Just when you thought ingenuity was dead comes a pot-infused vaginal suppository.
Released this week in California, the small cocoa butter-based insert is being marketed as a pain relief option for women with menstrual cramps. With a mix of THC (cannabis’s psychoactive element) and CBD (its healing element), the tampon-sized suppository aims to “maximize” muscle relief without inducing a high.
It’s an exciting idea for those with bad PMS, and a potentially life-changing one for the estimated 5 million who suffer from endometriosis—a chronic incurable condition, recently highlighted by Lena Dunham. If successful at relieving menstrual cramps, the suppository could even be an option for reducing pain during childbirth.
Is a cannabis-infused vaginal insert the future of women’s health?
Foria, the company behind the suppository, made headlines in October with the launch of its now wildly popular marijuana-infused sexual lubricant (called “Foria Pleasure”). Its new product, dubbed “Foria Relief,” is said to induce relaxation, relieve back pain relief, and reduce anxiety. For $44, users get a four-pack of suppositories containing 60mg of THC and 10mg of CBD.
According to Foria, the suppository must be stored in a cool place but can inserted anytime, from a few days before menstruation to during it. The makers note that tampons can be used at the same time but that painkillers should not without doctors’ approval.
If all goes well, patients should feel pain relief with 15-30 minutes after insertion.
Since the product is so new, efficacy rates are tough to gather. With marijuana still illegal under federal law, the Federal Drug Administration does not approve medical cannabis products, which Foria states clearly on its website. What’s left then are testimonials, which—for obvious reasons—must be taken with a grain of salt. Still, if true, the statements are encouraging.
“I have endometriosis that returned after having a partial hysterectomy,” writes Desiree Maligro. “When I have flare ups, besides excruciating pain, I look pregnant and the inflammation affects my bladder. Foria is one of the very few things that brings me relief.”
“I woke up this morning in a lot of pain due to menstrual cramps and immediately used the product,” writes Kelly Rae Stinner. “I have always really struggled with the incredible pain of cramps and this has definitely been the most effective method in ridding the pain.”
If Foria Relief is successful in relieving menstrual cramps, it’s because of the two cannabinoids contained within it: THC and CBD. The first targets the nerves to “block out pain;” the second suppresses inflammation. The latter also acts as an antispasmodic property, which can help take care of muscle spasms that result from menstruation and ovulation.
The product is unique—which, considering its founder, is no surprise. Unlike most ganjapreneurs, Matthew Gerson wasn’t a businessman heading for the green rush. According to an interview with Vice, the Colorado-native was initially studying to become a Buddhist monk before a TED talk inspired him to co-launch the condom company Sir Richards.
Based on chemical-free, PETA approved condoms, Sir Richards gave him the ability to both travel the world and learn about the value of sexual health. It was this knowledge, combined with his self-proclaimed appreciation for marijuana that led to the creation of Foria.
While his premier product, Foria Pleasure, is available in most Colorado and California dispensaries, customers can only purchase Foria Relief by becoming a member of the company’s cannabis collective. In both cases, a state-issued medical marijuana ID is required.
While still not in stores, a large part of Foria’s campaign revolves around the history of marijuana and female health. In Gerson’s eyes, the suppository is simply a modern way to take advantage of an ancient medicine that women have used for centuries.
“This plant medicine has a long, cross cultural history of use as a natural aid in easing symptoms associated with menstruation,” says Gersen. “Our intention is to share the powerful medicinal properties of this plant while utilizing modern extraction techniques.”
He’s not wrong. According to a 2008 historical review of cannabis treatments in obstetrics and gynecology, women may have begun using the drug to treat cramps as early as the 9th century. A translation of an Arab text from that time says that women used the juice of cannabis seeds to “treat migraine, calm uterine pains, and prevent miscarriage.”
Further examples appear in texts from the 11th century and 13th century in Persia and a Chinese text from 1596, which says women used cannabis flowers for “menstrual disorders.” Perhaps the most notable historical example is that of Queen Victoria, who was reportedly prescribed cannabis during her menstrual cycle each month by her doctor, Sir John Russell Reynolds.
A 1928 paper from Pharmacotherapuetics, Materia Medica and Drug Action added even more weight to the theory. In it, the authors reported cannabis’ ability to act “favorably upon the uterine musculature” and suggested it be used to counteract “painful menstrual cramps.” Overall, they concluded that it had “particular influence over visceral pain.”
In the same paper, they made note of another potential benefit of cannabis. “A woman in labor may have a more or less painless labor…if a sufficient amount of the drug is taken,” the authors write. “As far as is known, a baby born of a mother intoxicated with cannabis will not be abnormal in any way.” The practice of giving cannabis to women in labor appears in other ancient texts as well.
Despite the exciting nature of the statements, science has yet to catch up to the claims. With marijuana still on the DEA’s Schedule I Substance list, it’s nearly impossible for doctors to perform the rigorous studies needed to prove that cannabis is actually effective at relieving pain from menstruation or childbirth.
While many in the science world believe that marijuana can relieve pain, few have come forward to support its use in pregnant women. Current research on marijuana in adolescents suggests it may negatively affect young brains, which is likely to deter doctors from recommending it. Beyond that are legal implications, with some states saying pregnant women caught using it could be charged with child abuse.
Given the lack of research, it’s no surprise that Foria’s makes no mention of pregnant women in its marketing. For now, the inventors of the pot-infused vaginal suppository will have to settle for appealing to the non-pregnant masses.