CBD may be effective in alleviating menstrual-related symptoms

By Claudia Adrien

- Last updated on GMT

CBD may be a viable option for MRS improvement. @ We Are/Getty Images
CBD may be a viable option for MRS improvement. @ We Are/Getty Images

Related tags Menstruation CBD

Cannabidiol can reduce irritability, anxiety, stress and severity of menstrual-related symptoms (MRS), according to study in Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology.

The pre–post, randomized, open-label trial examined the effects of oral CBD isolate to mitigate MRS. Researchers found that alleviation of symptoms occurred in the first month participants consumed CBD and continued over the successive three months of consumption.

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

Scope of problem

Approximately 75% of menstruating individuals experience unpleasant menstrual-related symptoms, according to previous studies cited by the researchers. These include cramps, headache, breast tenderness and psychological (irritability, tension and depressed mood) symptoms.

Although viewed as an underestimation of the problem, some studies suggest that 5% to 8% of those menstruating have moderate to severe symptoms, and up to 20% of fertile women have clinically relevant premenstrual concerns. The expression of MRS can vary and often worsens approximately six days before and peaks at two days prior to menstruation. The symptoms can occur during all phases of the menstrual cycle.

“Though MRS have been extensively studied, more clinical research is necessary because of its impact on everyday life, relationships, and economic losses, as well as because of the association between MRS and psychiatric symptomatology and diagnosis,” the researchers wrote. “Specifically, menstruation is associated with exacerbations of mood and anxiety disorders such as major depression, panic disorder, bipolar disorder and others.”

Study details

Participants were randomly placed in two open-label dosing groups of CBD softgels at 160 mg or 320 mg twice a day. After a baseline period, participants consumed CBD beginning the first day they experienced menstrual symptoms each month. They took their dose daily for five consecutive days for three months.

Individuals were excluded from the study if they were under the age of 18 or over 55, used cannabis or cannabis-containing products within 30 days of screening, were trying to become pregnant, had a history of suicide attempts, were considered underweight or obese according to BMI, or had a diagnosed psychotic disorder or disease during the study period. Participants self-reported their symptoms, tracking their menstrual cycle systematically.

“Findings showed a small reduction in irritability symptoms in all three months of CBD consumption relative to baseline,” the researchers noted. “On average, participants shifted from mild ratings of depression to reporting in the normal range… Given the considerable overlap in symptoms impacted positively by CBD and MRS and the relative lack of side effects associated with CBD, CBD may be a viable option for MRS improvement.” 

Additionally, the researchers observed reductions in anxiety in both the 320 mg and 160 mg dosage groups.

Though the study findings show evidence for CBD as an MRS intervention, the researchers found some limitations to their work. They noted that they oversampled a relatively homogenous group of individuals who suffer from moderately severe MRS.

“Though having a homogenous sample with regards to MRS reduces potential confounds, CBD may only affect a specific range of symptom severity,” they wrote. “Future work might examine clinically relevant samples who may suffer from severe MRS or PMDD to further assess the utility of CBD as a potential strategy for managing more severe MRS.”

Source: Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology
doi: 10.1037/pha0000709
“Examination of the Effects of Cannabidiol on Menstrual-Related Symptoms”
Authors: Morgan L. Ferretti et al.

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