush would be ideal. 

Within plant medicine, two positives generally mean even more positive benefits, so try a combination of the above and strains and find the correct mixture that works for you and your symptoms. 

Cannabis is not yet legal to purchase in South Africa, but you can legally grow your own for these purposes. Alternatively, you can access cannabis legally via the cannabinoid CBD. If cannabis isn’t particularly accessible to you, there are several other natural ways to mitigate PMS symptoms.

Tryptophan, a building block in the serotonin molecule, which is lower during PMS, can be helpful; think banana’s, milk and lentils.

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