Can You Really Treat Cramps and PMS With Cannabis? We Tried it to Find Out.
The uterus contains some of the strongest muscles in the human body, so it’s no surprise that for some people who have periods, monthly menstrual cramps hurt as much as a heart attack. Ten percent of them suffer crippling endometriosis pain — which Girls creator Lena Dunham discussed in an unflinching essay last fall. But even for menstruating people whose reproductive systems are, theoretically, functioning as nature intended, cramps and PMS can be hell.
Actress Whoopi Goldberg says she suffered a “lifetime of difficult periods,” and that the only thing that brought her real relief was marijuana. (Two years ago, she wrote an essay called, “My vape pen and I, a love story.”) This spring, she teamed up with Emeryville, California-based Maya Elisabeth, a whiz at making and selling cannabis edibles, to launch a new line of products aimed at relieving menstrual pain and PMS.
Whoopi & Maya’s offerings include a pair of raw-cacao sipping chocolates — one higher in psychoactive THC, the other high in pain-relieving CBD — as well as a pain-relieving rub, a tincture that contains cannabis and other good menstrual herbs like cramp bark and raspberry leaf, and a bath soak.
Related: Four Reasons Period Sex is Awesome
It seems pretty genius to create medical cannabis products that not only appeal to a slightly different audience, but help them take care of themselves when their strongest muscle and related hormones are making them miserable. In practice, some of Whoopi & Maya’s products work a bit better than others. Here’s what I thought:
This stuff is pretty great. Each dropperful contains “about” 3.3 milligrams of THC, along with St. John’s wort, elderberries, cramp bark and raspberry leaf. I’m very sensitive to THC, so I like the fact that the tincture lets you get just a small amount (or more, if you want it). It also tastes much less skunky than some other tinctures I’ve tried. Taken under the tongue, it begins to work within about 20-30 minutes, alleviating cramps and other body pain and leaving you in a more chill state of mind. They also suggest putting it in tea or a “sparkling beverage,” but I didn’t try it that way.
“Savor” sipping chocolate:
Chocolate is one of my best friends (I could probably write a love letter to it like Whoopi’s missive to her “Sippy”), especially when my period is on its way. This raw cacao spread comes in a little pot; it’s quite solid, which makes it challenging to scoop some out for hot cocoa (or just eat it straight with a spoon, because come on). It’s dark and delicious, with that herbal cannabis twang. It’s also potent — I made a mini-serving of cocoa with a small amount of the supposedly high-CBD, low-THC stuff and still felt kinda high. They claim that each four-ounce jar contains four 20 to 25-milligram servings. I think I’d be flat on the floor if I followed that hot chocolate recipe.
Last year a doctor prescribed me Voltaren, a topical anti-inflammatory gel, for tendonitis in my ankle. It provided immediate relief but also made me feel totally stoned for about a day afterward. The doctor told me she’d never heard of such a reaction. Whatever. The Whoopi & Maya balm, which contains cannabis and some of the same herbs as the tincture, is what I wished the Voltaren had been: it provides almost instant pain relief without getting you high. To be fair, I didn’t try it for cramps; I tried it on my ankle, my hands after a long day of typing, a crick in my neck — it worked well for all of them. One caveat: it comes with Whoopi & Maya’s “signature” scent, “amber moon,” which is pleasant but a little on the perfumey side.
“Soak” bath salts:
All “high on bath salts” jokes aside, this soak doesn’t really get you high, despite containing about 25 milligrams of THC. These soaks come in three scents — unscented, amber moon and lavender — and contain epsom salts, lovely moisturizing oils and, of course, THC. It’s hard to say whether it’s the epsom salts or the THC that soothed my achy muscles and cramps, but either way, a long bath in the lavender-scented soak was pretty much like floating on a marshmallow cloud while your personal celebrity dreamboat gives you a massage. The oils leave you a bit, well, oily, but they absorb in nicely if you decide not to shower them off. The only way this bath could have been better was if I hadn’t had to constantly keep my tub-loving kitty from trying to drink the water.
Whoopi & Maya products are currently only available in certain California dispensaries to customers with a valid medical cannabis card. For a complete list of retailers, click here.