Cannabis Medicine's role in women's wellness
The relationship between cannabis medicine and women’s health is not a new area of study.
In fact, there is a long-standing tradition of utilising cannabis extracts in obstetrics and gynaecology dating back centuries. Today, modern medical research is hard at work to develop a comprehensive understanding of the therapeutic potentials and possible dangers of using cannabis medicine as a treatment option for medical conditions affecting women.
In a 2008 historical review of Cannabis Treatments in Obstetrics and Gynecology, the authors concluded that “cannabis extracts may represent an efficacious and safe alternative for treatment of a wide range of conditions in women including dysmenorrhea, dysuria, hyperemesis gravidarum, and menopausal symptoms.”
It's however also important to note that while there is a wealth of existing research to support the potential of cannabis medicine in assisting with symptomatic management, far more research is needed to fully understand how cannabis medicine can be used to help prevent and/or treat the root cause of common gynaecological conditions.
Let's delve deeper into the use of cannabis medicine in women's wellness!
The use of cannabis medicine to alleviate the effects of menstrual cramping has been established throughout history, with such notable examples as Queen Victoria having been prescribed cannabinoid therapy on a monthly basis for the reduction of menstrual discomfort.
Existing research has identified the symptomatic management potential of cannabis medicine. Specifically, for the alleviation/reduction of menstruation-related symptoms of pain, cramping, bloating, nausea and loss of appetite. Cannabinoid therapy can also assist in the regulation of mood and emotional behaviour associated with PMS.
Approximately one in nine women suffer from the effects of endometriosis. While there are existing treatment options including surgery and medication, these methods do not always result in effective pain management and can be associated with various side effects and quality of life degradation.
A 2019 study on the Self-Reported Efficacy of Cannabis for Endometriosis Pain noted that the “use of medical [cannabis] and CBD amongst women with endometriosis is common. Both [cannabis] and CBD are reported as moderate or very effective for pelvic pain by the majority of women who have tried them, with [full-spectrum cannabis] reported as more effective than CBD.”
A 2019 study conducted in Australia found that “cannabis was ranked as the most effective treatment by women. The women said that along with reducing pain, they felt that cannabis significantly reduced symptoms of nausea and vomiting, gastrointestinal symptoms, problems with their sleep, feelings of depression and anxiety.”
The study also showed that women utilising cannabis medicine reported reductions in the use of traditional endometriosis treatments. Research has also highlighted the role of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) in pain management, and how endometriosis-related pain experienced by patients might be effectively targeted through ECS modulation.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder that often results in pain and infertility, affecting approximately 5-10 per cent of women who are of reproductive age. Common symptoms include infertility, menstrual cycle irregularities, abdominal pain, balding, facial hair growth, headaches, weight gain and depression.
Research has shown that through modulation of the ECS, cannabinoid medication can be effective in managing symptoms such as pain, inflammation, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and sleep disturbance. A 2013 scientific review hypothesised that dysfunction of the ECS could be a potential cause of PCOS. This evidence emphasises the importance of further research into the relationship between the ECS and PCOS.
The documented use of cannabis medicine in the management of symptoms related to menopause dates back as far as 1924. Research suggests cannabis medicine can be effective in managing hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia and pain. Evidence also indicates that cannabinoid therapy can be effective in managing emotional changes such as depression, anxiety, and stress.
The function of the ECS has been directly linked to improved reproductive function in women. A 2020 scientific review suggests that “fine-tuning of this system contributes to the wellness and success of each stage of reproduction — from fertilisation and implantation to fetal development and delivery. In fact, the amount of specific endocannabinoids – cannabinoids produced by the body – needed shifts throughout the progression of a pregnancy, with low levels needed during implantation and high levels needed during labour and delivery.”
Addressing side effects of birth control pills
Cannabis medicine can be an effective tool in managing common side effects associated with birth control pills, such as depression, headaches, and nausea. However, despite a lack of any known drug interactions associated with cannabis medicine and oral contraceptives, it is important to exercise caution when consuming cannabis medicine along with other medications.
Postpartum depression (PPD)
Research has indicated the potential of cannabis medicine as an alternative treatment option for postpartum depression. One study noted that “cannabis as an alternative has helped many new mothers overcome insomnia, anxiety, loss of appetite, stress, isolation, use of addictive substances as self-medication, and other issues associated with PPD.” However, it is important to note that the use of cannabis medicine is not always advisable for new mothers. There is evidence that cannabinoids can be passed on via breastmilk, and thus cannabis medicine is not currently recommended for mothers who are breastfeeding.