From endometriosis to childbirth, sexual wellness and everything in between, the cannabis plant has been at the forefront of care. For thousands of years, and still today, women have used and been prescribed cannabis in its purest form for the treatment of many different gynaecological concerns and now, CBD oil has become a contemporary supplement to continue that tradition.
Millions of women around the world swear by CBD oil as a way to support themselves through the menstrual cycle, but why is this? Is slathering on a CBD balm during a particularly painful bout of period pains a trend, or is there something to it?
The key to understanding this is to not only get to know how CBD oil works but to also get to know your own menstrual cycle - and we’re not just talking about the bleeding phase. So, let’s delve right in…
What is the menstrual cycle?
Over centuries, we’ve been forced to become so far removed from womanhood and the beauty, pain and magic that encompasses, that many of us barely even know our bodies anymore. A survey undertaken by Wateraid found that 1 in 8 women didn’t know about periods at all until they started menstruating (and little education follows thereafter), while a third of women don’t feel confident talking to anyone about their menstrual cycle. 1 in 6 would not even speak to their doctor.
With this in mind, it’s no wonder that most women don’t realise that the menstrual cycle isn’t only happening when we bleed. This is just one phase of it. In fact, the menstrual cycle spans the entire month (or rather, our entire lives) circling through ‘menstruation’, where we bleed; the ‘follicular phase’, where oestrogen sharply increases, eventually reaching peak levels; The ovulation phase, during which time large concentrations of progesterone are produced. Then, if no conception takes place, the luteal phase, when progesterone and oestrogen levels drop, triggering a period and the end of the cycle.
Just as cannabis, which CBD oil is derived from, is so entwined with human history, so too is it deeply connected to this incredible cycle. Cannabis has been used to help manage the more uncomfortable symptoms of the menstrual cycle for thousands of years (approximately 75% of those who menstruate experience unpleasant menstrual-related symptoms), and throughout the cycle, we see dramatic shifts in endocannabinoid levels within the body.
This is one of the key reasons CBD oil may affect you differently throughout the month, and understanding your own patterns can deepen your practice with CBD oil, and how it can support you during every phase.
CBD for the menstrual cycle
- CBD during the follicular phase
During the follicular phase, oestrogen increases and you may notice that you high a higher sex drive, more energy and generally feel pretty good. But to get the most out of this phase (and to have a healthy menstrual cycle overall) your body must be in balance.
While you may not feel as though you would benefit from taking CBD during this time, as you probably won’t be experiencing any unpleasant symptoms, it’s important to stay consistent with your CBD dose to feel the benefit later on. But you may notice that you need a lower dose than usual, as higher levels of oestrogen have been associated with increased cannabis sensitivity.
There is some emerging evidence that CBD may help modulate estrogen and progesterone, but there is more research on ‘whole plant’ cannabis extract, containing a range of cannabinoids and terpenes.
- CBD during ovulation
During ovulation, oestrogen decreases as progesterone rises, but if you’ve already been taking a daily dose of CBD your body should be feeling better balanced and prepared to cope with these changes. It’s during this phase that you might notice some of the most common symptoms associated with PMS, but not in full swing, such as bloating, mild cramps and breast tenderness.
Again, it’s important to do all you can to keep your body in balance and working as it should. Taking CBD every day can help maintain equilibrium, as can exercise and a diet rich in fibre, protein and healthy fats.
- CBD during the luteal phase
This is the phase where you’ll notice unpleasant symptoms of mood changes, fatigue, pain, bloating and breakouts, so it’s here that CBD will really shine!
Transdermal CBD, like balms or patches, can be a great option for anyone wanting to target specific areas of discomfort such as breasts or the womb area. Topical CBD skincare can also help to keep breakouts at a minimum, by interacting with your skin’s endocannabinoid system.
Finally, we reach the point in our menstrual cycle where we menstruate (shed the lining of the womb) and the cycle begins again!
Of course, although so often characterised by the presence of periods, the menstrual cycle also includes peri-menopause and menopause, when your body enters a new phase and a shift in hormone and endocannabinoid production. This, again, will impact how CBD (and indeed, cannabis) may affect you.