There’s a surprising new face in the field of medical marijuana, and she’s on a mission to wipe out menstrual cramps. Problem is, her solution isn’t backed by solid science.
Actress and daytime talk show host Whoopi Goldberg has launched her own line of marijuana-based edibles and bath products designed to ease women’s menstrual pain. The products carry soothing names like “Savor” (a sipping chocolate laced with cannabis), “Rub” (a pot-infused body balm), and “Soak” (lavender-and-marijuana bath soaks).
But psychopharmacologist Kari Franson of the University of Colorado, Denver, said taking a bath to soak up THC — the chemical that produces most of marijuana’s psychological effects — isn’t necessarily the most effective way to treat pain.
The THC kicks in much more quickly and is more effective at treating overall pain when you smoke or vape marijuana, she explained. (That may be why Goldberg once wrote a column for the Cannabist titled, “My vape pen and I: a love story.”) Topical applications like bath soaks, creams, and gels that soak in through the skin would likely produce much slower, more subtle effects.
Or as Franson put it: “Do you want to dig a hole with a spoon or a shovel?”
Another concern: It’s easier to regulate your intake of THC when you vape or smoke, since the high kicks in quickly. Soaking in a tub or rubbing on a cream is another matter; a user has no clear way to tell how much THC she is absorbing as she uses the products.
“It’s possible to ingest too much or to ingest not enough,” said Ryan Vandrey, a public health researcher at Johns Hopkins University who has studied the potential risks of edibles and other medical marijuana products.
Because such products are largely unregulated, the levels of THC can vary widely between brands. “There’s no guarantee in consistency of dosing from one product to the next,” he added.
Experts also said there’s a risk that young children might use bath soaks or lotions thinking that they’re normal toiletries.
But the main problem Vandrey sees with Goldberg’s new line of products: There’s no robust scientific evidence that they’ll work.
“If someone is mixing THC in bathwater, it’s not going to do anything but get your tub sticky,” he said.
Goldberg launched her San Francisco-based company, Whoopi & Maya, along with edibles expert Maya Elisabeth and herbalist Alexis Gandara.
“My best friend is my heating pad,” Gandara said in an interview. “But I realized that there are herbs out there that could help me with pain better than the over-the-counter products that I was using.”
Gandara developed blends of herbs including raspberry leaf, white willow bark, and a muscle relaxant called cramp bark for use in the Whoopi & Maya products. Prices haven’t yet been announced, but the products will hit the shelves of marijuana dispensaries in California later this month.
In a Q&A on the new company’s website, Elisabeth said the marijuana bath soak is designed to strip away anxiety and leave the user utterly relaxed. “You, like me,” she wrote, “may very well find yourself in a weird fetal position in a zen hole, thinking, ‘I should move my body, but why?’”