Can cannabis relieve menstrual cramps?

One of the biggest medical uses of cannabis in the 19th century was for the treatment of menstrual cramps and reduction of labor pain.

The physician J.R. Reynolds prescribed cannabis to relieve Queen Victoria’s pain for this reason: “When pure and administered carefully, [cannabis] is one of the most valuable medicines we possess,” he wrote in 1890.

But the widespread use of the syringe a few years later, which allowed drugs to dissolve quickly into a patient’s blood stream, ended medical marijuana’s popularity in Europe.
 

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Yet there is nothing mentioned in 20th century medical literature. Possibly, we have such a fear of the unborn child being harmed by its mother’s drug taking that any research on this subject would leave the researcher open to attack. However, studies in populations that use cannabis socially (Costa Rica and Jamaica) have shown that there is no negative effect on the unborn child.

Despite the controversy, many women have experimented with cannabis, and have found that it does control menstrual cramps, makes labor quicker and less painful and relieves the nausea (morning sickness) associated with pregnancy.
 

# Fact 1: Cannabis can act as a powerful analgesic

Today, women throughout the world continue to use cannabis to soothe their painful cramps, and experience great subjective relief—yet there have been no formal studies to back up its efficacy, and the underlying biological processes at work have not been defined.

However, it is well-known that THC can act as a powerful analgesic and antinociceptive agent(analgesic is a general term for painkiller; antinociceptives specifically stop the nerves from sensing pain signals at all). As well as this, both THC and CBD have the ability to reduce inflammation, which may contribute to the subjective reduction in discomfort.

For the 10% of women who suffer from debilitating dysmenorrhea — cramps so painful that they interfere with daily life functioning — smoking pot can be a natural (and some say more effective) alternative to prescription medication.

“I was prescribed 500 mg of naproxen (basically extra-strength Aleve) for cramps, and found that weed was way more effective,” Alexandra*, 25, told Mic. “I definitely smoke when I get my period. It helps a ton with the crazy cramps and headaches I get since I’ve been off the pill.”
 

# Fact 2: Cannabis may decrease length of menstrual cycle

Again, the evidence for THC causing a shortened menstrual cycle in human females is sparse. A 1986 study on the effect of THC on luteinizing hormone also observed overall duration of the menstrual cycles to be reduced in women given cannabis compared to those given placebo.

Thus, more research is required before it can be said with any degree of certainty how and if the duration of the menstrual cycle is affected in human females. As with the ovulation-blocking effect of THC, it may be that tolerance builds up rapidly to any possible effect.

Interestingly, older studies on nonhuman primates indicate that THC may alter cycle length, but not necessarily shorten it: on a 1980 study on rhesus monkeys, the sample treated with THC overwhelmingly exhibited significant increases in cycle duration. One monkey had a cycle length of 145 days, compared to the usual 30!