CBD vaginal suppositories: What are they, what are they used for, and are they safe?

CDB suppositories need to be backed by data before they’re touted as pain relievers, experts say. Ted S. Warren / CP

There’s no shortage of cannabis products on the market for pain relief, especially now as Canada is nearing legalization of the plant. When it comes to period cramps, some pot companies are selling cannabidiol vaginal suppositories as a solution.

What, exactly, is a CBD suppository?

Cannabidiol (CBD) suppositories are pill-sized and are intended to be inserted into the vagina or rectum to be dissolved. CBD, a chemical compound thought to be responsible for many of marijuana’s therapeutic effects, is often used to treat pain. Despite limited research on their effectiveness, CBD products have notably been marketed for period pain.

Suppositories containing CBD. Getty

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Does CBD help with menstrual cramps?

There’s limited research when it comes to how effective CBD products are for period cramps, said Dr. Hance Clarke, the director of Pain Services and the medical director of the Pain Research Unit at the Toronto General Hospital. There’s mostly anecdotal evidence, which means further academic studies need to be conducted.

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There is basic scientific evidence, however, that CBD plays a role in reducing neuroinflammation in the body. This is where the theory that CBD has anti-inflammatory properties comes from, along with the idea that it could potentially help with period pain, Clarke said.

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“I think the theory is fine, but do we have hardcore evidence that CBD works for endometriosis or menstrual pain?” Clarke said to Global News. “I don’t think we do.”

Clarke said that products like CBD suppositories need to be backed by data before they’re touted as pain relievers. Plus, he said, it’s important for consumers to know how much CBD is in a product, and if the CBD is active by the time they use it.

“How much of the CBD do we need to actually bind to our receptors to cause an effect? How much are these folks even absorbing?” he said. “Do we know any of these facts? Batch to batch variation — is one suppository the same as the other?”

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“This is where Health Canada and the FDA really now play a role in protecting the public.”

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Is it a good idea to use a CBD vaginal suppository?

While there’s no solid proof a CBD suppository will alleviate your period pain. Inserting anything into the vaginal canal can potentially do harm.

According to research led by the University of Guelph, women who practice douching or use vaginal gels, washes and wipes are more likely to experience some type of vaginal infection. In other words, putting foreign substances inside your vagina may cause an unpleasant reaction.

Since pot laws are in the midst of changing in Canada, gynecologist Dr. Farid Abdel Hadi said that most physicians want new CBD products to be medically tested before endorsing them as period pain treatments.

There still needs to be formal testing done to confirm safety, side effects and adequate dosing, he said. This could happen in the near future. “While the regulations are gradually loosening, more good, quality studies will emerge to address the benefits or side effects of cannabis products.”

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Clarke echoed this stance and said that people should consult their doctors if they’re experiencing severe pain before experimenting with an unregulated product.

“We’re living in a land where if we make something and it has cannabis in it, then people will buy it, [and there’s] this premise where we think cannabis helps with pain,” he said. “The problem is not all pain is alike.”
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What else are vaginal suppositories used for?

Outside of reportedly helping with period pain, vaginal suppositories are used to treat a variety of medical issues, including fungal infections and vaginal dryness. But it’s important to consult your doctor before using one as they can be potentially harmful, too.

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