Cannabis & Your Cycle
How to consciously consume through each phase
By: Emma Andrews, RHN
Learning to understand and support our bodies natural rhythm is empowering. This involves consistently tuning into your physical and emotional state, being acutely aware of the changes taking place during each phase of your cycle and being conscious of what you consume in relation to each stage.
Cannabis has long played a role in a woman’s symptom management during her menstruation. As an adaptive plant with wide ranging applications, cannabis has historically been used to provide relief from symptoms including pain, pre-menstrual tension and mood imbalances (once called hysteria). In the 1800’s Queen Victoria was even prescribed cannabis infused tea as an antidote to her menstrual cramps.
As legalization spreads, and cannabis health research continues to advance, there has also been a surge of anecdotal evidence from women consuming cannabis to achieve greater harmony through-out her cycle. Because each phase of our cycle is unique, from our hormones, to our emotional state, to our energy levels, it’s important to customize our consumption and lifestyle to reflect these dynamic needs.
Menstruation (appx. Day 1 – 7)
Themes: Reflection, inward focus, introspection.
During this phase our uterine lining sheds, and hormones estrogen and progesterone are at their lowest, yet our pituitary gland and ovaries are getting ready for action again. For many women their period is accompanied by abdominal cramps, loose bowel movements, lethargy, skin breakouts and food cravings.
This is an ideal time to rest and focus on self-care. If this phase in your cycle was a season, think of it as your inner winter.
Cannabis Pairing: As menstrual cramps and pain are common during this phase, and can last for several days, cannabis can be consumed as an analgesic1and in a variety of forms, depending on the severity of symptoms.
Inhaling through a vaporizer would provide the quickest acting form of relief and yet be gentle on your respiratory system compared to a pre-roll or pipe that involves combustion.
Ingesting cannabis in the form of an edible oil or tincture will provide longer lasting relief but the effect isn’t felt immediately (can be up to 2hrs after ingestion), so best taken as a prophylaxis (proactively).
A topical, made with infused oil (such as coconut), can be applied locally to the abdomen or low back, which is especially helpful following a warm bath, when your pores are expanded, and absorption will be improved. No matter if you’re applying CBD or THC, this form of consumption will not provide a psychoactive effect.
If you are new to cannabis, begin with a cultivar or product that is dominant in CBD. Look for a ratio of THC to CBD, that ranges from 1:1, up to 1:20 (THC:CBD respectively). Always start “low and slow”, beginning with a small dose and allowing it to take effect before consuming more. This is conscious consumption. No more than you need.
Follicular / Proliferative(appx. Day 8-13)
Themes: Clarity, concentration, productivity, stamina
During this phase FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) causes a follicle to mature and produce estrogen, inhibiting the development of more follicles. Estrogen rises, and helps us to feel energetic, outgoing, and contributes towards an upbeat attitude, and more stable moods. This is a great time to be sociable, make plans with friends, learn a new skill, push it at the gym, or put in that little bit extra at work.
Consider this phase of your cycle when you are at your most charismatic, and dynamic. If this phase in your cycle was a season, think of it as your inner spring.
Cannabis Pairing: Now is a great time to consume cannabis amongst friends. Bonding over the experience of cannabis consumption, through social settings like sharing a pre-rolled joint during a picnic, or a long walk in nature.
Because this phase is likely when you are the most active and achievement oriented, cannabis may be best experienced in the latter half of your day, especially as such intense days can hyper-stimulate your fight or flight response (sympathetic nervous system), making it more difficult to rest and reset.
Preliminary research into cannabis and sleep suggests that cannabidiol (CBD) may have therapeutic potential for the treatment of insomnia2. You may find CBD dominant cultivars and products are preferred at this time, to support a restful sleep, and maximize your potential each day.
Ovulatory (appx. Day 14-21)
Themes: Bonding, relationships, empathy, communication
During this phase a surge in LH (luteinizing hormone) causes ovulation and an egg to be released from the follicle. We are at our most fertile in the days leading up to and including ovulation.
If this phase in your cycle was a season, think of it as your inner summer.
