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Research is now looking into how cannabis can help treat gynecological conditions ranging from premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and cramps to vaginal cancers and endometriosis.
Cannabis has a great reputation for self-care, stress management and pain relief. Therefore, it’s relevant in treating gynecological conditions with side effects like stress and pain.
According to a study in the Journal of Women’s Health, 91.6% of women consider using cannabis for any gynecological condition. The study cites an increasing positive public perception of cannabis, opening more opportunities for use and research.
The survey asked participants their likelihood to use cannabis for a wide range of conditions, including IUD insertion, PMS, sexual dysfunction and more. Across all categories, more women were likely to use cannabis as an alleviation tool than not.
Cannabis, Menstrual Cramps and PMS
More and more women are drawn to cannabis for wellness.
This may be due to cannabis’ ability to alleviate gynecological conditions through the Endocannabinoid System (ECS), a system of cells, receptors and enzymes that help keep the body in equilibrium. The ECS’s CB1 receptors are located in the uterus and ovaries and CB2 receptors in the uterus, according to a study in Obstetrics & Gynecology. Therefore, cannabinoids — which fit like a lock and key into these receptors — can target pain and inflammation associated with a range of gynecological conditions.
Cannabinoids target the CB1 and CB2 receptors in these organs, impacting cramps. According to Greatist, CBD can calm the muscle tissue of the uterus, and THC can release dopamine – the feel good neurotransmitter – to alter pain perception.
Menstrual cramps are triggered by an inflammatory compound, which causes pain. More specifically, research shows that inflammation itself is a major cause of pain. CB2 cannabinoid receptors are known to be anti-inflammatories. Therefore, easing the inflammation with cramps also eases pain.
Cramps, irritability, moodiness, and bloating define premenstrual syndrome (PMS). However, premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) is a more severe form of PMS which causes more pronounced symptoms. According to WebMD, PMS affects up to 75% of women, while PMDD affects 3-8% of women.
A Health Europa study revealed that women who used cannabis were able to relieve PMS and PMDD symptoms without developing a dependence.
Current PMS and PMDD treatments revolve around lifestyle changes and medications that can lead to a range of negative side effects. According to one study, these include nausea, spotting, sleep problems, decreased libido, drowsiness, headaches and more.
Certain cannabinoids can target sleep issues, irritability and joint pain. For instance, according to the Sleep Foundation, 85% of individuals who use cannabis for medical conditions noticed improvements in sleep.
Endometriosis and Anti-Inflammation
Cannabis may also reduce symptoms associated with endometriosis, according to Green Flower.
Endometriosis is a chronic inflammatory disease where the uterine lining grows in other parts of the body. Therefore, endometriosis is associated with a lot of pain, gastrointestinal problems, loss of libido and sleep issues. It currently has no cure.
It affects 10% of women globally, reports the World Health Organization (WHO).
As Green Flower further explains, patients with endometriosis often have a deficiency in the ECS. Consequently, certain cannabinoids may have a positive effect on pelvic pain, mood and gastrointestinal issues. More specifically, cannabis can help target inflammation, relieve pain, reduce feelings of nausea associated with the gastrointestinal tract and aid with sleep.
A study in PLOS One also stated that endometriosis is associated with ECS dysfunction. In fact, 57.3% of participants reported pain relief after consuming cannabis. The study found the different ways to ingest cannabis targeted different problems.
For example, to help mood and gastrointestinal issues, oral forms of cannabis were more effective. Inhalation offers relief within 5-10 minutes, whereas pharmacological treatments and oral doses take 45-180 minutes.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) Control
According to Healthline, symptoms include irregular periods, headaches, weight gain and depression.
Cannabis can help treat headaches and relieve pain, according to a study published in Cureus. The study states that cannabis targets the ECS and inflammation to help ease pain.
One 2020 study found that 30% of migraine sufferers tried cannabis to relieve their pain — more than 80% found it effective, Emerald previously reported. Additional research supports these findings.
A study published in Frontiers in Psychology links cannabis in lowering baseline depression levels. It states that CBD-dominate products are more likely to ease depression than THC-dominate products.
Users report that certain strains — Mr. Nice and Remedy — are useful to treat PCOS. Mr. Nice may help ease pain while alleviating stress, depression and insomnia. Users report that Remedy, an indica-dominant strain, reduces inflammation, anxiety and depression through a body and a mental high.
Easing Cancer’s Physical Effects
Patients with cervical and ovarian cancer don’t expect a cure when they use cannabis. Instead, like many other conditions, medical cannabis targets symptom relief.
In fact, according to a study in Gynecologic Oncology Reports, 83% of participants felt that cannabis relieved their symptoms, and 80% felt that it worked the same or better than other treatments. More specifically, patients saw improvement in their appetite, insomnia, neuropathy, nausea, joint pain, bone pain, abdominal pain and depression.
When it comes to conditions like insomnia, studies show that cannabinoids are particularly effective at promoting sleep. Additional research reveals that people who use cannabis show immediate nausea relief. As Forbes reports, one 2021 study showed that 96% of participants saw immediate nausea relief after consuming cannabis.
To further back-up the use of cannabis, another Gynecologic Oncology Reports study claims that 71% of gynecological cancer patients who consumed cannabis felt relief for at least one of their associated symptoms. Only 15% of participants stopped using cannabis during the study due to other side effects such as fatigue, dizziness or feeling high.
Despite its increasing legality, only 29% of oncologists are likely to prescribe their patients cannabis, as there is still a lack of information, the study states. More research and education on the effects of cannabis on gynecological conditions could help normalize it as an alternative treatment.
Sexual Health in Wellness
Holistically, it’s important to also heal sexual health. According to Cedars-Sinai, 75% of women will experience pain during sex in their lifetime. Many women can experience issues with lubrication and libido.
Research has revealed that cannabis may help stimulate arousal. In a study published by the Journal of Sexual Medicine, women who consume cannabis frequently or before sexual activities are two times more likely to have a more satisfying orgasm than those who do not. Most women in the study reported a higher sex drive overall.
According to Health Europa, cannabis releases dopamine – the pleasure neurotransmitter – in the brain, driving pro-sexual behavior. Moreover, the ECS stimulates and enhances oxytocin and testosterone, also promoting sex drive. Overall, the ECS plays a role in the release and stimulation of dopamine, oxytocin and testosterone, leading to arousal and increased lubrication and libido.
Cannabis does not serve as a cure for gynecological conditions. Rather it may ease discomfort, pain, inflammation and mood. The location of ECS receptors in the ovaries and uterus can explain why cannabis forms a state of balance in female organs and the body overall.
Different conditions have different uses for cannabis. But overall, as cannabis legalization sweeps the states, more research will reveal just how this form of medicine will be implemented into women’s health.