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Why are women using CBD products — and do they work?

Cannabidiol (CBD) oil and other products containing CBD are being touted as a natural, organic remedy for a wide range of women’s health concerns. Sellers of these products make many claims: CBD has calming effects on sleep, mood, and anxiety; eases hot flashes and improves bone density by balancing hormonal changes of menopause; and has anti-inflammatory properties that clear skin, cure acne, and calm rosacea. It’s promoted for PMS symptoms like bloating and mood swings. And CBD-infused lubricants claim to boost arousal and enjoyment of sex. So, how much of this is true?

First, what is CBD?

CBD is a major ingredient in cannabis plants (like hemp and marijuana). It comes in different strengths and forms, often as CBD oil, but also in pills and powders. It can be absorbed through the skin, ingested, or inhaled. (Vaping it, however, may not be safe, as this blog post and web page from the CDC explain.)

Unlike marijuana, pure CBD products don’t make you feel high. A different ingredient in marijuana called THC makes people feel high.

Does CBD have proven benefits?

So far, there’s not much evidence on the medical benefits of CBD, partly because laws on marijuana made it difficult to study. Until we learn more, it’s wise to keep in mind that few high-quality studies have been done.

  • In 2018 the FDA approved a drug derived from CBD to treat rare forms of childhood epilepsy. This medication was shown in randomized clinical trials to reduce the frequency of seizures (see here and here).
  • A few studies have found CBD may improve anxiety, but the studies were small and of poor quality (see here and here).
  • Some laboratory research on human cells suggests CBD may have anti-inflammatory effects on oil-secreting glands in the skin. This might have implications for acne and other inflammatory skin disorders, but further research is needed to confirm this. And while CBD in skin products is unlikely to harm you, most dermatologists agree that there are more effective and better-studied medications and treatments for acne and inflammatory skin disorders.

Other potential benefits of CBD aren’t clear. No high-quality research shows that CBD improves sex drive, decreases pain, treats depression or mood disorders, decreases PMS symptoms like bloating and cramps, or relieves symptoms of menopause like hot flashes. This may change as more studies are done, but for now, the jury is out.

Are CBD products safe?

The short answer is this: pure CBD seems to be safe for most people. However, we don’t have rigorous studies and long-term data to prove whether or not a wide range of CBD products are safe for everyone. For example, there is no evidence to suggest that CBD is safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding, or for people who are immunocompromised.

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Because CBD products aren’t regulated by the FDA in the way that drugs are, there is huge variation in quality and, quite possibly, safety. In 2017–2018, counterfeit CBD oil was found that contained synthetic cannabinoids and led to a poisoning outbreak in Utah.

Testing shows purity and dosage can be unreliable in many products. One study found less than a third of the products tested had the amount of CBD shown on the label. Another study of 84 CBD products bought online showed that more than a quarter of the products contained less CBD than stated. In addition, THC (the component that can make you feel high) was found in 18 products.

Does CBD cause side effects?

CBD can cause side effects like dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, and drowsiness. Additionally, it can interact with certain medicines, such as blood thinners and antiseizure drugs. If you would like to start using CBD products, it’s best to first talk to your doctor.

The takeaway

There are a lot of extravagant product claims out there about the benefits of CBD for women, but little high-quality research supports them. CBD oil and other CBD products aren’t well regulated. It’s possible what you are buying is counterfeit or contaminated. Before using CBD — especially if you plan to vape or ingest it — first talk with your doctor or healthcare provider to learn whether it could be safe and helpful for you.


As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.


I am a 55 year old woman who has suffered with neuropathy since 2004 (amplified by a trauma in 2011); as well as a sciatic nerve issue and other complication since my trauma. One thing I found out (very quickly!), many of the drugs (natural or not) are either recomended for short term relief and used very long term, or the probable cause of added, often more sever, side effects. I don’t believe, for me personally, any medication that has the potential to do more harm than good, especially when it can only treat symptoms and not the cause, would be ideal, unless there is ‘no other option’ or perspective hope. Limited and controlled ecersizes along with diet, seem to have worked best for me personally; but, yes it is very difficult many days. However, I plan to watch my grandchild grow-up, and I plan to do that watching with as clear a mind as possible for today and tomorrow. Side-effects of CBD have been relatively unstudyed or unpublished for lack of verification. That is not promising. All of that being said, I am sure for some people CBD oil could be a God send of relief, most especially for some seizure and cancer patients.
Thank you.

