Should You Treat Cramps With Pot?
What experts say about this emerging remedy
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A recent product of this golden era of innovation in which we live: the marijuana tampon.
Back in March, Whoopi Goldberg partnered with marijuantrepreneur Maya Elizabeth to found Whoopi & Maya, which sells Soak, an Epsom salt; and Rub, a body balm; both formulated with “sun-grown cannabis” that, along with essential oils and herbs, is intended to lessen the pain of menstrual cramps.
“You get the antispasmodic and analgesic properties without the psychoactive high, which is a side effect some people want to avoid,” explains Elizabeth. And it’s not just women; Elizabeth says both products can also be used by men for general muscle soreness.
And though Foria Relief—a self-proclaimed "weed tampon"—formulated with the cannabinoids CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) as well as organic cocoa butter, is primarily intended as a cramp-alleviating vaginal suppository, it can also be inserted rectally by both sexes for back pain.
While the anecdotal evidence is compelling, the science is lagging. As a schedule-one drug having no federally accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse, marijuana is off-limits for nearly all clinical researchers, though synthetic versions of certain compounds have been tested, and scientists in Europe have done some research as well. THC and CBD have been shown to decrease nausea and increase appetite, and marijuana cigarettes seem to help control certain kinds of pain.
But there’s no data on the topical application of marijuana for menstrual pain specifically, says Leah Millheiser, M.D., the director of Female Sexual Medicine at Stanford Health Care in Palo Alto, California. “There certainly could be beneficial aspects of medical marijuana when it comes to menstrual cramps, but until we have the data to show that those compounds are safe and effective, or superior to other types of medications, I don’t know if in good faith we as clinicians can prescribe it,” Millheiser says. “There are many options available for cramps that have data to support their use and don’t require a medical marijuana card, which is an extra step.”
Say you do have a medical marijuana card. Both companies sell their products only in dispensaries in California, the one state that doesn’t specify qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. (Foria also lets you buy Relief online after you join their medical marijuana collective, for which you need a physician’s recommendation.) You can buy medical marijuana to ease pain, control nausea and stimulate your appetite in 24 other states, but none of them have authorized cramps for medicinal marijuana, and only New Jersey has introduced legislation that would change that.
So where does that leave the law-abiding menstrual cramp sufferers living outside the Golden State? One Cochrane review of 42 trials found insufficient evidence for acupuncture and acupressure’s effectiveness, and another of 27 trials investigating dietary supplements (including chamomile, one of the ingredients in the multiherbal Soak) reported nothing convincing either.
Luckily, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists can vouch for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories and hormonal birth control, both of which reduce the amount of uterus-contracting prostaglandins your body makes. So unless Mary Jane has a Hail Mary breakthrough, a traditional pill is your best bet.