Lead photo via iStock/ Carlo107; all other photos by Emily Berkey
I cried the morning I first got my period. I was thirteen, hormonal, and crampy. But, determined to not let my bleeding vagina stop me, I attempted to play in my regularly scheduled indoor soccer game. After an overly-involved soccer mom yelled at me during the game for not taking an open shot, I started weeping. The coach, who happened to be my dad, pulled me from the game, and I spent the remainder of the match hunched in a pseudo-fetal position on the bench in a futile attempt to ease my cramps.
Soon, I found myself taking monthly vacations from school where I’d alternate between laying with a heating pad and hunching over the toilet, losing my cookies. A few trips to the gynecologist later, I was told to take an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever as well as birth control to ease the pain. In all fairness, the birth control did help, but it didn’t wipe my discomfort out completely, and I still relied on OTC pain relievers. A professor at University College London recently stated that menstrual cramps can be as painful as a heart attack, to which menstrual cramp sufferers on the internet offered a resounding, ‘No shit!’
Over a decade later, I realized I’d never experienced life as an adult woman without hormone-regulating birth control in my system, and set out to meet my prescription-free self. Sans pill, I noticed a marked difference in my mindstate — I was sharper, happier, and felt more like myself. However, my cramps were back to their original soul-wrenching antics. I surfed the net for natural pain relief tips, decided I’d try a CBD-based product, showed up at the local cannabis dispensary, and walked away with a tincture of CBD and THC. I hurried home, sprayed the recommended amount onto my tongue, then hopped in the shower. By the end of the wash, I forgot I had cramps; yes, I was a little high thanks to the THC, but the tincture had completely erased my pain. (This is the product I used, but if you don’t want to feel heady effects like I did, choose one with less THC in it.)
My life was forever changed. 13 years into horrendous period pain, with doctors only suggesting altering my body’s natural hormones or relying on pain relievers with side effects, I had finally found comfort that no OTC medication or birth control had ever given me. I started to try new types of cannabis-based products, like Not Your Granny’s Gummy Candy and pre-rolled CBD joints from my local dispensary to ease my pain, and had conversations with friends who get periods about my personal revelation. These discussions led me to realize that while some period-getters knew of the benefits of cannabis-based products, others were still curious or even hesitant about doing so. So, I decided we need to take the conversation to the internet.
I met with five people who get periods — some of whom work at or own cannabis companies — and talked about how they ease their menstrual pain with the help of pot-based products, what they’re developing to add to the pain relief market, and what advice they have for those reluctant to try cannabis for menstrual management. See what Jasmine, Christy, Esther, Priscilla, and Nai Vasha had to say below.
Please note that none of the people interviewed in this article are doctors, and any advice is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical counsel or treatment.
Jasmine is the Creative Director of Cheech’s Private Stash, the cannabis line curated by Cheech Marin of the iconic duo Cheech & Chong. Jasmine is the overseer of all things regarding branding and is ensuring Cheech’s Private Stash carries products tailored to women. She’s also created a page of easily digestible charts to aide cannabis users in choosing the right strain for them. I joined Jasmine for a walk while we talked about products Cheech’s Private Stash is developing, what she personally uses, and advice for those new to using marijuana-based medicine.
MERRY JANE: What products does Cheech’s Private Stash currently offer to help with menstrual cramps, and what do you have in development?
Marin: Right now we’re just flower and we’re in the process of adding vapes and prerolls. We’re developing a whole line of tinctures as well that target specific problems like sleep, anxiety, pain relief, [inflammation], and a line of bath salts. Everything will be on shelves in the next 6 months.
How do you plan to help people navigate these products to find what’s best for them?
The packaging, on all of the wellness products, is going to be very clear with charts and information broken down in a way that makes sense to quickly skim across.
Do you personally use any products to ease menstrual cramps?
I use bath salts — Papa and Barkley has an amazing bath salt that smells so good and it works. Also, I do sublingual drops; right now I really like this brand called Humboldt Apothecary because it’s alcohol-based and i don’t like to eat oil, but it incorporates a lot of other herbs as well that can target the desired area.
What do you have to say to menstrual pain sufferers who may be hesitant to try cannabis for relief?
Just microdose. For some people taking edibles, they’ve had a bad experience or their body doesn’t react well to it. With CBD, you take it and it’s so relaxing and non-psychoactive, but you’ve got to be careful because [even] when it says it’s non-psychoactive, [because] sometimes it still is, so maybe still microdose when trying a new product regardless.
Christy is a freelance photographer from Los Angeles, California. She’s a creative with a busy schedule and no patience for pain. I met up with Christy to rummage through records and discuss how she copes with menstrual cramps, the important role her friends played in her discovering products, and how she expedites the pain-relieving effects of CBD.
MERRY JANE: What marijuana-based products have you tried for cramps, and what products you currently use?
Kim: I couldn’t tell you exact brand names but I’ve used CBD oils, rubs, and edibles. I also recently used a bath bomb — before then I had never used a bath bomb period, CBD or not — but it was very interesting and very calming. Other than CBD products, I just roll up and smoke indica [strains] because it’s the strongest, most immediate hit for me. My pain tolerance is high but my patience is really low, so smoking while I’m waiting for other products to kick in works for me.
How did you find out about using CBD products?
