Menstrual pain is a common affliction affecting women of reproductive age, often manifesting as severe cramps, lower abdomen pain, and pelvic discomfort that can hinder daily activities [1]. The quest for effective pain management has led many to explore alternative treatments, including the use of cannabis and medical cannabis [2]. This article delves into whether cannabis serves as a viable source of menstrual pain relief or merely acts as a placebo.

Understanding menstrual pain

Primary dysmenorrhea, the medical term for menstrual cramps, originates from the production of prostaglandins, which are hormones that can cause muscle spasms and pain. Traditional treatments often include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), analgesics, and light exercise, but these are not effective for everyone [3]. Thus, the quest for alternative ways to treat inflammation associated with one’s menstrual cycle continues.

Is cannabis a solution?

Cannabis, particularly medicinal cannabis, has been gaining traction as a potential remedy for various types of psychological and physical discomforts [4]. It follows that cannabis might offer relief for those with menstrual pain. But does it really help?

Though analgesics such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen often help individuals with pain, including chronic neuropathic pain and severe menstrual cramps, these medications sometimes do not offer enough relief or have unwanted side effects. However, heavier pain medications like opioids are addictive and carry significant side effects like sedation, withdrawal symptoms, and confusion. Thus, some individuals try cannabis, attempting to take the edge off their discomfort [5]. But is it more of a placebo?

Though the debate about this question continues, we can better understand the mechanisms by which cannabis affects the human body when we examine the endocannabinoid system.

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Cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system

The cannabis plant contains multiple cannabinoids, with THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol) being the most prominent. These and other substances interact with the body’s central nervous system and cannabinoid receptors in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) [6].

The ECS helps to regulate the body, seemingly modulating functions like sleep, pain, hunger, and mood. Some researchers suggest that cannabinoids like THC and CBD can potentially reduce and alter signals by influencing responses in the ECS [6]. However, these theories have not been fully proven. Thus, following a physician’s advice is crucial when needing substantial pain relief.

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Studies shed light on cannabis’s effect on primary dysmenorrhea

Research indicating the effects of cannabis has shown that when people consume substances like CBD tinctures or full-spectrum CBD products, significant interactions may occur within the ECS [7]. More specifically, a recent study oriented toward primary dysmenorrhea revealed promising findings for potential benefits. For example, this study explored whether certain female hygiene CBD products may help  in the lower belly [8]. Let’s look at it in detail.

Objective of CBD-infused tampon study:

The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness and user experience of CBD-infused tampons in managing primary dysmenorrhea, a condition that impacts 50–95% of individuals assigned female at birth [8].

Materials and methods:

This research was structured as a randomized, single-blinded, placebo-controlled study involving 63 participants. These individuals were selected after a comprehensive screening process that included a review of their medical history, a gynecological examination, and tests confirming no pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Initially, 114 individuals were screened, and 83 met the eligibility criteria. Throughout the study, participants assessed their pain using a modified Mankoski pain scale ranging from 1 to 10 and reported their satisfaction with the product [8].


Of the 83 eligible participants, 63 completed the study, documenting their experiences across three consecutive menstrual cycles. Ultimately, the study reported that the use of CBD-infused tampons showed statistically significant results. This study underscores the potential of cannabinoids, like CBD, as potentially viable future alternatives for modulating symptoms associated with primary dysmenorrhea [8].

Arguments against using CBD for menstrual pain

While CBD is touted as a promising remedy for various ailments, its use for menstrual pain warrants cautious scrutiny. Firstly, the scientific backing for CBD’s efficacy in treating menstrual pain remains insufficient, with many studies yielding inconclusive or mixed results. This lack of robust scientific evidence makes it difficult to justify CBD as a reliable treatment option compared to well-established therapies like NSAIDs, which have proven effectiveness and regulated dosages [9].

Moreover, the regulatory landscape for CBD products is still evolving, leading to inconsistencies in product quality, potency, and labeling. Thus, consumers may face challenges in finding products that deliver consistent results [10]. Additionally, the potential side effects and interactions of CBD with medications have not been thoroughly studied, raising concerns about safety, especially when used without medical supervision [11]. Hence, advocating for CBD as a treatment for menstrual pain my be premature without further research and regulatory clarity to ensure safety and efficacy.

Cannabis and menstrual cycle management

Anecdotal evidence suggests that cannabis oil and CBD products may potentially improve well-being during the menstrual cycle. For example, CBD oil, known for its wellness properties without the psychoactive effects of THC, has been particularly noted for its ability to promote overall wellness [12]. However, its ability to treat severe pain and reduce inflammation associated with menstrual cramps has not been conclusively established. Thus, it’s important to discuss options for treating severe menstrual pain with a gynecologist or physician.

