First off, I want to say I’m not a doctor. The beauty of cannabis is that you don’t need a doctor. Cannabis is a nontoxic medicine.
Moderate use of cannabis has not been shown to have any negative health risks. All of the health risks around cannabis are with heavy use or chronic use. Safe, moderate use of cannabis has many benefits, including for women’s health.
I’ve made it my life to explain the benefits of cannabis because we’re trying to reduce symptoms, increase quality of life, and reduce medication for people who don’t want it. If you feel nervous about cannabis or you’re wondering about cannabis versus conventional medical approaches, research the drug that’s already available for your ailment – whether it’s pain, menstrual cramps, endometriosis, or bone loss such as osteoporosis – then compare the side effects of those medications with how cannabis can affect that same symptom or issue.
My approach is always to go with the safest medication – the safest approach to healing. Often, that’s cannabis.
Women have a uterus. Men don’t. This is a major difference when it comes to our endocannabinoid systems. This is the largest cell feedback system in our bodies, and it was not discovered until the 1990s when scientists started looking into what cannabis does in the body. Researchers unearthed this really complex system that releases chemicals that are already in the body. We call them cannabinoids – as in cannabis – because the cannabis plant produces chemicals that mimic the chemicals in our system.
It’s really fascinating. They are most concentrated in the uterus.
Anandamide is a chemical that is equivalent to THC, which is the active chemical in cannabis that gets you high. Anandamide is our endogenous chemical that we produce, and it’s very active at certain times during the menstrual cycle. During ovulation, when females need to be fertile, anandamide goes down. When the uterus is sloughing off old cells and pain is increased, anandamide is way up. Basically, this is why women often respond really well to THC during period cramps – because it helps with pain. We have so many receptors for anandamide (and therefore THC) in the uterus that it can aid with pain.
A fascinating study was done on mice where they injected extremely high doses of THC into the mouse and caused a termination of the pregnancy. What this means is that when anandamide levels are extremely high, it can terminate pregnancy because it’s initiating the sloughing off of cells. This is another conservative reminder that older women who’ve already had children or are not worried about fertility can benefit from bringing anandamide or THC into their system because it can help with that pain during the cycle.
Cannabinoids also regulate hormones
Cannabinoids also regulate hormones. Hormones are involved in affecting pain throughout women’s bodies. There is a huge regulatory and balancing act that’s happening in the system all the time. Cannabinoids seek to bring that into balance.
Another major issue in women’s health is endometriosis. This is a disease where tissue that’s supposed to be inside the uterus actually forms on the outside. It can be very painful. They’re essentially tumors on the uterus. Cannabinoids have been shown to reduce tumors and to decrease pain. Endometriosis and cannabinoids are a very simple one-to-one relationship in terms of something one might try to alleviate pain and reduce the symptoms of endometriosis. Evidence shows that the endocannabinoid system is very active in regulating endometriosis.
There are a lot of conventional medications trying to combat endometriosis, but they can have a lot of side effects. I think it’s a very conservative first step to try CBD (the decaf, non-psychoactive version of cannabis) or THC if you live in a legal state where you can access it.
I believe science is really important. Empirical medical knowledge is really important. But I also believe in an empathic approach to care. We need to actually show empathy and utilize some of the other traditional approaches to medicine that may not be as scientific but are just as important. One of these aspects in Chinese medicine is called “yin,” which is the more feminine side of things. It’s nurturing. It’s providing a safe, calm, and comfortable space.
This is what I try to do in my practice, and we need to have cannabis dispensaries making women feel comfortable and teaching them about the medicinal aspects of cannabis – not just about smoking pot. When we understand how to use cannabis medicinally, our communities will benefit.