Is it Actually Safe to Use CBD in Feminine Products? An OB-GYN Explains
Keeping up with the surge of "cure-all" wellness fads is a job in and of itself. In our column Wellness Inspector, we do the work for you, closely examining these trends to see if they're worth your hard-earned pennies—or whether they're just hype.
It's no secret that CBD has been in the spotlight over the past few years. What started out as a health and wellness supplement with indications for reducing anxiety, stress, and pain quickly caught on as a skincare and beauty product, too. Before we knew it, brands began launching CBD-infused creams, serums, lipstick, and mascara. And, now, the buzzy ingredient is being adopted by another wellness category: feminine care.
Knowing what we know about CBD's anti-inflammatory benefits, it's simple to assume that CBD-infused feminine care products could lead to less painful menstrual cycles. But, does it actually work? To find out, we chatted with a few experts in the field, including an OB-GYN and a sampling of brand founders, for everything there is to know about CBD in feminine products. Keep scrolling to brush up on the topic before adding the supplement to your down-below routine.
Is it safe to use CBD tampons and pads?
The vagina is a sensitive ecosystem. And while many products (like pH-balancing washes) claim to greatly benefit the region, most doctors will tell you that the organ is self-regulating, and inserting products—especially any that are fragranced—is unnecessary. That said, NYC-based fertility specialist and board-certified OBGYN, Dr. Lucky Sekhon, says that, in theory, CBD could potentially prove beneficial for the area.
"It might be possible that CBD could have an impact on vaginal symptoms including discomfort during menstrual cramps or sex since the lining of the vagina has cannabinoid receptors in it," she says. "However, there are little to no studies done on using CBD vaginally. There still needs to be formal testing to confirm efficacy, safety, side effects, and adequate dosing."
While CBD in feminine care products hasn't been widely studied, Amy Zunzunegui, who is the CEO and founder of WLDKAT, a sustainable, womxn-founded beauty brand that developed a CBD-infused sex serum, says that considering there are plenty of popular, well-received CBD products on the market, the ingredient can be thought to be safe (but it's still important to check with your doctor before using). "However, with any new product or ingredient, it is always best to do a test patch," she says.
The benefits of CBD-infused feminine care products:
CBD is naturally antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. "These properties bring immense benefits to the very common issues people with vaginas face," says Lindsay Wynn, the founder of Momotaro Apotheca, a wellness brand that specializes in products for vulva owners. "Whether you experience common itching or irritation from hormonal changes, or want to address symptoms and pain from anything from sexual activity, bacterial vaginosis, or yeast infections, CBD can be helpful." That said, she says that it's important to remember that cannabis and CBD products are not always a replacement for conventional remedies, but can be a great addition, as more studies need to be conducted.
Since studies on the topic are lacking, it's tough to know where exactly to apply CBD—solely to the vulva, or inside the vagina, as well. Nevertheless, products are debuting for every use imaginable. Where Uncle Bud's Miss Bud's 60mg CBD Feminine Wash is designed to be used externally, Mello Bottoms CBD Suppositories are formulated to be inserted into the vagina.
"Suppositories can be really beneficial to women experiencing localized pain in their vaginas," explains Mello founder, Boronia Fallshaw. "Endo, PMS, and PCOS can cause awful cramping, irritation, and pain in the vulva, cervix, and anywhere in the lower body." Since the source of this pain is inflammation, she says that CBD, which as we mentioned is an excellent anti-inflammatory agent, can treat the local area and remove the inflammation, effectively decreasing feminine pain in the process.
Still, not everyone is sold on the idea of applying CBD to such a sensitive region. With that in mind, Degelis Tufts, the co-founder of TribeTokes, a company that specializes in products made with full-spectrum Delta 8 THC and CBD, prefers to reserve CBD for another common-but-external feminine concern. "What I do use CBD for is any post-shaving irritation on my bikini line," she says. "I just use a tiny bit of our CBD eye cream on any affected external area (since it's made for your eye area, which is extremely sensitive skin, it doesn't have any fragrances or potential irritants)."
Can CBD feminine products help with menstrual cycle symptoms?
While CBD can be beneficial for general inflammation, Dr. Sekhon says that the jury is still out on whether or not it can actually assist with menstrual cramps. "There is no plausible mechanism by which CBD could impact the hormonal functioning of the menstrual cycle," she adds.
Fallshaw expands on this, noting that it's difficult for the body to absorb CBD through the transdermal layer of skin. "Topical CBD products are good for athlete recovery and surface-level muscular pain relief, but not for pain that is deeply internal—in your vulva, cervix, or intestines," she says. Because of this, she's not a huge fan of any topicals for PMS or feminine pain relief, however, she does stand behind CBD-infused chocolates (like Phasey Period Chocolates) or other edibles (like Dosist's CBD+ Calm Gummies), as they're ingestible and better absorbed.
While topicals are tricky with menstrual relief, suppositories can have a lot to offer.
"When you take a CBD suppository, the oil is absorbed through the large blood vessels in your [vagina or bottom] and then is instantly released into your bloodstream," Fallshaw explains. "When you take a capsule or edible it has to make its way through your GI tract and into your liver, and then into your bloodstream—a much longer process." Additionally, she points out that your body absorbs more of the CBD when taking CBD suppositories. "Essentially a portion of everything you eat is eliminated," she explains. "Taking a CBD suppository removes these variables, so you get more of the cannabinoids you paid for. And you feel the effect much faster."
What to know before shopping for CBD feminine care products:
Although Dr. Sekhon notes that, in theory, CBD products can be beneficial for menstrual symptoms, she doesn't currently recommend purchasing CBD products for the vagina since we don't have a full understanding of their impact just yet. Since CBD is largely unregulated, she recommends consulting with your doctor before looking into CBD as a self-treatment.
That said, if you can't hold your horses and feel heavily inclined to see what the hype is about, Dr. Sekhon says to avoid any products with heavy fragrances. Additionally, Wynn says to only shop from companies that are transparent about their manufacturing process. "There should be no secrets when it comes to consumption," she says. "Always look for CoA's (certificates of analysis) to see third-party test results. And be wary of any company making huge claims. CBD is not going to give you 1000 orgasms at once or cure your endometriosis, but it does have the potential to help."