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Most of us already know about the remarkable properties of cannabis for treating all sorts of medical conditions, from glaucoma to taking the edge off chemotherapy. What most of us don’t realize, however, is that cannabis has been shown to have promise for treating several conditions that are either unique to women or particularly prevalent among women.
Here are just some of the women’s health issues where cannabis has shown promise.
Women are particularly vulnerable to depression. Depression risks steadily increase as a woman ages, and women of all ages are twice as likely as men to be treated for depression. Hormonal fluctuations and menopause are the most likely cause of depressive disorders in older women, and as these are often unavoidable as one ages, this makes depression a particularly common and pressing issue.
Evidence points to medical cannabis as having a positive effect on women suffering from hormonal disorders. It works by leveling out the hormones, decreasing estrogen and improving one’s overall mood.
Mood swings in women are most often caused by fluctuations in hormone levels that naturally occur throughout the ovulation cycle. However, these fluctuations can often negatively impact a woman’s quality of life, especially if there is a tendency towards impulsive behavior or violence. Fortunately, these extreme mood swings only affect a small percentage of women. However, the small percentage that does experience it may find it difficult to hold down work or maintain relationships.
Cannabis can help ease these mood swings by leveling out hormone levels as well as by inducing a calming effect directly with its psychoactive effects. When used in moderation, cannabis can provide almost immediate and lasting relief from the negative effects of hormonally-induced mood swings.
Cannabis has long been used to ease symptoms of PMS. Evidence points to the use of cannabis and marijuana for treatment of PMS-related conditions before the advent of modern medicine. It’s likely that it has been used for this specific purpose for millennia.
We know today that cannabinoids are able to ease pain in general. However, they are especially effective at relieving menstrual cramps for a couple of reasons.
As found in the Pagano Study, the endocannabinoid receptors in your brain that are wired to accept cannabinoid such as THC go through some changes during parts of the menstrual cycle – particularly the oestrus and diostrus phases. During this time, some receptors can selectively inhibit cramps. This means cannabis can stop or reduce cramping directly while offering pain relief.
Endometriosis is a disease where uterine tissue grows outside of the uterine walls. It affects more than 1 out 10 women aged 15 to 44 years old in the United States. It can be extremely painful and is often accompanied by fertility and digestive issues.
Cannabis has a number of benefits for endometriosis sufferers that go well beyond just simple pain relief, though it also does that. It has been shown to alleviate digestive issues associated with endometriosis as well as ease the inflammation that leads to pain in endometriosis sufferers.
Additionally, a recent study “Endocannabinoid Involvement in Endometriosis,” found that the endocannabinoid system in our bodies that handles the reception of cannabinoids is involved in the uterine function in women. It offers the theory that the endocannabinoid system is, in fact, an evolutionary response to pain in uterine diseases and anomalies.\
As any long-time user might have believed or suspected, cannabinoid compounds have been shown to have properties linked with increasing sexual desire in both men and women. It’s been shown to reduce inhibitions as well as alleviate clitoral dysfunction in women as well as erectile dysfunction in men.
Both men and women report that cannabis has the marked effect of increasing libido while simultaneously men to last longer – which women will, of course, tend to appreciate. The lowered inhibitions may also be critical for helping some women achieving orgasm, which may otherwise be impossible otherwise.
Pain during penetrative intercourse is a fairly common issue, and cannabis has repeatedly shown promise in treating these kinds of problems. Cannabis has long been recognized for being an effective anti-inflammatory, and moderate use can prevent and relieve the pain associated with penetrative intercourse. Personal lubricants with cannabis compounds have also become more widely available in the market, giving couples yet another way to make intimate moments more fun and pain-free.
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Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) is a repetitive stress injury (RSI) that occurs when the nerves in the wrist’s narrow carpal tunnel are repeatedly impinged, causing swelling and sometimes extreme pain. It can render someone unable to type, play a musical instrument, or otherwise use their hands for anything requiring precision.
While it affects people of all genders, women are at higher risk for developing carpal tunnel syndrome as their wrists and carpal tunnels are generally smaller than men’s while the nerves are still relatively similar. The hormonal fluctuations of women during their menstrual cycle also make swelling around the carpal tunnel more likely.
