Pot and period pain – the perfect partnership?

There's a new range of Celebrity produced cannabis-based products designed specifically to help rid women of nasty period cramps and pain.

Pot and period pain – the perfect partnership?

So the big buzz this week – quite literally, because it comes from popular YouTube channel Buzzfeed – is all about a popular celebrity’s collaboration with a renowned medical cannabis producer in the USA. The two have come together to produce a range of cannabis-based products designed specifically to help rid women of nasty period cramps and pain.

In quoting their site, the celebrity ‘decided to follow her heart and take a leap into the medical cannabis market…’ So the question of course is – is heart the only thing these products are actually based on?

At NCPIC, we’ve not been backwards in coming forward when it comes to medical cannabis. We acknowledge some components of cannabis may have useful medical applications. And like a lot of people whose friends or family are suffering from some of the illnesses it is claimed cannabis may treat, we have been on the edge of our seats waiting for some solid evidence and more glimmers of hope.

We’ve seen some really positive indications come from good quality studies related to spasticity in Multiple Sclerosis patients, nausea and other side effects from chemotherapy, and even some ok results when testing with severe childhood epilepsy (with more studies underway). And while we hope there are more positive results to come, we also know cannabis can’t possibly cure or treat all of the many illnesses or symptoms it is now claimed to – so will it work on period pain?

The evidence

As many people know, cannabis was used for centuries to treat period pain. Its use died out last century as more effective medicines, with better capacity for controlled dosage and regulation became available.

The fact it has been used before is a positive, but cannot be considered hard evidence. Think about it – cannabis was used to treat period pain at the same time as it was widely believed uteruses wandered around women’s bodies driving them mad and leading to ‘hysterical’ behaviour.

We need to know more.

For some people, the site’s tagline, ‘Products that work from names you can trust’ will be evidence enough of the efficacy of these products. But for others who are desperate for relief, but a bit ‘iffy’ about using cannabis, real evidence – as in scientific testing – will be important.

No doubt, it will also be important – especially to those of our followers who question the validity of pharmaceutical studies due to bias and claimed corruption – that the studies are independent and take into consideration factors such as the effect other elements in the product may have.

Well, here’s what we know. The site for the products is minimal. We had a good poke around and couldn’t find any information related to any quality testing or studies of the products that have been undertaken. There was also no reference to an evidence base for adding cannabis to these products. What the site does have, is a list of ingredients, which is very useful.

Topical treatments

When looking at the soak, the ingredients listed do seem to be all natural – so if that’s something you like, this may be for you (though you should definitely read on). In looking more closely at the ingredients, the need to include cannabis becomes a little… shall we say… hazy?

The soak, quite honestly, sounds amazing. With an Epsom salt base there’s no doubt it will do exactly what it says – help you relax … so why the weed?

The product description says the weed ‘promotes a state of deep relaxation’… and ‘…offers relief from aches and pain’ but we’re not sure how. As yet, there is no evidence to suggest THC and CBD diluted in a whole bathtub of water has any effect on pain, though the application of heat (as we all know from our hot water bottles) by itself has been known to help. Cannabis is also not soluble in water, which is an added challenge for product makers in this case.

We did wonder if maybe adding cannabis to the tub and inhaling it via the steam might equate to something like ‘vaping’ which could account for the relaxation, but as the true effects of THC are generally (not always) activated only at 150 degrees Celsius (or higher), it would need to be a very hot tub!

There’s little doubt this soak placed in a nice warm bath will have some relaxing effects – but how great is the part cannabis can really play? Is it a necessity or just a novelty designed to play on America’s currently peaked interest in weed?

The rub is in much the same category as the soak and has many of the same questions attached. There is no quality evidence yet to support the claim cannabis can effectively treat pain when applied topically. The rub contains a ratio of 1 part cannabis to 20 parts other ingredients, studies to date have been mainly done on ratios of 1:1. While studies have supported the absorption of THC and CBD through the skin – there are no human studies that examine how much can be absorbed and if it reaches the bloodstream in a potentially therapeutic dose level. The combination of willow bark and St John’s Wort are more likely to produce the result the person is seeking.

Moreish medicines

We’re not going to lie, the chocolate product sounds absolutely delicious. Full of cacao, which according to the site has a ‘range of benefits’, it also meets the need many of us have for chocolate at that time of the month. But so much weed!

This product contains 50mg of cannabis per 2 oz. jar. So, at the recommended serve of two teaspoons, a user could be looking at as much as 10mg, assuming the density is similar to Nutella… and let’s be real, when it comes to chocolate, a ‘teaspoon’ can be closer to a tablespoon!

The maximum recommended dose for a cannabis edible is 10mg, with 25mg shown to risk severe anxiety or panic reactions.

While there is some early research to support the use of THC for some kinds of pain, there’s no quality evidence to support the oral consumption of cannabis for pain relief yet. But forget its actual effect on pain… no seriously, its actual effect on pain will be the last thing on your very stoned mind!

The tincture is a lot less aggressive, with a range of ingredients from elderberries, cramp bark and motherwort, combined with 100mg THC per 1 oz bottle. The tincture is designed to be dropped into hot or cold drinks and diluted. With no evidence to support oral consumption of cannabis for effective treatment of pain yet, the question is, with the mix of elements already included, is THC really adding anything effective?

The warning

Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is the main ingredient in cannabis that gets you high. When looking at new products like these ones it’s important to consider the following:

  • Being high on THC affects things like coordination, memory, ability to complete complex tasks, reaction time and depth perception – all skills invaluable to driving safely. Some of these products contain A LOT of THC and will get you high. If you use these products, don’t drive afterwards, for your safety and that of others. If you want to drive, consider one of the many available products that won’t affect driving skills.
  • Cannabis affects everyone differently. Some people enjoy it, others have extreme and negative reactions ranging from anxiety and paranoia to psychosis.
  • Cannabis has been strongly linked to triggering early onset of mental illnesses such as schizophrenia in people who have a family history of mental illness. Before trying cannabis-based products, check out your family history to make sure you’re in the clear.
  • Some of these products, and others like them, contain a high dose of THC. In inexperienced smokers (and some experienced smokers) it will be difficult to predict the effect of the dose and it may even lead to greening out (nausea, paranoia, vomiting).
  • Like any strong drug, cannabis can interact with other substances, even herbal substances. We couldn’t find any information about testing to check if the ingredients combined with each other had recorded any negative interactions. It’s also important to consult a doctor, as some of these substances, including cannabis, may have negative interactions with other medications you are using.

Using cannabis-based products

Cannabis-based health and beauty products are on the rise in the USA, and no doubt there will be a push for this to increase in other countries.

No one is questioning this celebrity’s dedication to helping women (or helping anyone) – she is well-known for her charity work and commitment to a range of causes. But like anything, it is important to look at new drug-based products and ask questions. The biggest question, of what are otherwise seemingly standard herbal healthcare products, is – why the weed?

Is it a novelty or a therapeutic necessity?