Bloating, cramps, irritability, pelvic pain, nausea. If you suffer from painful periods or endometriosis, you’re probably well aware of the unpleasant symptoms. The good news is that cannabis may be able to help.
Marijuana has a lot of medical applications, and the research continues to show more and more potential medicinal uses for the plant. Though marijuana may not be the first thing women turn to for help with painful female-related health issues, it’s been used in this capacity for centuries. And research shows it can be very effective.
What Is Endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a condition of the uterus. It’s when tissue similar to the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus begins to grow on the outside of the uterus.
While tissue inside the uterus is shed during menstruation, the tissue growths that are on the outside of the uterus have no way to leave the body. Instead they grow, bleed and break down, leading to swelling, inflammation and pain. This unpleasant condition affects one in 10 women and can cause symptoms such as:
- Pain during or between periods
- Lower abdominal or lower back pain
- Painful intercourse
- Menstrual irregularity
- Nausea and vomiting
- Dizziness and fainting
- Pain with bowel movements and/or urination
What Is Dysmenorrhea?
Dysmenorrhea translates to painful flow, and is the medical term for painful periods or menstrual cramps. Dysmenorrhea affects 60% of women both in Canada and worldwide, and can be broken down into two types:
- Primary dysmenorrhea occurs when the pelvic anatomy and ovarian function are normal and no particular cause can be found for the pain.
- Secondary dysmenorrhea describes pain that’s due to some kind of problem or pelvic pathology.
The main symptoms of dysmenorrhea are:
- Low midline abdominal or pelvic pain
- Pain radiating to back and/or thighs
- Dull dragging pains and/or severe cramping pains
- Most pain at the beginning of menstruation, starting up to 12 hours beforehand
- Pain lasting one to three days
- Nausea and vomiting
- Anxiety and depression
How Marijuana Can Help With Endometriosis & Dysmenorrhea
Both endometriosis and dysmenorrhea are painful conditions to live with, but the evidence suggests that cannabis can help ease several of their symptoms.
In fact, marijuana has been helping women with these conditions for quite some time. Queen Victoria was even prescribed cannabis for her dysmenorrhea in the 18th century.
So, why is cannabis so effective for these conditions?
This is in part because of the link between cannabis and the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a crucial network of neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters, called CB1 and CB2, are found all over the body. They control or affect some of its most important functions such as:
- Stress response
- Memory building
- Muscle control
The ECS both produces and is activated by the body’s natural endocannabinoids. But it also happens to be activated by plant cannabinoids, the medicinally potent chemicals in cannabis like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). When The ECS is out of balance, all of the system’s functions can work less effectively.
Because the ECS regulates pain, activating it through plant cannabinoids can be a great way to relieve physical discomfort. Studies say that up to 97% of cannabis patients consume cannabis for pain.
And in a study conducted by HelloMD and UC Berkeley, 81% of patients reported that cannabis alone was more effective at relieving their pain than opioids were. The study also revealed similar results for patients taking non-opioid painkillers.
But this isn’t the only reason the ECS is so crucial in treating endometriosis and dysmenorrhea.
As it turns out, the ECS also plays a role in regulating the reproductive system. Researchers are now suggesting that when the ECS gets out of balance it may lead to problems like endometriosis.
Women with endometriosis tend to have fewer CB1 receptors than normal in the affected area. But they also tend to have more of CB2 receptors than women without endometriosis. These women also have fewer of the endocannabinoids that activate these receptors, and more of the chemicals that discourage activation.
What all this means is that those with endometriosis have a less active ECS, which can cause increased pain and inflammation in addition to the problems regulating the reproductive system.
Luckily, these women can add plant cannabinoids from cannabis, such as THC and CBD, to help stimulate the CB1 and CB2 receptorsand bring the system back into balance.
While THC can help with pain and nausea regulation by activating CB1, CBD can help with inflammation by activating CB2. This kind of cannabinoid therapy has even been shown to increase cell death to the tissue outside of the uterus, actually reversing the condition itself.
If you’re suffering from endometriosis or dysmenorrhea, try out some cannabis products and see if it helps. A simple edible oil with a 1:1 ratio of CBD to THC is a great option to start with because it will provide both of the key cannabinoids to treat these conditions in an easy-to-dose method. Plus, it won’t have much of a psychoactive high, so you can stay functional and pain-free all day long.
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