PMS. For those in-the-know, we probably don’t need to say much more than that to bring back memories of rather unpleasant situations... For everyone else, PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome, aka “that time of the month."
The fluctuations in physical and mental well-being caused by menstrual cycle-dependent hormonal changes can make life difficult for most women. For nearly a third of them, PMS symptoms are so severe that women feel restricted in their everyday lives. In about 5% of cases, PMS can even lead to severe psychological problems — so that’s a pretty awful story.
Plus, just reading the list of possible PMS symptoms is enough to make some people break out in a cold sweat: headache, lethargy and listlessness, sleep disorders, exhaustion, circulatory problems, irritability, abdominal pain and digestive disorders, to name just a few.
It's no wonder the internet boasts many tips for finding relief from these symptoms. And CBD is increasingly popping up in some of those tips. While the non-psychotropic cannabinoid is celebrated rather cautiously in Europe, it already has a loyal following in places like North America, for example, and especially among those who suffer from PMS.
Here we’ll see if there’s something to that loyal following as we explore whether or not CBD can actually help with PMS.
WHAT EXACTLY IS PMS?
While PMS is common among women, it wasn’t until the 1980s that the term itself came into common use, even though the phenomenon had been acknowledged by physicians and the population at large starting back to the 1930s. It's also important to note that it wasn't until the year 2000 that it was actually defined and given its place as an independent syndrome. There are the objecting opinions, like this report in Gender Medicine that concludes PMS, as it’s generally understood to be, might not even exist... Thank you very much.
Apart from such outliers, symptoms typically appear after ovulation, about 1-2 weeks before the onset of menstruation and disappear as menstruation begins
Earlier we listed a small selection of PMS symptoms. In general, those affected complain of abdominal pain, nausea and headache, as well as psychological symptoms such as mood swings, depression and increased irritability. As with many different syndromes, PMS symptoms and their frequency can vary greatly from woman to woman. Some say that symptoms affect 20-40% of all women, others say it’s 75-85% — and some claim that up to 95% of all menstruating women are affected by PMS. Either way, one thing’s for sure: If you suffer from PMS, you are by no means alone!
Although it is undisputed that many women suffer from PMS, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a severe form of PMS that often goes untreated. (Feel free to guess the many reasons why…) Both PMS and PMDD are quite complex, which makes them difficult to diagnose. The gold standard would be recording a diary of symptoms over the course of several months. However, keeping such a document consistently updated can be a tough habit to develop — especially when you’re already in pain!
HOW CAN CBD HELP WITH PMS?
While many anecdotal reports praise the effects of CBD to reduce PMS symptoms like cramps and mood swings, from a scientific point of view, at this time there is no conclusive evidence that links the two.
A consideration of individual PMS symptoms, however, could possibly provide us with valuable clues...
But please note that we aren’t doctors! And even if we were, as mentioned earlier, PMS is quite complex. Claiming that there’s a simple solution would be presumptuous and wrong. So if you suffer from severe PMS symptoms, a trip to the doctor is your best bet.
What we can offer here is simply an overview of what little is known science-wise on the subject of PMS and CBD.
For example, there are interesting studies on CBD’s anxiety-reducing effects. While highly dose-dependent, the right amount of CBD (in this particular study it was 300 mg) the anxiety levels of the test subjects were significantly reduced, which led the researchers to attribute anti-anxiety properties to CBD. Yet before converting this initial theory into concrete practical recommendations, more research is needed. Of the few studies available on CBD and anxiety, this is one of the better ones, which unfortunately doesn’t say much.
There are additional leads on CBD’s possible antidepressant effects, positive influence on pain perception, sleep and ability to deal with stress coming out of animal model studies and retrospective studies. However, due to their methodology, neither of these types of studies allow us to come to any firm conclusions. So once again, we have yet to come across a conclusive study from which we can make any scientific statements, let alone unambiguous recommendations, about the connection between CBD and reduced anxiety.
WHAT ELSE HELPS WITH PMS?
Reaching for various home remedies is common. Classic pain relievers such as ibuprofen or paracetamol, as well as herbal remedies like chasteberry (aka Chaste tree berry, Vitex agnus-castus or monk's pepper), Lady's Mantle (Alchemilla vulgaris) and St. John's wort (Hypericum perforatum), are popular among many women. There is some support for chasteberry (aka Chaste tree berry, Vitex agnus-castus or Monk's pepper) to help PMS. The benefits of acupuncture and reflex zone massage for PMS are still rather unclear too.The use of CBD to improve PMS-related symptoms can therefore be considered only an inquiry, although many women report it has helped them manage their symptoms.
Most women rely on other, more classic methods. Diuretics (water pills) can help flush out (waning: pun!) the water retention that can occur during the second half of the menstrual cycle. The contraceptive pill aka “the pill” is also often prescribed under these kinds of circumstances, but it, too, can have undesirable side effects. Plus, not every woman feels comfortable with the idea of taking hormones over the long term. And (as you can probably already guess) you should always discuss such measures with your doctor.
If you prefer going the non-medication route to treat PMS symptoms, it’s recommended to exercise regularly, as this can help reduce mood swings. (And even if not, a little sport has never harmed anyone!)
You can also try to limit your tea, sugar, alcohol, salt and caffeine consumption and avoid stress in general. (Duh...!)
WILL CBD MAGICALLY MAKE MY PMS GO AWAY OR NOT?
So, is CBD the new miracle cure for PMS? As much as we'd like to tell you it is... it’s probably not. But that's not necessarily because CBD wouldn’t have any effects. PMS is simply too complex of a condition to tackle in one sole treatment. The list of possible symptoms is long and every woman’s body is different. And as appealing as it may seem, the idea of a one-stop-shop solution that promises all women the relief from all their symptoms is quite unrealistic.
But that’s no reason to throw in the towel! Just a few small tweaks to your lifestyle here and there can make a huge difference. And, who knows, maybe we’ll soon be certain whether or not CBD plays a role in PMS treatment. The first anecdotal signs seem to be there in abundance.