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Medical Marijuana and Women's Health

Updated: Feb 17, 2020

Cannabis has been proven as a reliable herbal treatment for many medical conditions unique to women across many cultures long before the recent cannabis craze.

Cannabis medicines have been known to alleviate discomforts from mild PMS symptoms to painful endometriosis for centuries. Cannabis uniquely interacts with the woman's endocannabinoid system, playing a significant role in reproductive health which we are going to touch on right now.

“What’s really interesting to see, with all the legalization of marijuana happening, is how there’s evidence that it can be helpful in a medicinal sense for people. That it can really be an alternative pain management system, and, in some cases, helpful for depression…there’s one that’s for arousal, there’s one that’s for calm, there’s one that’s for pain relief, there’s one for sleep. And you don’t, like when you were a teenager, smoke pot and get blazed out of your mind. I’ve tried it, and yes, I inhaled!” — Gwyneth Paltrow

Historically, there has been bias in studying sex differences, and women in general, regarding health and medicine. There is simply a lack of scientific research. But what we do know is that women are not the same as men and react differently to different medications and treatments. (One would think we didn't need scientific proof to know this). Understanding the sex-differences in the endocannabinoid system expression and function is crucial in finding, and better understanding, effective treatments in women's health.

Women and the Endocannabinoid System

Endocannabinoids and receptors are found in high concentrations within the female reproductive system. It is believed that endocannabinoids may play a significant role in fertility, early pregnancy, and sexual health. Lower doses of cannabis medicine may increase libido and enhance sexual pleasure whereas higher doses may have an opposite effect, suppressing pleasure. Low levels of the cannabinoid FAAH and high plasma levels of AEA are associated with lower success rates after IVF and an increased rate of miscarriage. Living in a highly processed, chemically filled world is believed to have damaged our natural ability to produce endocannbinoids at the needed levels, leaving many women deficient. Could supplementing increase IVF success rates? Possibly. We need more tests.

Serum (blood) levels of endocannabinoids vary in women suffering from depression, with significantly less 2-AG levels in their system. Women are also noted to suffer from negative side effects of traditional medications more so than men. Knowing that cannabis has more tolerable side effects, it may be a much more appealing alternative.

Women report using cannabis to successfully relieve symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes. Women suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) benefit from taking fish oil supplements which the body utilizes to build the endocannabinoid enzyme FAAH, reiterating the importance of the endocannabinoid system. We understand that the endocannabinoid system regulates many aspects of the female reproductive system. Levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, peaking near ovulation and plummeting right before menstruation. Lower than normal levels may lead to more severe PMS symptoms. Supplementing with cannabis medicine may help alleviate negative symptoms associated with PMS.

The cannabinoid receptor GPR-18 is responsible for the migration of endometrial tissue in endometriosis. Studies have shown that this cannabinoid is activated by THC, but inhibited by CBD. So women with endometriosis should then, avoid high THC-cannabis, and instead, opt for hybrids with at least a 3:1 CBD THC ratio.

The endocannabinoid system is complex. There is a lot we do not know but there is a lot that we do know that supports the many health benefits of medical marijuana in women's health. Studies have found that women suffering from a large variety of reproductive health issues benefit from cannabis supplementation. The key is understanding how each disorder effects the endocannabinoid system and how different dosing is required for optimal results. This is not a one size fits all situation. Informed use of medical cannabis is crucial to both enhance effectiveness and decrease potential side effects.

If you are suffering from PMS, cramping, mood swings, menopausal symptoms, or all of the above, maybe it's time we meet to further discuss your treatment options.

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