Deficiencies in scientific evidence and research

Despite promising anecdotal evidence, scientific research on cannabis for reduced pain intensity is still in its infancy. A systematic review of studies reveals little evidence to conclusively support cannabis as a superior pain management strategy over drugs. However, participants in some studies have reported wellness benefits when using hemp-derived CBD products compared to traditional medications [13].

The role of CBD products

In regions where it is legal, CBD products—ranging from oils to tinctures and gummies—have become popular for self-treatment of period pain. It’s possible these products may act as a placebo [14]. In contrast, the cannabinoid may effectively modulate pain responses through its interaction with the ECS [15]. Ultimately, more research is needed to understand CBD’s role in menstrual pain experiences. In the meantime, many menstrual pain sufferers enjoy experimenting with approved nonprescription CBD products. However, product manufacturers must address safety and dosage recommendations carefully. The best CBD gummies, for instance, are those vetted and clearly labeled with CBD dosage information.

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Placebo effect

One cannot overlook the potential placebo effect associated with cannabis use. For example, the belief in cannabis’ effectiveness might itself contribute to a perceived reduction in pain levels, independent of the drug’s pharmacological properties [14]. Therefore, further research is needed to distinguish between the real effects of cannabinoids and the psychological impact of expecting relief.

Legal and safety considerations

The legal status of cannabis varies by location, falling under different regulations such as the Controlled Substances Act in the United States [16]. Therefore, users need to be aware of their local laws regarding both marijuana and hemp’s legal status.

Potential adverse effects, such as impacts on the lungs (if smoking cannabis) and interaction with medications, necessitate caution and consultation with a healthcare professional before starting any new treatment [11].

Perspectives from the medical community

Healthcare professionals remain divided on recommending cannabis for menstrual pain relief. While some acknowledge its potential in promoting wellness, others caution against its potential psychoactive properties and the limited scope of controlled scientific evidence supporting its efficacy. Also, public health perspectives emphasize the need for more comprehensive data to support health claims made by the CBD and cannabis industry [17].

Key takeaway: cannabis for menstrual pain

The use of cannabis for menstrual pain presents a complex blend of anecdotal success stories and a nascent but growing body of scientific research. While some individuals report wellness relief, the scientific community calls for further research to understand the full spectrum of cannabis’ effects and its practical applications in pain management [17].

Thus, for those considering cannabis for menstrual pain, it is crucial to consult with healthcare professionals, consider legal guidelines, and critically evaluate both the scientific evidence and anecdotal reports. As research progresses, more definitive answers may become available, potentially making cannabis a mainstream option in the arsenal against menstrual pain or confirming its status as a placebo in this specific use case.

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Medical Disclaimer / Legal Disclaimer – Information is provided for educational purposes. It does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice or medical advice. We attempt to be accurate and up-to-date, but the legality of cannabinoids and the science of cannabis are evolving. The author is neither a legal professional nor a medical expert. Before buying or using any products, you should check with your local authorities and medical providers.


  1. Menstrual Cramps: Symptoms and Causes
  2. CBD for Menstrual Cramps: Options, Considerations, and Alternatives
  3. Cleveland Clinic: Dysmenorrhea
  4. Marijuana and Pain
  5. What Are the Best Cannabis Strains for Pain?
  6. The Endocannabinoid System, Cannabinoids, and Pain
  7. The Role of CBD in Maintaining the Endocannabinoid System and HPA Axis Balance
  8. Efficacy and Usability of a Cannabidiol-Infused Tampon for the Relief of Primary Dysmenorrhea
  9. Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
  10. Hearing Wrap-Up: FDA’s Failure to Regulate CBD Threatens Consumer Access to Safe Products
  11. Cannabidiol Interactions with Medications, Illicit Substances, and Alcohol: a Comprehensive Review
  12. Cannabis and Women’s Health
  13. Marijuana and Pain
  14. Placebo Effect a Major Driver of Pain Reduction in Cannabis Trials
  15. Therapeutic Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids
  16. The Schedule 1 Status of Marijuana
  17. Cannabis and Pain Treatment—A Review of the Clinical Utility and a Practical Approach in Light of Uncertainty

Frequently Asked Questions

Researchers have made headway in studying cannabis for its potential effects on pain management, including menstrual pain. However, we need more conclusive evidence to know exactly how cannabis affects pain and perceptions of pain [14].

You can find various forms of cannabis products to consider for menstrual-related issues. These may include CBD oils, tinctures, and topical products. The choice depends on personal preferences and local legality regarding cannabis sales and use.

Not everyone should use cannabis products. It’s important for individuals to consult healthcare providers before trying new treatments, especially if they have underlying health conditions or are taking medications. Also, the legal status of cannabis varies by location, so it’s crucial to be informed about local laws.