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Cannabis Sativa and Hemp are two different plants. Marijuana is not a plant, it’s a slang term used by rhetoric spewing racists seeking to profit from a new prohibition. How can you publish this when you clearly don’t know the basics?

As a woman with a cervical level spinal cord injury, who has experienced many benefits through the use of CBD … this article had absolutely no relevance to its title.

How CBD Can Help With PMS And Issues Related To Menstrual Cycle

Hemp has faceted the attention of the world with its wonderful health benefits. Studies across the world aim to understand the true medicinal potential of this plant and harness its benefits. Hemp is making a name for itself in medicinal science and is beginning to compete with traditional pharmaceuticals. One aspect of hemp is its assistance with pain relief, making it an alternative option for over the counter medicines like ibuprofen or aspirin that have many more potential health complications. Hemp has the power to relieve pain, including the pain that comes with PMS such as headaches, mood swings, and cramps.


CBD is an active cannabinoid present in hemp which is responsible for the various health benefits that are associated with the plant. The use of hemp for treating PMS dates back to 16th-century Chinese medical texts according to a review¹ shared in 2002.

Hemp was used as a medicine to assist with period cramps and menstrual pain according to the scripts. Given there is very little ongoing research towards women’s health, the knowledge of using marijuana to cure PMS symptoms comes from general research.

CBD oil has been an active part of pain relief for both acute as well as chronic pain. By taking advantage of the pain relief characteristics of cannabinoids, we can use CBD oil as an effective tool against menstrual cramp pains. A study² conducted in 2017 concluded that CBD can also help reduce the emotional effects of pain. Clearing your mind³ with CBD has been proven beneficial as it is a powerful ingredient in providing relief for headaches, backaches, etc; which are also associated symptoms of PMS.

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Additionally, being a powerful antioxidant, CBD has anti-inflammatory properties that will help treat various other symptoms related to this time of the month. A study⁴ published in The Journal of Clinical Investigations suggests that these anti-inflammatory properties can even help to treat acne, which is another common PMS symptom. CBD oils⁵, balms, and creams are available in the market today for use internally or topically.

Gastrointestinal Treatment

Other common problems associated with PMS are bloating, nausea and constipation. CBD oil can help treat stomach queasiness especially related to chemotherapy as per a study⁶ conducted in 2011. This could be useful for women experiencing nausea before menstrual cycles, or just general discomfort.

Mood Swings and Sleep

Mood swings are the most typical symptoms associated with PMS. Hormonal imbalances in the body during the PMS time frame is the reason behind the swings. CBD is often related to the treatment of depression and anxiety disorders as various studies⁷ on the treatment of depression have shown positive effects after usage of CBD oil from black diamond strain⁸. Unlike THC, which is psychoactive, CBD is a mild compound that can help treat these symptoms effectively with no side effects.

Sleep Disorders

Additionally, CBD is often suggested for people suffering from insomnia and other sleep disorders. Having quality sleep is important for the body to stay healthy and function efficiently, however, a common issue associated with PMS is a lack of quality sleep. A study⁹ on rats in 2013 showed that CBD oil can increase sleep timing and quality; a benefit that could be particularly useful during the menstrual cycle.

In Conclusion.

Currently, various hemp-based products are entering the market with the aim of controlling PMS symptoms. While hemp-derived products such as CBD oils show promising results, consuming hemp seeds is also considered an effective way to treat symptoms of PMS. But ultimately there is no scientific research that backs this claim as of yet.

However, users across the globe have shared encouraging results thus far. In general, CBD holds a huge advantage over typical over-the-counter pills as it is natural and has relatively no side effects compared to pharmaceuticals. CBD oil is also non-addictive, people are extremely unlikely to build a tolerance to it, and there has been no evidence that it is possible to overdose on. Plus, CBD protects the body from exposure to man-made chemicals and toxins which can have negative side effects in the future. With more research to support the various possibilities, CBD could enter as a potential way of treating the various symptoms associated with PMS naturally.