Updated: Jan 9
Each month millions of women across the United States rely on prescription or over-the-counter medications to simply function during their menstrual cycle. Menstrual pain, pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), and Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) which is a much more severe version of PMS impact the mental and physical health of roughly 30-40% of women each year. Painful periods are also a significant contributor to school and work absence and result in on average 9 days of lost productivity per year.
While these statistics have been consistent for decades, there are very few viable treatment options available for women. Most women are prescribed anti-inflammatory medications, contraceptive pills, and/or SSRI antidepressants. While anti-inflammatory medications can help with period-related inflammatory pain, they do not address the intense emotional and mental challenges that often begin 10 days before menstruation. Contraceptives can be helpful in managing both pain and emotional distress but the often harsh side-effects and the serious risk of blood clots has many women opting out of this option. The laundry list of negative side-effects of SSRIs, insomnia, weight gain, loss of libido, and hair loss to name a few, is even more concerning. As a result, many women have been turning to natural remedies for relief; notably cannabis and hemp extracts, and most recently, microdosing psychedelic mushrooms!
Microdosing involves taking a sub-perceptual dose of psilocybin mushrooms every 2-4 days to achieve a desired psychological or physical outcome. Most individuals microdose to enhance mood, reduce anxiety, address addictive behaviors, reduce chronic pain, and achieve focus and creativity. More recently, many women are turning to microdosing to reduce symptoms of PMS and PMDD.
Microdosing For PMS/PMDD Mood Symptoms
The most commonly reported psychological symptoms of PMS and PMDD include irritability, depression, anxiety, and fatigue suggesting a potential dysfunction or imbalance with serotonin production and/or metabolism. This is why SSRIs are often prescribed as an effective solution for the mood swings associated with the menstrual cycle. But does it really make sense to prescribe a daily antidepressant with significant negative side effects to address symptoms that happen once a month at most and often last 3-10 days?
Psilocybin mushrooms offer a wonderful alternative because they also interact with the serotonin system by binding to the serotonin receptors which produces a similar effect to a serotonin boost in the brain resulting in enhanced mood stability, improved stamina, better sleep, and an overall sense of well-being. The positive effects of psilocybin mushrooms can be experienced within 30 minutes of ingestion and require neither daily dosing nor a prolonged period of dosing before desired results are experienced as is common with antidepressants. Furthermore, to date, no serious side effects of microdosing mushrooms have been identified although research in this space has been very limited.
In the absence of research and investment in the microdosing space, women seeking to find safe and effective treatment options have been experimenting with microdosing mushrooms in different schedules and dosages to identify the "sweet spot" for their bodies. In many cases, women discovered that they had no PMS and PMDD symptoms or mild symptoms during or immediately following a microdose, leading many to actively pursue microdosing as a potential treatment option.
Microdosing For PMS/PMDD Pain
The most common symptoms of PMD and PMDD involve pain, cramps, fatigue, and headaches. Anti-inflammatory medications remain the go-to option but for the many women who require high doses of these medications to find relief, the side effects can pile up leading to chronic stomach disease, as well as kidney and liver damage.
Anecdotal reports suggest that microdose psilocybin appears to have anti-inflammatory qualities. Psilocybin in small doses causes a slight restriction of blood vessels and reduces blood flow to certain organs. This reduction in blood flow causes a reduction in inflammation which in turn relieves symptoms of cramps, soreness, and pain. Furthermore, the resulting increase in blood pressure (due to constricted blood vessels) can also alleviate the symptoms of nausea, dizziness, and fainting common in PMDD which are linked to low blood pressure.
We know little to nothing about what causes some women to experience PMS and PMDD while others do not, and even less about what causes more intense symptoms for these women some months over others. Women's health challenges are historically understudied, underfunded, and under-treated with little changing even in modern times. Every month millions of women experience debilitating physical and psychological symptoms that interfere with their daily activities, mental health, relationships, and productivity, these challenges carry significant costs not only for the women but also the society as a whole. Psychedelic mushrooms offer a viable treatment path but much more research is required to better understand the benefits, risks, and dosages.