Learn all about how cannabis can help women manage the symptoms associated with menstruation and menopause, as well as naturally boost their sexual health.
By: Kim Nunley
While women have historically been more hesitant to embrace cannabis, there is an array of medically legitimate reasons why they may want to incorporate it into their health routine.
Women’s bodies are regularly changing, presenting a unique set of health challenges from menstruation, menopause, and hormonal imbalances. Women using cannabis to deal with symptoms and health issues is not new, and yet cannabis remains highly untapped by many women who are either unaware of its benefits or hesitant to try it due to the lingering stigma around marijuana use.
Keep reading to learn about the various ways cannabis use can benefit women and their gynecological health.
History of Cannabis Use for Female Medical Conditions
Women have been using cannabis for gynecological health purposes for thousands of years, according to renowned cannabis researcher Dr. Ethan Russo.17
The earliest references to cannabis use for female health issues can be found in ancient Mesopotamia, when women would blend cannabis with mint and saffron to create a botanical agent called Azallú to address menstrual pain.
Ancient texts in China, Persia, Israel/Palestine, and Syria all recommended cannabis for an array of complaints that impact women, including painful cramps, bloating, abnormal bleeding, menopausal symptoms, and urinary tract infections. In ancient Europe, women helped ease their contractions during childbirth by grinding cannabis into honey and introducing the botanical substance vaginally.
In the 1800s, Queen Victoria used cannabis likely in a liquid tincture form to relieve her menstrual cramps. Years later, in the mid 1900s, Victorian doctors even promoted cannabis tinctures during menstruation.
How Cannabis Benefits Women’s Gynecological Health
Cannabis elicits its effects on the body by interacting with the endocannabinoid system, or ECS. The ECS is a major self-regulatory network that is responsible for regulating a wide array of functions, such as mood, metabolism, appetite, immune system response, pain response, and more. The endocannabinoid system also plays an integral part in female reproductive processes.
The ECS regulates these various functions through substances called endocannabinoids, which bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain and throughout the peripheral nervous system and immune system. As fluctuations occur and a function becomes unbalanced, the EC system responds by synthesizing endocannabinoids on demand. Those endocannabinoids then bind with cannabinoid receptors, triggering a series of chemical reactions that bring functions back to balance so they run optimally.
Sometimes, however, the ECS can become deficient in endocannabinoids. This can cause endocannabinoid system dysregulation, leading to an imbalance in the body and eventually health issues.
That’s where the benefit of cannabis comes in. Cannabis contains more than 100 plant-derived cannabinoids, called phytocannabinoids. Like endocannabinoids, these cannabis-derived cannabinoids are able to interact with the body’s cannabinoid receptors. In essence, the cannabinoids derived from cannabis can serve to supplement the body’s own endocannabinoids, helping ensure the ECS performs its regulation duties effectively.
Studies have even shown that this interaction, between cannabis-derived cannabinoids and the ECS, can be helpful for conditions that have been linked to ECS dysregulation, including multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).14
What this suggests for women’s gynecological health is that any reproductive issues they have that are related to a deficiency in endocannabinoids may also be benefitted by cannabis use and the absorption of cannabinoids.
Benefits of Cannabis for Menstruation Symptoms
Most women experience symptoms before and during their periods, including abdominal cramps, muscle aches, nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, and spasms. A growing number of women are using cannabis to address these symptoms, which can vary in intensity and sometimes be debilitating.
While research on cannabis’s effects on period pain are lacking, there is a solid body of evidence on the pain-relieving properties of cannabis. Cannabis has also demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects, which can contribute to lowering pain related to inflammation of the uterus. In some states, lawmakers and advocates are even pushing to add menstrual pain (dysmenorrhea) to the list of conditions that qualify for medical marijuana.
For women who suffer from endometriosis, cannabis may also offer relief. Findings in a small collection of studies reveal that the sometimes-disabling pain related to endometriosis can be eased with cannabis.11,12
Cannabis’s effectiveness for treating menstrual pain is likely related to cannabinoids and their interactions with the endocannabinoid system. Researchers have found that there are cannabinoid receptors located on many cells throughout the uterus, suggesting that the ECS plays a role in management of dysmenorrhea-related pain.12