It’s about time for an investment into less painful periods. But do they really do the job?

Any suggestions, tips, or guidance we may discuss are for educational and informational purposes only. Our content should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment, and don’t disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking it because of something you read. If you have a medical emergency, go to the nearest emergency room, or call 911 immediately.

It’s a Sunday night, and I’m holed up in my bathroom with an instruction leaflet wedged under my arm. For the first time, I’m giving CBD tampons a whirl.

If that first sentence hasn’t put you off, then you’re likely a person who experiences periods. They affect just under half of the population, but periods still evoke taboo.

The FDA doesn’t enforce ingredient labeling for tampons — even though they go inside your body. When you combine that with the pink tax, limited research, and scanty funding, it’s clear that periods are a topic that deserve a little love.

For some of us, our periods pass with no real fanfare. The odd cramp and a brand new breakout can be the only signs. For others, they’re debilitating.

Most of us were busy putting condoms on bananas in sex education, so there was little time to ask how to overcome period pain.

For the first few years of puberty, I was in the camp of the ‘easy’ period. My period was an inconvenience, but that’s about it. Then I started taking the pill. I eventually found myself hunched over, unable to stand up from the pain.

It became apparent that the pill and I didn’t jell. When I reached my early 20s, I opted for the implant and my period pain significantly decreased.

Recently, I heard about CBD tampons for the first time. I was curious to find out if they would actually work for severe period pain, so I did a little sleuthing.

CBD stands for ‘cannabidiol,’ a type of chemical found in cannabis. You may wonder if you can become intoxicated from a CBD tampon — the answer is no.

THC, an element found in marijuana, is responsible for that. There’s no THC in CBD tampons, unless the packaging indicates otherwise.

While some CBD products contain trace amounts of THC, it’s rare for it to show up on a drug test. It depends on the product’s quality and composition, though.

CBD tampons contain naturally occurring cannabidiol, which is a part of the hemp plant. Other than that, they look and feel the same as your standard tampon.

The important difference is that CBD tampons are reported to offer pain relief.

A product that does two jobs is incredibly useful when up to 84 percent of people who experience periods say the pain affects their ability to work.

Cautions and side effects

Inserting anything into the vagina can cause irritation and possibly infection. It’s important to be aware of any symptoms that arise after inserting a product into your vagina.

In rare instances, tampon use can lead to toxic shock syndrome. If you experience flu-like symptoms after using tampons, see your doctor right away.

It’s worth understanding how they actually work. When inserted vaginally, CBD triggers the natural CBD (cannabinoid) receptors that are found in our endocannabinoid system.

When the two work together, they’re designed to reduce inflammation and, therefore, menstrual pain.

CBD tampons are different than CBD suppositories, which are concentrations of CBD that are inserted into the vagina. They don’t provide the period protection and absorbency of a tampon.

Understand your baseline

If your periods are so uncomfortable that you can’t function, it’s important that you see your doctor for a checkup before you try out CBD tampons to rule out any potential underlying causes.

Conditions they’ll look for include:

If you’ve ruled out those conditions with your healthcare provider, there can be other factors that contribute to period pain. It could be related to:

  • birth control
  • where you are in your cycle
  • diet
  • environmental changes

Do your homework

Rachna Patel, MD, is an expert in the field of cannabinoid medicine. She shares some cautions for CBD tampons.

Patel notes that people who are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid using them.

“There’s been limited research that it can lead to both low birth weight or early delivery,” says Patel. “It’s also important that anyone with liver problems speaks to their physician first.”

Patel explains that a lack of uniform regulations across states and countries can lead to inconsistent quality in cannabis products.

“Here in the United States, a lot of these products haven’t been tested for contamination. So, pesticides and solvents that grow with the plants can also be absorbed into our system,” she says.

This means that we consumers are largely on our own when we buy CBD products.

“As this industry is unregulated, the onus is on the consumer to do the research,” says Patel. “Ask your physician’s advice, or request the lab test results to ensure that this product has been tested for the above.”

According to Patel, there are two major factors to consider when it comes to the effectiveness of CBD products.

“It comes down to two factors, product quality and frequency, as to whether they have any effect. With any CBD product, two patients can have such different experiences depending on the product strength and how they used the product,” Patel says.

“We need to remember that this is a medication, and it should be taken as such,” she says.

One of the market leaders in the UK, Daye, will be publishing its clinical trials in the near future.

Daye’s research has been supported largely by the Center for Applied Science and Innovation at the Sofia University, Faculty of Biology.

Before you buy

Check for transparency in manufacturing and labeling. What’s in the product? What materials are used to make them?

Know the ingredients. You’ll often find hemp, hemp extract, or hemp oil listed as active ingredients. Products can also contain nonactive ingredients like shea butter, which can be irritating.

Look for third-party testing. This means a lab has verified that the product contains what the packaging says it does. You should be able to find this information on a company’s website.

Know where it grows. Look for products made from organic, U.S. grown cannabis, which is subject to agricultural regulations. Organic ingredients mean you’re less likely to consume pesticides or other chemicals.

Start low, go slow

As with anything new that you’re introducing to your body, you want to start with a low dose.

Most retailers allow you to select your dosage, so choose a product with the smallest amount of CBD and monitor for any side effects.

Just like any other product, ensure that it’s right for you by giving yourself enough time to monitor the results.

Be CBD smart

CBD can interact with medications. Use caution and speak with your doctor before use of any CBD product.

Start with a small dosage of CBD and increase slowly until you reach your desired effect.

Your ideal dosage of CBD depends on a lot of factors, including:

  • your body weight
  • body chemistry
  • the condition you’re treating
  • the concentration of CBD in the product you’re using
  • whether your body is used to CBD

For Amy, a 24 year old living in Manchester, they’re a staple.

“The CBD element was initially a bit off-putting, but once I read up on the use of cannabidiol, I decided to give them a go and so far I’ve been really impressed. After about 20 minutes, I found that my cramps and lower back pain disappeared completely,” she says.

Grace, a 28 year old living in London, agreed.

“I assumed it would be a ‘placebo effect,’ however, around an hour in, I realized that I hadn’t taken [aspirin] as I normally would. My cramps had reduced significantly,” says Grace.

Then there are users with more severe pain.

One in ten women experiences endometriosis, a disorder involving extra tissue growing outside the uterine cavity. This condition often causes extremely painful periods.

Could CBD tampons be an option to relieve endometriosis pain?

Chloe, a 26 year old with endometriosis, shared her less-glowing review.

“The CBD was really useful, and I don’t doubt its effects. The problem was with the application,” she says. “It’s well known that a lot of endo sufferers struggle with tampons due to pain, so the discomfort sort of outweighed the positive effect of the CBD. For me, I’m not sure if it was actually useful.”

I was personally impressed with the results when I tried a Daye tampon. After half an hour, I found that my mild cramps were completely gone using only the lowest dose.

But until we have the cold, hard data in front of us, it’s hard to say how well they’ll work for the population as a whole. Anecdotally, however, the results may be promising.

If nothing else, we can celebrate an investment into better periods.

For people who experience them, it’s about time.

Charlotte Moore is a freelance writer and assistant editor of Restless Magazine. She’s based in Manchester, England.