I Tried CBD Oil: Part 1
It seems like CBD is taking over. I get Google alerts telling me this cannabis compound can be found in everything from coffee to cat food. I am dubious of a substance that hasn't been rigorously studied or standardized by the medical community. But when a chance encounter with a stranger ended with her telling me that CBD oil was the only thing that helped with her endometriosis pain, I decided to give it a go.
If you're not familiar with the abbreviation, it's referring to cannabidiol, one of the many molecules found in marijuana and hemp.1 The hemp-derived version is what I tried and is legal in most states.2 Unlike its cousin THC, it does not have any psychoactive effects and won't get you high. It is, however, supposedly helpful in fighting inflammation and chronic pain.3
Surprisingly, it actually helped me. Here's how.
First, I weighed my options
I am a Gen X-millenial hybrid. While I'm tech savvy, I still only buy things online if I can't find them IRL. Since CBD isn't regulated by the FDA (neither are vitamins and supplements), I didn't want to order any off the internet. Luckily, a CBD-focused shop had recently opened in my city. They had CBD-infused coffee, energy drinks, lotions, vaping oil, capsules, joints, and tinctures — CBD-oil you drop under your tongue. After a lengthy discussion with the owner about this (probably) snake oil, I bought a cinnamon-flavored oil — effectively flushing $50 down the toilet, I assumed.
How it helped
Unfortunately, there isn't an agreed-upon effective dose CBD, so I opted for the lowest concentration they had. The owner assured me it actually contained 275 mg of CBD per bottle. He suggested I take 3.5 mg (or half a dropper) three times a day for as long as I have menstrual cramps. I can increase the amount as the pain worsens. You can't overdose on CBD, he told me.
I bought the bottle five days before my period was scheduled to start. I have cramps for about two weeks a month — and CBD isn't cheap — so I tried half a dropper once a day to start.
I didn't have to take any ibuprofen the first couple days I tried it — that is a very noticeable improvement. My pain is usually constant during this time. When I did feel my cramps resurfacing, I found that taking CBD, which acts on the body's endocannabinoid system, seemed to increase the speed and effectiveness of the single ibuprofen I did take.4
The real test
The start of my period is brutal. My pain is so bad on the first day of my menstrual cycle that I will throw up if I don't have ibuprofen at the ready. That is not an exaggeration. It is why you will find loose ibuprofen in nearly every thing I own: camping bags, purses, my bedside lamp, random jacket pockets.
When I woke up with headache-inducing cramps, I knew it was go time.5 This was about 24 hours after my last CBD dose. As an experiment, I let my pain linger — untreated — for a few hours. Then I took a full dropper of CBD (7.33 mg) and popped an ibuprofen. About 30 minutes later, my pain was almost gone.
Was it all in my head?
It's possible the placebo effect resulted in increased pain relief.6 It's also possible my body will adjust to the CBD and it won't be helpful in subsequent uses. But for right now, I will definitely be adding this anti-inflammatory compound to my pre-menstrual pain-relief kit.
Read Part 2 here
Do you know someone that has made a difference with endometriosis advocacy?