Cannabis Pairing: Conscious consumption includes pairing cannabis with the right mood and moment. Lay back on a blanket under the stars, or to watch the clouds roll by with someone you trust and treasure. Consider addressing some of the conversations you may otherwise feel inhibited to have.
THC dominant cultivars and products will provide the most euphoric sensation, compared to one that is CBD dominant. The euphoric sensation is what can allow us to gain new perspective, connect with ourselves and others in a more compassionate way. CBD competes with THC for cannabinoid receptor sites in the brain3(known as your CB1 receptors), which tempers the effect of THC.
You could choose to emphasize cultivars that are dominant in THC, yet the potency can range (in terms of % concentration). If you are new to cannabis, start with a product under 10% THC concentration, or a micro-dose of an edible product with 2.5-5mg THC per serving.
Luteal Phase (appx. Days 22-28)
Themes: Creativity, wild spirited, expressive
During this phase the corpus luteum forms and secretes progesterone. Our body temperature rises, and if you experience pre-menstrual tension this is when it begins to surface (often showing up as mood swings, lethargy, and breast tenderness).
Rather than expressing extreme moods on your friends and family, use creative expression as an outlet. If this phase in your cycle was a season, think of it as your inner fall.
Cannabis Pairing: Mood swings can often feel overwhelming and all consuming. The dissociative effect of THC may provide relief from the grip of anxiety, anger, or frustration that you know isn’t your true essence. Emotional pain can be just as uncomfortable and unpleasant as physical pain. The distribution of cannabinoid receptors in the brain may preferentially target the affective qualities of pain4.
A growing body of evidence demonstrates that deficiencies in your endocannabinoid system may result in depressive behaviour, while therapeutic consumption of cannabinoids may support both anti-depressive and anti-anxiety behavioural responses5.
Indulge your senses, and let your culinary creativity run wild. An ingestible oil mixed into your favourite recipes can elevate the everyday basics. Inhaled cannabis may be your ally when sitting down to journal, draw, or pursue your preferred form of self-expression. If you tolerate THC well, you may choose to increase the potency, or dosage of THC consumed in the Ovulatory phase.
Holistic wellbeing, and a harmonious cycle is a combination of proactive behaviours and knowing how to bring the body back into balance when it’s feeling out of alignment.
About the Author:
Emma Andrews is a Vancouver based Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN), Advisor and Partner at Abbott Keefer Consulting, cannabis educator, culinary explorer and lifelong athlete, making waves at the intersection of cannabis and natural health. Her goal is to empower you to make more conscious choices by ‘pulling back the curtain’ and exposing you to the cutting edge of cannabis and natural health. Learn more www.emmajaneandrews.com, or follow her on social @emmarunsvan.
- “Pain Management: A Practical Guide for Clinicians, Sixth Ed.”. Edited by Richard S. Weiner. Chapter 31: “The Role of Cannabis and Cannabinoids in Pain Management”. Ethan Russo, MD. Accessed online: https://books.google.ca/books?id=FwfMBQAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false
- “Cannabis, Cannabinoids and Sleep: a review of the literature”. Kimberley A. Babson et all. Current Psychiatry Reports, 2017, 19: 23. Accessed online: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11920-017-0775-9
- “Therapeutic Potential of Cannabis in Pain Medicine”. R.D Hosking, J.P Zajicek. British Journal of Anesthesia. Vol 101, Issue 1, July 2008, Pages 59-68. Accessed online: https://academic.oup.com/bja/article/101/1/59/358987
- “Amygdala activity contributes to the dissociative effect of cannabis on pain perception”. Michael C Lee, et all. Pain, Volume 154, Issue 1, Pages 124-134. Accesed online: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304395912005453
- “The endocannabinoid system and the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders”. Matthew N. Hill and Boris B. Gorzalka. CNS and Neurological Disorders – Drug Targets. Vol 8, No 6, 2009. Accessed online: https://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/ben/cnsnddt/2009/00000008/00000006/art00006
*Disclaimer: Everyone’s cycle is unique, as is everyone’s endocannabinoid system. The information in this article is not intended to be a one size fits all approach or replace the advice of your personal health practitioner. Stay curious as you cultivate the path that’s right for you.