These days, it seems like people claim cannabidiol (aka CBD) will cure pretty much any health concern or bodily ailment you’re dealing with. Got anxiety? Take CBD oil. Got a sunburn? Rub some CBD on it. Got horrible period cramps? Stick CBD up your vagina.
Indeed, a handful of CBD companies sell vaginal suppositories made with CBD that are intended to treat pain associated with menstrual cramps. It’s not surprising that people are turning to CBD, a legal compound found in marijuana and hemp, as a way to relieve painful periods. Even though the research on CBD is somewhat limited, it’s known to have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties. But the question is, can inserting CBD in your vagina cause more problems than it solves?
According to Carolyn DeLucia, MD, FACOG, an Ob/Gyn who works at a medi-spa that specializes in vaginal treatments and also sells CBD products, “the vagina is an extremely great place to have anything absorbed into your system.” The vaginal wall is a porous, mucosal area of the body, meaning any medications (like hormonal medication or some birth control) that are taken intravaginally get absorbed directly into the blood stream, Dr. DeLucia explains. With these vaginal suppositories, “[CBD] is absorbed systemically,” she says. About 20 minutes after inserting a 100mg hemp-derived CBD suppository, it dissolves and you can expect to feel all-around calm, relaxed, and somewhat sleepy, she says. In addition, CBD suppositories may have an “analgesic” effect, so they could temporarily relieve pain — including cramps, she says.
CBD suppositories certainly seem capable of solving PMS issues, but there’s reason to be somewhat skeptical. First, CBD products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While the FDA did approve one specific CBD medication back in April, hemp products like this are unregulated. “[CBD suppositories] are not FDA-approved and there are no clear studies showing any evidence of benefit or harm,” says Adeeti Gupta, MD, FACOG, an Ob/Gyn at Walk-In Gyn Care in Manhattan. And if you’re going to put anything in your body, you want it to be approved by the FDA, so you can rest assured that the ingredients are safe and have been proven effective.
You’ve probably been told many times that you shouldn’t insert any creams, gels, or other formulas inside your vagina — even if they claim to be “all-natural” or “gynecologist-tested.” “Almost anything can change the pH of the vagina,” Dr. DeLucia says. That’s why Ob/Gyns suggest only using mild unscented soaps around your genitals, and avoiding douching.
Technically, however, most CBD suppositories (including the one Dr. DeLucia recommends) are made solely from coconut oil, which is not the worst thing you could put in your vagina. “Theoretically, they should not change the pH, since they are neutral and act as emollients, hence acting more like a neutral film than causing chemical interactions,” Dr. Gupta says. So, assuming that there are no hidden ingredients or preservatives and stabilizers in the product, you should be good to go, she says. Still, Dr. Gupta warns, “Please read exactly what’s going in your body.”
Dr. DeLucia stands by her suppositories and says that when you’re bleeding during your period, it’s common for your vaginal pH to change in general, because “your body is sort of doing its own thing and flushing things out,” she says. So, it might not be particularly problematic for your pH to use a suppository during your period, she says. (Although, you would want to let the suppository dissolve completely before inserting a tampon, she adds.)
At the end of the day, it’s important to talk to your Ob/Gyn or healthcare provider before you try a CBD suppository or any home remedy involving CBD. Keep in mind that there’s no standardized dose of CBD, and everyone responds differently to it, so you might find that you’re more sensitive to it than others. Another thing to keep in mind: While these products are marketed for PMS, there’s no guarantee that they’ll actually work for your cramps. Cramps are caused by chemicals called prostaglandins that cause muscles in the uterine wall to contract, and we know that non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs block prostaglandins production directly. So, when it comes to cramps, you might be better off popping an ibuprofen or Midol than slipping CBD in your vagina.
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