The History of Cannabis for Menstruation and Period Cramping

An impressionist painting of a woman using cannabis to treat her menstrual period pain

That “time of the month,” “Aunt Flo,” “shark week” — no matter what you call it, periods can range from mildly annoying to severely painful. Over-the-counter medications and pharmaceutical painkillers can help, but more and more women are turning to natural remedies like herbal blends, superfoods, and cannabis. It might sound like a new development, but cannabis for period pain is not a recent phenomenon. Read on for stories of how cannabis has been used to support women’s health for generations. 


Cannabis as Women’s Medicine

The earliest recorded mention of cannabis dates back to 2800 BCE. Emperor Shen Nung, known as the “father of traditional Chinese medicine,” recorded various uses for cannabis in his pharmacopeia. 

Globally, cannabis was used as medicine through the early 20th century. Cannabis is in the traditional pharmacopeias of many civilizations and even appeared in The Pharmacopeia of the United States from 1850 through 1942. After decades of prohibition, medical cannabis use is resurging — especially among women. 


Women and Weed in History

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that women are increasingly turning to cannabis to ease period pains since our ancestors have been using the plant in this way for centuries. Here’s a brief overview of cannabis for menstruation throughout history. 


India, 3000 BCE: Ancient Ayurvedic traditions endorse the responsible use of cannabis to help with painful periods. 

Egypt, 1500 BCE: Cannabis is recommended to aid painful childbirth in the Ebers Papyrus. In the modern world, cannabis is not recommended for pregnant women. However, as period cramps are also mild uterine contractions, it makes sense that cannabis could help with painful periods. 

Persia, 800 BCE: Ancient Persian texts cite the use of cannabis to help “calm uterine pains.”

Siberia, 500 BCE: A mummified young woman, dubbed the Siberian “Ice Princess,” was found buried with cannabis. Recent scientific discoveries suggest that the woman had breast cancer, a bone infection, and injuries from a fall. With this posthumous diagnosis, she likely used cannabis to cope with severe pain. 

China, 1596: A book detailing traditional remedies, titled “Pen Ts’ao,” recommends cannabis as a potential treatment for menstrual disorders and discomfort. 

Great Britain, 1847: The Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal published a case study endorsing the use of cannabis for dysmenorrhœa or painful period cramps. The Provincial Medical and Surgical Journal later became the British Medical Journal, which is still in publication today. 

The United Kingdom, Late 18th Century: Queen Victoria was reportedly prescribed cannabis. The monarch suffered from painful periods for much of her adult life, and her personal physician is said to have administered her monthly doses of cannabis to help her manage the pain. 


Cannabis for Menstruation Today

As medical cannabis experiences a legal resurgence and natural remedies become more popular, more women gravitate towards cannabis, herbs, and plant medicines to help manage their painful periods. Many cannabis products are even made by and marketed toward women. 

There is little research on the connection between cannabis and period pain, but that’s hardly a surprise; Both cannabis and menstruation are still often seen as taboo. Despite the lack of clinical trials, countless women report that cannabis has helped them to manage painful periods. According to a 2015 study, 90% of women who use cannabis to ease their periods say it is effective at reducing pain.

There is substantial research to suggest that cannabis can effectively help manage pain. There’s no reason this can’t apply to menstrual pain as well. Whether Mother Nature gifts you with cramps, headaches, or general aches and pains, cannabis could be a promising option to help you get through that time of the month a little bit easier.