CBD

5 min read

How Women Really Use CBD

We Asked—And Then Researched—the Science Behind Why it Works

When I started researching this article, I got reactions that ranged from, “CBD has changed my life!” to “Wait, what’s CBD again?” To answer the latter: it’s a non-psychoactive cannabis compound that can benefit you without getting you high (the one that gets you high is called THC and is a different thing altogether). But how does CBD work?

CBD activates enzymes and receptors in the body, which help regulate your mood, digestion, hormones, nervous-system response, and more. Although it’s still early days, the World Health Organization has deemed CBD to be safe, and studies have shown that CBD application can be effective in treating epilepsy, anxiety, insomnia, and chronic pain. As of 2019, it’s legal in all 50 US states and in the UK, as long as it’s been derived from an industrial hemp strain that is EU-approved. 

Whether you’re a CBD devotee or simply CBD-curious, you’re probably wondering: will it work for me? Where do I start? All fair questions, especially since the effects of CBD differ from person to person. For research-backed insights, check out the 132 independent studies that have been conducted on its effects. For a more anecdotal perspective, read on to see how 8 women have incorporated it into their routines.

To reduce anxiety and depression

"I take medication for severe depression and anxiety, and I supplement it with CBD when I’m having a particularly rough day or feel a panic attack coming on,” says Alexa Chryssos, a marketing manager. “It's an alternative to fast-acting-yet-super-addicting anxiety relief like Xanax. CBD oil has been a godsend because it slows my racing heart, helps me breathe better, and takes away the shaking in my hands. Since it doesn't get you high or impair your judgment, I can take it at work, at events, anywhere I need to.”

To melt muscle tension

"I first tried CBD ointment at the recommendation of my acupuncturist after I strained my shoulder, but I've continued to use it to soothe my muscles after working in the ceramic studio,” says Lucy Knops, a designer and ceramicist. “By the end of the day, my hands get achy, and it's nice to use a topical CBD oil when I'm done with work. It's a salve, so it's moisturizing, and just the act of rubbing it in is relaxing.” Personal trainer Tara LaFerrera also advocates for using CBD after a workout: “It can be extremely effective in managing inflammation pre-and post-exercise. This may prevent joint injury during physical activity, as well as reducing any pain from swelling that may prevent you from training properly. And cannabinoids are known to have antispasmodic properties.”

By the end of the day, my hands get achy, and it's nice to use a topical CBD oil when I'm done with work.

— Lucy Knops

To boost energy

You may have noticed that every other coffee shop has begun offering CBD-infused drinks, from water to lattes. For some, it’s a welcome addition to their morning ritual. "It's like a lighter alternative to Adderall. I take a CBD tincture in the morning, either in my coffee or just under my tongue, and it gives me a buzzy, focused feeling. It's a nice way to start the day," says Isadora Tang, founder of jewellery brand OTEM.

To help you catch some Z’s

While CBD can help some get ready for the day ahead, for others it has the opposite effect: it helps them wind down. “I use it to chill out and fall asleep at night. About an hour before I go to bed, I take one dropperful of tincture by Wildflower. I used to wake up really early, and I’ve noticed it helps me stay asleep longer,” says Amy Boyle, an arts administrator. “In the past, I took melatonin a lot, which made me feel groggy in the morning. CBD doesn’t make me feel that way.” Jessica Seinfeld agrees. In a recent Instagram post, she enthused: “Best sleep of my life from this liquid gold gel capsule. I am a brand new person. (Yay, says everyone I know).”

To relax as an alternative to alcohol

“CBD drinks are great for when I want to be social, but I don’t feel like drinking alcohol,” says Kim Anderson, a brand and content strategist. “Or during the week, instead of pouring a glass of wine, I’ll pour a sparkling tonic beverage that has CBD in it, so I get that feeling of relaxing and treating myself, but without the toxins.”

To assist in injury recovery

For those recovering from injuries or surgery, CBD is part of a larger self-care ritual. “I recently had ACL reconstruction surgery, which has a really difficult recovery,” says Charlotte Woolf, a professor of photography. “My friend who is in med school recommended I try CBD oil by Arco Iris, a little company that’s based in North Carolina. It’s super-hydrating and it melts just like butter. Nighttime is when my knee is most sore, so I usually rub some CBD oil on and then conk right out. It’s a really calming way to get ready for bed.” A 2016 study published in the European Journal of Pain showed that topical application of CBD effectively reduced inflammation and pain.

A 2016 study published in the European Journal of Pain showed that topical application of CBD effectively reduced inflammation and pain. 

To ease period pain

Women have started using CBD to combat nasty period symptoms, from PMS to cramps. “A few months ago, I started getting wrenching, fetal-position-inducing cramps on the first day of my cycle. I hated the idea of taking a crazy amount of NSAIDs [nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs] like Advil in a day just to keep the pain under control, which is what led me to CBD,” writes Leah Vanderveldt for mindbodygreen. “After a bit of research, I decided on Charlotte's Web Hemp Oil and gave it a try—about a week before my period was due. That month my cramps were significantly less intense (which I'm sure is due to several factors), but I decided to take a dose of the oil instead of two Advil and see what happened. It took away my cramps within 30 minutes, the same as a typical over-the-counter pain pill.”

CBD took away my cramps within 30 minutes.

— Leah Vanderveld

To combat migraines

After suffering from migraines for 25 years (and trying everything from pilates to Vicodin), HelloMD founder Pamela Hadfield discovered CBD. “Fortunately, I never had an issue with Vicodin addiction, but it really bothered me that I was so heavily reliant on a narcotic,” she writes for HelloMD. “A friend suggested that I try a CBD mouth spray, and it stopped the pain caused by my migraines with zero gnarly side effects.” A 2018 Frontiers in Pharmacology study concluded that cannabinoids, ”due to their anticonvulsant, analgesic, antiemetic, and anti-inflammatory effects”, are a promising class of compounds for the treatment and prevention of migraines.

So there you have it: CBD is neither snake oil, nor a silver bullet. Ongoing research will expand our understanding of its many applications and benefits, but early studies show major potential. For now, the best way to figure out if (and how) CBD will work for you is to simply go for it. Add a tincture to your latte, smooth some salve onto your skin, pop a capsule in the evening—and then observe how you feel. For some, the benefits are obvious and immediate, while for others, CBD is mostly about the ritual of taking it. Either way, it seems to be making the world a less painful, well-slept, less-inflamed, more relaxed place. What’s not to like?

Tory Hoen is an award-winning writer and content creator. Read more at @ToryHoen

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