Of course, CBD hasn't been rigorously studied in humans for most use cases. (The same goes for many of the herbs included in the aforementioned products.) Most of the evidence for CBD's benefits for sexual health is largely anecdotal, or based on very small studies. But brands are banking on CBD's enduring buzziness (and a slowly growing body of research supporting it) to create products tailored specifically for menstrual and reproductive health.
How it (theoretically) works
CBD is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties, and inflammation is connected to a variety of reproductive health concerns. "CBD—or, preferably, whole hemp oil—can be beneficial for a host of female issues including menstrual cramps, premenstrual syndrome, headaches, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and fatigue," says integrative OB-GYN Felice Gersh, MD.
CBD is also believed to support the endocannabinoid system—an internal network of receptors and chemical messengers that helps the body maintain homeostasis in the face of environmental stressors. While there's a lot that we're still learning about the endocannabinoid system, research suggests that if a person's hormones are imbalanced, it can negatively impact their natural levels of endocannabinoid molecules. This is where CBD can come into play. "Cannabinoids like CBD support our endocannabinoid system by decreasing the breakdown of our own endocannabinoids," says Soyona Rafatjah, MD, medical director of PrimeHealth. "This, in turn, leads to the positive benefits that we see from stimulating our cannabinoid receptors, from pain relief to reduced inflammation to improved mood—all of which can [potentially] improve our menstrual cycle experience." Hence the appeal for people looking for more natural solutions to their period woes.
The new products in the space
Again, we've had CBD lube and other such products for a while now. But the latest round of CBD-infused reproductive wellness products combine the cannabinoid with other herbal ingredients that are supposed to promote a healthy menstrual cycle. The inaugural collection from Winged is one example: Its Happiness Soft Gels supplements ($40) contain female hormone-supportive herbs like evening primrose oil, black cohosh, and chaste tree berry (also known as vitex) alongside CBD.
Winged founder Jessica Mulligan says she launched the line after noticing that there were few CBD brands "tailored specifically to women's needs." And indeed, the ingredients are legit—although it should be noted that not all herbs are super well-supported by robust research. "Evening primrose may help reduce the symptoms of PMS and cyclic breast tenderness, as can chaste tree," says Dr. Gersh.
Ned takes this concept a step further with its new Natural Cycle Collection ($178). "One of the most common questions we received after launching our original full spectrum hemp collection was whether or not CBD can help with period symptoms," says Brittany Weeden, curator of the Natural Cycle Collection. "It was a no-brainer that we had to develop products that are not only safe to take over the long term, but could also help support the endocrine system and uterus."
FYI: there are also foods you can eat to help support a healthy menstrual cycle:
The collection contains four products—Period Ease Blend Oil ($44), a CBD tincture to take orally with herbs such as black cohosh, cramp bark, and valerian root; Period Soothe Salve ($40), a CBD balm for cramps made with freshly harvested roses and lavender buds; Hormone Energize Roll-On ($36) that promotes energy; and a Hormone Balance Blend Oil ($72) that contains red raspberry leaf and stinging nettles. These two ingredients are associated with improved reproductive health, reduced PMS symptoms, and less cramping, says Annie Miller, botanist, product developer and herb cultivator at Ned.
To help prevent the other minor annoyances that people with vaginas experience on the reg—urinary tract infections, bacterial vaginosis, yeast infections, and the like—cannabis-based lube brand Quim has developed a daily-use oil called Happy Clam ($48), which it likens to "an eye cream for your vagina." Along with full-spectrum hemp CBD oil, Happy Clam also contains antibacterial and antifungal MCT and tea tree oils, irritation-soothing violet extract, and damiana, an aphrodisiac herb that, anecdotally, can contribute to more powerful orgasms. Unlike the other above-mentioned products, Happy Clam is meant to be applied directly to your labia and vagina, which could be irritating. (Your friendly reminder to always skin-test any new products before putting them anywhere near your bits.)
Is it worth trying?
Some of the benefits promised by these products should be taken with a grain of salt, especially since they often rely on ingredients who haven't been particularly well-studied. (Including, yes, CBD.) But in general, Dr. Gersh thinks that CBD is safe for most people. However, she recommends those who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant should steer clear of CBD and other medicinal herbs. It's also a good idea to vet supplement products with your health practitioner first to ensure that their ingredients won't interfere with any conditions you have or medications you're taking.
However, for those who want an alternative solution to their down-there dilemmas, CBD could be another tool in the PMS-fighting toolkit—if you're willing to shell out for the pricey products. But some people have found the results well worth it. "It's incredibly powerful to allocate some of the time and budget we spend on our faces and workout routines to our life-giving organs," says Quim CEO and co-founder Cyo Nystrom. "They're a gateway to our holistic wellness."
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