The pace of progress in medicine is dizzying. This has been true even while game-changing medicines, like cannabis, have been shamefully understudied. Slowly, the medical community is working to correct that imbalance. But other blind spots still exist.
One of those blind spots refers to half of the human population; women have historically been excluded from medical studies. Even though these imbalances exist, new research has shown that cannabis can help treat the symptoms and causes of many of the most common health issues women face.
How Cannabis Can Help Ease Menopause Symptoms
Every woman goes through menopause eventually, and it can be an uncomfortable experience. And for some women it may happen earlier than they’re prepared for. Early onset menopause is related to women with deficiencies in their endocannabinoid system (ECS), so topping up their endocannabinoids with cannabinoids from marijuana may help play a role in preventing premature menopause.
Treating the symptoms of menopause with cannabis is also very effective. There’s been very little research done looking at the connection between cannabis and menopause, but research in other fields offers some clues as to how cannabis can help treat these symptoms. Marijuana has been used for centuries to treat pain, discomfort and mood swings—all issues that are a part of menopause for many women.
Cannabis can also offer relief from other complications of menopause, like bone loss. Currently, many women use estrogen replacement therapy to help treat symptoms of menopause with excellent results. But hormone therapies aren’t available for everyone, like those with a history of breast cancer. Cannabis may be equally as helpful as estrogen therapy, and may become the standard treatment as we learn more about how specific cannabinoids interact with the body.
Marijuana Can Treat Common Signs of PMS
Unfortunately, there aren’t many studies that look at the link between premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and cannabis. But, we know that the ECS is closely related to the menstrual cycle, so there’s probably a role for cannabis to play here.
Even without direct research, the symptoms of PMS are all symptoms marijuana helps treat such as:
- Pain and more specifically abdominal pain—tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a muscle relaxant that can help ease cramps
- Headaches—which marijuana can treat very effectively
- Mood swings—there’s some evidence suggesting that cannabis can help stabilize mood and prevent mood fluctuations
- Nausea—another common PMS symptom women say marijuana is effective in treating
PMS has an array of symptoms that vary from woman to woman. However, for most of the common symptoms related to PMS, cannabis is one of the safest and most effective treatments we’re aware of.
CBD’s Anti-Inflammatory Properties May Ease Endometriosis Pain
Endometriosis happens when tissue that’s usually on the inside of the uterus grows outside of the uterus instead. It can be extremely painful, even debilitating for sufferers, and often goes undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. New research into endometriosis suggests that it’s more deeply tied to the ECS than most people previously thought, so cannabis may be an especially effective treatment.
Marijuana is a great way to treat the symptoms of endometriosis, like pain and nausea. The anti-inflammatory properties of cannabidiol (CBD) and other cannabinoids may also reduce tissue swelling, leading to a further reduction in discomfort.
The relationship between the ECS and the menstrual cycle isn’t totally understood. However, endometriosis seems to be linked to low levels of cannabinoids in the uterus. In rodent studies, subjects had less pain when treated with a synthetic cannabinoid. In human trials, subjects experienced less tissue growth when treated with synthetic cannabinoids.
The exact connection between the ECS and endometriosis remains foggy. That said, one day cannabis may end up treating the root cause of this disease. Until then, cannabis remains an effective way to treat the symptoms of endometriosis and may even play a role in slowly stalling it.
Cannabis’s Pain-Relieving Properties Helpful for Dysmenorrhea
Painful periods affect millions of women, but they don’t have to. Dysmenorrhea can have many different causes, but whatever the cause, the end result is pain. The good news here is that cannabis has been shown, over and over again, to be an excellent painkiller.
In fact, the ECS plays a role in regulating much of the body’s processes, including menstruation. This means that marijuana may be even more effective for treating menstrual cramps than most typical painkillers are.
While the science confirming that cannabis may be a very effective treatment for painful periods is relatively new, people have known this about cannabis for a long time. Cannabis as a treatment for period pain is literally fit for a queen. Toward the end of the 18th century, Queen Victoria used cannabis to treat period pain and to this day women are still turning to marijuana during their cycle to help alleviate cramps, bloating and headaches.
Since women have been overlooked for so long in the medical field, many treatments for these conditions have gone unaltered for decades. The world is changing though, and women’s health issues are slowly gaining the attention they deserve. Similarly, cannabis is now taken seriously as a medication, and the more we learn about the plant’s connection to women's health, the larger role it could play.
Photo credit: Brooke Cagle