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Harvard Study Investigates Pain Relieving Cannabis Tampon

Lydia K. RN
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Fiora Wellness is creating a cannabis tampon that dissolves quickly and absorbs effectively, so that your pre-menstrual and menstrual cramps disappear.

Dating as far back as Queen Victoria, cannabis is a documented way to help women relieve menstrual pain. A study, published in 1847, investigated the effects of cannabis on menstrual cramps. Unfortunately, not much research or product development has been done in subsequent years, but things are about to change. A California based cannabis start up, called Foria Wellness, has created a cannabinoid-rich suppository targeted at relieving menstrual pain. And Harvard researchers have committed to testing this ‘cannabis tampon’ out.

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The vaginal suppository, or tampon, is called Relief. Each cannabis tampon contains 60mg of THC and 10mg of CBD and retails at $11. Note: these are for medicinal use only and have no absorptive power.

Menstrual Pain Relief

When questioned about the strength of the THC dose in the cannabis tampon, Foria Wellness asserted that there is minimal psychoactivity for the patient, due to the transfer of cannabinoids directly into the bloodstream through the vaginal canal, bypassing the liver.

Period pains are the result of the release of prostaglandins from the lining of the uterus. These hormones signal the uterus to contract, causing inflammation, and cramping. Birth control pills can reduce this by inhibiting the release of prostaglandins. Non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs, like aspirin and ibuprofen, also work by relieving inflammation associated with cramping.

Cannabis, through the action of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), has been shown to have anti inflammatory effects. This may be the mechanism through which the cannabis tampon alleviates period pain. Researchers believe cannabinoids may interact with prostaglandins by reducing their action. THC also has relaxing effects which help settle contracting muscles while providing a feeling of calmness in the mind.

So, does it help women? According to Jordan Tischler, an emergency physician for cannabis clinic InhaleMD in Massachusetts, “anecdotal results show that cannabis is effective as a treatment for menstrual pain.” However, he goes on to add that there are no human studies to support this wisdom.

The Human Harvard Study

One Harvard researcher has been inspired to pursue a human study on the effectiveness of Relief in relieving menstrual pain. Staci Gruber is a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the director of the Cognitive and Clinical Neuroimaging Core and the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery program. She plans to conduct an observational survey of 400 women from Harvard University who will use Foria’s Relief suppositories over the course of a few months. During this period, the women will record their menstrual symptoms. Later they submit it so researchers can make conclusions from their subjective experiences.

Gruber told Business Insider, that the study is aims to take anecdotal information and turn it into substantive data. She went on to add that this would be a precursor to a clinical trial that would include the use of placebos, the gold standard for scientific research.

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Image credit: Foria

Not Actually A Cannabis Tampon

As much as people have nicknamed Relief ‘the weed tampon,’ it is actually not a tampon. Rather than absorb menstrual blood, Relief only targets menstrual pain; it dissolves quickly when inserted.  Foria received funding to the tune of 2 million dollars for this observational study. The donor is a cannabis venture capital firm. Such studies on cannabis still face significant hurdles as the drug is classified as a Schedule 1 drug by the federal government. This makes the process of seeking permission for the study a long and difficult one.

Why ‘Relief’ Won’t Likely Get a Permit for Federal Research

To begin with, researchers must go through a lengthy application process. This can span years, in order to obtain a permit. Secondly, all research cannabis must come from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. According to many researchers, this cannabis is often of sub standard quality, with low THC levels. It could be much easier to conduct studies on cannabis that only contains CBD without the psychoactive THC. This would attract less scrutiny by the federal government.

But according to Foria CEO Mathew Gerson “the power of Foria products lies in the interactions between cannabis’s multiple active compounds, a phenomenon known as the “entourage effect” (Business Insider). He adds that Foria focuses on upholding an ethical approach to marketing products. The aim of the study is to reveal how the product would help thousands of women across the globe who suffer from menstrual pain that can’t be relieved by pharmaceuticals.

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The Harvard study has yet to begin, so if you are a woman who suffers from menstrual pain, and are willing to try out the Relief tampon, you can sign up here. Hopefully, this survey could be a stepping stone for a more formal study. That could reveal ideal dosages for treating menstrual pain.

Lydia Kariuki

RN, Expert medical writer who is passionate about cannabis!

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