Through my homegirl Bryce who started working at the smoke shop. Before then, I knew there were CBD products to help with certain things, but I didn’t really utilize them until I had easy access to them through her. Then the homegirl Esther started working for Whoopi Goldberg’s marijuana line mainly targeted [towards] women with cramps... I tried that and I was like ‘What the hell!’ She had CBD edibles, kind of like Nutella, and she put it on crackers for me I was like ‘Oh my god… this shit is good!’ Of course, I’m smoking a Backwood this whole time because I have no patience.
What advice do you have for someone who may be apprehensive to try CBD-based products to ease menstrual pain?
I say just go for it. I feel like majority of people who are scared to try edibles are really afraid of the effects it has on them. Some people get sick off of regular edibles from a weed shop, so they may be scared based off what they’ve experienced or heard. Then again, edibles from the shop are different from these CBD products we use… they help with pain and really promote peace and comfort. CBD products don’t get me high, they just make me feel better.
Esther is a DJ and radio show host whose fans know her as Wavy Baby. She’s also worked as a product rep for Whoopi Goldberg’s marijuana-infused product line called Whoopi and Maya. I met with Esther at her studio where she educated me on the benefits of Whoopi and Maya’s wares, let me try their new chocolate spread (it totally conquered my cramps and also got me a little high), and shared stories of people using the products to ease menstrual and non-menstrual pain.
MERRY JANE: Had you used marijuana-based products to ease your cramps before working with Whoopi and Maya?
Robinsun-Abrams: I’d mostly just [smoked] weed to help with pain. I hadn’t really experimented with topicals or edibles... I don’t really like edibles in general because they get me way too high, but with Whoopi and Maya they encouraged me to try all of the products, and in using them I found them to be super helpful.
Working as a rep in the dispensaries, what would you hear from people who had also tried the product?
These products are great for menstrual cramps, but they also work for other things. I talked to a lot of older women who were in a lot of pain for a variety of reasons, and had used Whoopi and Maya for fibromyalgia and other illnesses that are really hard to treat. These products were some of the few that had worked for them.
What advice do you have for menstrual pain sufferers who might be nervous to try a cannabis-based product?
I think topicals are a really good way to start if you’re worried about getting high... and make sure you look for a product that’s made for women and that’s not made to get you high. I think that’s a really important distinction. When people hear marijuana, they just assume that you’re using it to get high, but there’s also a lot of powerful medicinal qualities of marijuana that [aren’t] really well known or being advertised. I encourage them to talk to people and read about it.
Priscilla is the CEO of Premium Produce, a cannabis-infused product line found in both California and Nevada. She’s the only Latina female to be awarded a cannabis business license in Las Vegas, Nevada, and the only female to win licences in the city of Lynwood, California. She began her career as a pharmaceuticals rep and has since decided to use her experience to create products to help women ease their pain. I met with Priscilla at her office to discuss the products she’s developing and the advice she has for people exploring pain-relief options.
MERRY JANE: Why do you have a desire to tailor and develop products specifically for women?
Vilchis: My background in the healthcare space encouraged me to find an alternative to prescription medications for pain management. As a woman with a full-time career who is always on the go, I’m passionate about developing products that support overall wellness, are aesthetically pleasing, and relate to women from all walks of life.
Do you personally use any of the products you carry?
Yes, I’ve been using these products for the last two years... I love a nice CBD-infused bath soak after a long day of work.
What products do you currently offer to help with menstrual cramps and what products are you currently developing?
In Nevada, I’m launching my Queen of the Desert product line, which will include lotions, creams, salves, bath bombs, CBD-infused lip balm, and even lubricants. I’ll be rolling out these same products, in addition to others, in the California market soon.
What advice would you give to people who may be hesitant to try marijuana or CBD-based products to ease menstrual pain?
Empower yourself to learn more about the benefits of cannabis by doing research, and speaking to other women about their experiences using a product you may be interested in or want to understand better. Knowledge is power. You just might be surprised by how many good things you learn.
Nai Vasha is a creative entrepreneur who wears many hats — she’s the co-founder of Undo-Ordinary, a health and lifestyle publication; the co-founder of WeAscend, a brand experience agency; and she runs long distance when she’s not busy running her companies, taking photos, or directing. I met up with Nai Vasha for a snack where we chatted about how she eases her cramps and her decision to use marijuana-based products instead of prescription drugs.
MERRY JANE: What products have you tried, and what products do you currently use to ease your menstrual cramps?
Nai Vasha: I use flower and I’ve tried the Dosist vape pen — they have specific formulas like Relief and Calm. I’ve done [those], but that’s really it as far as being experimental. I can’t do edibles because I don’t know where I’m going to go with it, and at the end of the day, I’m just trying to get myself through the day when I take anything for my cramps. I’m usually just trying to function, not get wild.
Is there a specific strand of flower you like to smoke for cramps?
I haven’t researched that in detail... usually it’s just like “I’m in pain, what can I do to get my mind and body off this right now so I can focus?” I’ve been learning to try new things and experiment, but it’s usually just to get me through the day.
What would you say to people with menstrual pain who may be apprehensive to try a marijuana-based product?
“Why are you apprehensive?” would be my question. If you’re in pain and there’s a solution, and it’s not something that has a serious side effect like most things that are prescribed to you, why are you apprehensive? It’s just common sense for me. I can watch any commercial for any prescribed drug and listen to the side effects and say ‘Yeah, I’m not doing that.’ Why would I go down that road when I can see there’s no real side effects to marijuana? I’d rather go the safest route. I know my body and what does well for me… you’ve got to know what your body takes.