Marijuana not Midol: Cannabis-infused suppositories ease menstrual cramps
March 8, 2017
Elana Halpern has struggled with severe menstrual cramps for as long as she can remember. Experimenting with different remedies, at one point she went on birth control to try to combat the debilitating pain, but didn't like side effects the drug came with. As a Summit County budtender, six months ago she came across a cannabis-infused product to deal with the pain.
Halpern discovered Foria Relief after it came on the local recreational marijuana market. The product is a cannabis suppository blending both THC and CBD, and at that point, Halpern said she would have tried just about anything to relieve the suffering she felt every month. After using the pack of two, Halpern discovered it was the best form of relief she's tried to date.
"I used to eat Midol like M&M's, which is really bad, it's just toxic. … Not even those could provide the same relief that I get from the THC and use of cannabis. … It really just allows me to be much more of a human being on that week of my life," she said, sitting in the lobby of Altitude Organic Cannabis in Dillon during her shift, one of the few places in Summit County where Foria Relief is sold.
With a kick-in time of approximately 15 to 20 minutes, Halpern estimated, relief came quickly — and lasted 20 hours or more. She didn't use the second suppository until two days later.
“I was suffering so much, and I had gone off my birth control so I was suffering even more," she said. "And I was like, 'This is absolute hell.' I was basically willing to try anything at that point, and if it was weed related, even better in my mind. … I trust marijuana to solve a lot of my problems."
HOW IT WORKS
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Foria Relief claims to be "crafted to maximize the muscle relaxing and pain relieving properties of cannabis without a psychotropic ("high") effect," according to its website. Each serving contains a blend of 60 milligrams of THC, the primary psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, and 10 milligrams of CBD, a compound found in cannabis that has medical effects, but does not make people feel high, combined with cocoa butter. Each suppository is similar to the shape of a tampon, yet smaller in size.
"CBD is antispasmodic, so it's cramp relieving, and THC blocks out pain and goes to the source of the pain," said Karin Linner, operations manager of Foria in Boulder, Colorado. "You're basically putting the medicine right where the pain is instead of taking aspirin or Ibuprofen. … You're actually putting the medicine and cramp-relieving, pain-relieving properties right where the cramps are happening."
The product melts and absorbs into the body in around 15 minutes, and because it's used vaginally, Linner said, most people do not experience a psychoactive head high. She noted that everyone's bodies can react differently, however, and to plan not to drive the first time they try the product.
Halpern reported she didn't experience the traditional high from typical cannabis use, but experienced more of a relaxing body high.
"Nothing up in my head at all, I didn't feel stoned," she said. "Just relief, basically."
Kim Henry, another local budtender, also tried the product after Breckenridge Organic Therapy, the dispensary she works at, began carrying it. While she said she doesn't suffer much from menstrual cramps, she said she did notice it helped her feel less tense and tight around her uterus during her cycle, and believes it to be an effective remedy. It also works well for lower back pain, she noted. A downfall to the product, Henry said, is it can become mushy and hard to insert.
A TOUGHER SELL
Foria Relief hit the market in California about a year ago, and came out in Colorado last May, Linner said.
"It is filling a niche that was completely empty before," she said. "We are the only (cannabis) suppository being made in Colorado at the moment, as far as I know."
Both Henry and Halpern said the product isn't one that's flying off the shelves just yet at either dispensary.
"Some are really iffy about it, which surprised me," Halpern said. "A lot more of the younger women are more accepting of the idea, in all honesty, and I've had some more mature women that are just not very excited about the concept."
Halpern said it requires a lot of explanation, and only about half the time do women end up making the purchase.
The biggest downfall for Halpern personally was the price. The Dillon dispensary sells the two pack for $20, with Breckenridge Organic Therapy offering it for $24. For someone with a need to use a box at least once a month, it can get pricey.
Linner said the price is determined by the amount of THC and CBD that goes into the product.
"If you were to do an analysis of products on the market that have THC and CBD in it, and cost per milligram, you would come out that Foria Relief is not that expensive after all," she said. "It's hard, we need to walk the line — we need to sell it at a price that we can continue making it."
With a suggestion from representatives of Foria, Halpern now purchases Foria Pleasure, a liquid spray sold as a sex product. Because it uses the same combination of THC and CBD, Halpern sprays the product onto the tip of her tampons, ultimately finding the same relief, just with a longer activation time of around 45 minutes.
"I liked the effect so much of using the suppositories but didn't really have the funds to keep myself in them," she said. "I found an alternate way of doing things for myself that's cheaper and more cost efficient, with the same results."
With this product, Halpern said she gets 150 servings for $60 with the large bottle.
"I would highly recommend it to anyone out there. It's just a stigma you have to get over," Halpern said. "When you talk to people about it here, even as a budtender, explaining it to women, they look at you sometimes and they're like, 'Really?'"