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A Harvard professor is asking 400 women to use 'weed tampons' as the first step into uncharted cannabis research

A Harvard professor is asking 400 women to use 'weed tampons' as the first step into uncharted cannabis research

Mathew Gerson   Headshot

Courtesy Foria

Foria CEO Mathew Gerson.

  • Foria, a company that makes $4 products for women, including marijuana suppositories designed to target menstrual cramps (nicknamed "$4") is about to see how they work in treating the symptoms associated with periods.
  • The study, conducted by Harvard professor Staci Gruber, will look at survey responses from 400 women about menstrual cycle symptoms while using the suppository.
  • Gruber said she sees this as a first step in researching marijuana and women's health.

As cannabis products enter the mainstream, two markets remain largely untapped: Women's health and sexuality.

While various compounds in cannabis have long been thought to alleviate symptoms associated with pain and stress from menstruation, there hasn't been a lot of research to back it up.

$4, a Venice Beach-based startup, is seeking to change that. The startup released a line of products - including lotions, sprays, vaporizer pens, and marijuana suppositories - designed to help women with everything from treating menstrual pain to having orgasms.

While Foria's "Relief" product has been nicknamed a "$4," it's not exactly that. Rather than a cotton device, it's a suppository pill that when inserted into the body quickly gets absorbed.

"Women have been saying [cannabis] works for 10,000 years," Foria CEO Mathew Gerson told Business Insider in a recent interview. "And I don't think men have been listening."

Foria's suppositories are forming the basis of an observational study of about 400 women to see how marijuana-based products impact the symptoms associated with menstrual cramps.

So far, Foria has raised $2 million in a funding round led by Gotham Green Partners, a cannabis-focused venture capital firm. The company's THC-filled products are available in Colorado and California, where cannabis is legal for adult use. They will be available in Canada $4.

Foria Full Line_Pleasure Awaken Explore Relief Empower Flow Get Centered_463

Courtesy Foria

Foria's line of products.

Foria's CBD products, like the new "Flow" vaporizer pen, are available online and can be shipped worldwide. CBD (or cannabidiol) is a non-psychoactive compound in cannabis that's $4.

Though the specific legality of CBD is something of a grey area, products containing CBD are widely available in most states, as long as they don't contain THC - which is the psychoactive component of marijuana responsible for the "high".

According to Gerson, Foria's products are effective due to what's known as the "entourage effect" of the active compounds in marijuana.

"We now know that the minute you break this plant apart into its component parts, you lose some of the magic," Gerson said. "And that sounds like hippie speak - but this is proven out again and again in study after study that the entourage effect as we understand it is real."

Putting it to the test

Staci Gruber, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard and the director of the Cognitive and Clinical Neuroimaging Core and the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) program at the McLean Hospital in Massachusetts, is using Foria's marijuana suppository as part of the aforementioned 400-person observational trial. The trial will be funded by Foria and Flow Kana, which is providing the products that will be used in the study.

"What we're looking to do is take anecdotal information and turn it into data," Gruber told Business Insider.

The observational study will survey participating women over a few months, recording what their symptoms are like while using the suppository.

Gruber said she viewed the study as a first step, with the "holy grail" being a clinical trial that determines how a product like Foria's compares to a placebo group in relieving menstrual symptoms.

Running a clinical trial, however, can be an expensive and difficult endeavor, especially because marijuana is considered a $4.

First, researchers must undertake a lengthy application process - which can take years - to obtain a permit to conduct a study. And second, all cannabis used for research must be purchased through the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Many researchers have pointed out the NIDA's supply is of poor quality, with low concentrations of THC.

Gerson hopes the observational study will ultimately help the women who purchase Foria's products.

"What actually made this market was empathy," Gerson said. "We serve the plant, we serve our clients, and as a result our investment community and the people that support our brand benefit from that."

And, Gerson said, the therapeutic potential of cannabis is "so profound."

"If we lose sight of that, it's just a race to the lab to break this plant apart into its component parts so we can synthesize and patent it and put it in a bottle," he added.

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