There is evidence that medical cannabis has at least three benefits for female carpal tunnel syndrome sufferers. First, it relieves the immediate pain associated with CTS. Second, it levels off female hormone levels, preventing any excessive swelling from occurring that can pinch the tunnel and impinge on the nerves in the wrist. Third, cannabis acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory, directly reducing any swelling in the wrist without the need to resort to steroids or surgery.
Epilepsy is more or less just as common in men as in women. However, due to the wider variance of hormonal fluctuations in women, women with epilepsy are far more likely to suffer from the seizures and other symptoms commonly associated with the condition.
This is particularly true of catamenial epilepsy, a type of epilepsy where seizures are caused or exacerbated by fluctuations in hormone levels during menstruation, particularly spikes in estrogen and estradiol. This type of epilepsy can seriously impair a woman’s ability to live a good quality of life.
Cannabis is showing promise as a method for controlling these hormonal spikes, thus greatly reducing the chances of a woman suffering from epileptic seizures. It can be part of a routine during the riskiest periods of a menstrual cycle to further reduce risks.
It does not just level off hormones either. Cannabis also has the potential to be a highly effective anti-convulsant. In June 2018, FDA approved “Epidiolex” a drug that contains cannabidiol (CBD), and the first-ever drug derived from marijuana to treat epilepsy. It’s specifically used to treat Dravet Syndrome and Lennox-Gastaut Syndrome. A 63% and 66.7% reduction of symptoms over three months was observed.
These impressive results were further heightened when patients took Epidiolex with Clobazam. There is even evidence that cannabis may even protect the brain from neuron damage caused by epilepsy.
In the United States, diabetes affects about 1 in every 9 adult women, with an estimated 15 million women diagnosed and undiagnosed suffering from the deadly disease in 2017. There have been some arguments that the quality of life of diabetes sufferers has not improved significantly as compared with the quality of life of HIV sufferers, with some doctors even going as far as to say that they would rather have HIV than diabetes.
One area that has shown some promise for alleviating the worst symptoms of diabetes is medical cannabis research. A study by the American Alliance for Medical Cannabis (AAMC) has listed the following benefits for diabetes sufferers:
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Perhaps one of the most exciting areas for medical cannabis is for treating Alzheimer’s, which is much more prevalent in women than it is in men. Extremely strong correlations between medical cannabis and marijuana use and improvements in Alzheimer’s patients have been consistently observed across multiple studies.
New studies continue to show benefits for Alzheimer’s patients on cannabis. Not only does cannabis offer protection for nerve cells, but it can also remove toxic compounds that accumulate in them, preventing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. A study released in May 2018 definitely shows that cannabinoid compounds can decrease amyloid beta accumulation in nerve cells. This has implications for treating Alzheimer’s disease as amyloid beta accumulation is a major mechanism with how the disease spreads through the brain.
More research may be required before an FDA-approved drug based on cannabis is brought to market. Medical cannabis that’s smoked, ingested as edibles, or vaped has been shown to be effective at removing amyloid beta buildup. However, the exact mechanisms are not yet completely understood, though it may very well just be a matter of time.
Women are thrice as likely as men to be diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). It is an auto-immune disease that causes the body to attack its own cells, causing an extremely painful inflammation of the joints. This swelling can reduce joint flexibility and mobility, making it impossible to do tasks requiring fine motor functions.
As we discussed earlier, cannabis is a powerful, fast-acting anti-inflammatory. While there is no cure for RA, arthritis patients consistently report good results with cannabis for both relieving joint pain and for reducing the swelling that results from RA.
There is growing evidence that it may be used effectively for treating osteoarthritis for the same reasons as well. It’s likely we’ll soon see cannabis-derived medication specifically-made for the treatment of different forms of arthritis.
It’s a shame that cannabis has been vilified for so long in the mainstream medical community and that many of the benefits that have been attributed to it are only now being proven in today’s more enlightened environment.
As far as women’s health issues are concerned, medical cannabis has been definitively found to have benefits for many ailments that are unique to women, including menstrual cramps and endometriosis. It’s also highly likely that further research will show more areas where cannabis’s analgesic, anti-inflammatory, and hormone-leveling properties will be beneficial for women.
If you think medical cannabis is for you, please consult a doctor and check up on laws related to the use of cannabis in your area.
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