Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) is known worldwide for the adverse effects it has on women on a monthly basis, but you may not know its more severe cousin, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, or PMDD, which comes with its own unique difficulties. PMDD has been gaining attention in the U.S. since it was added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) in 2013, but it’s still new or unknown to the rest of the world and the research available it is still relatively scant.
The International Association for Premenstrual Disorders (IAPMD) says that, an estimated 5-10% of women of reproductive age have PMDD.
A suspected genetic disorder that causes intense negative reactions to hormone fluctuations, resulting in symptoms ranging from sleep problems to panic attacks to depression. For these symptoms, researchers have explored treatments with pharmaceuticals like mood stabilizers or antidepressants, hormone therapies, or even hysterectomy.
So far, most of these methods have insufficient evidence of success, but some — like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and “surgical menopause” (hysterectomy) — are showing efficacy but can come with side effects like sexual dysfunction, breathing difficulties, or weight gain, along with serious warnings about suicide risks or drug interactions.
In response to such evidence and due to concern over pharmaceuticals’ side effects, PMDD sufferers are turning to cannabis as treatment.
Thanks to its inclusion in the latest DSM-5, PMDD has been the subject of recent medical studies and there is growing interest in medicating PMDD symptoms with cannabis — but this isn’t the first research into the subject.
A collection of early evidence for treating women’s premenstrual issues with cannabis — compiled by doctor and renowned cannabis researcher, Dr. Ethan Russo — dates back as far as 11th century England and 13th century Italy and details specific benefits such as relieving childbearing pain and complications. Jumping to modern times, a 2017 article in Addition Research and Theory claims that cannabis can alleviate symptoms of multiple health conditions, including those that overlap with physical and emotional symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), including insomnia, irritability, depression, and joint pain.
This may explain why states like New York are considering amending its medical cannabis law to include PMDD.
While PMDD itself hasn’t been the subject of many cannabis treatment studies yet, there are copious reports where cannabis or cannabis extracts were used to quell similar symptoms as those found with PMDD.
For anxiety and depression, a recent study in the Journal of Affective Disorders shows that cannabis treatment, and CBD in particular, significantly reduced ratings of stress, anxiety and depression in both male and female patients (though it’s important to note here that long-term cannabis use could exacerbate depression in some patients). For insomnia, studies on cannabis treatment indicate that CBD oil has therapeutic potential, though more studies are warranted to confirm this claim.
Despite being in the early stages of studying PMDD and how cannabis or its extracts like CBD oil could help treat symptoms, researchers see the potential in this alternative treatment plan, one that comes with fewer adverse side effects than current prescriptions and are calling for further study into the relationship between PMDD and cannabis.
Considering Cannabis for PMDD Treatment
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a fairly new illness in the medical research world, but its symptoms have been studied over centuries, and cannabis has been noted as an effective treatment since as early as the Middle Ages. While current anecdotal evidence also supports the theory of cannabis’ healing power for PMDD sufferers, be sure to consult your doctor if you’re considering cannabis products to treat your PMDD symptoms.
The content on cannabisMD is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.