Unlike the 25-34 year-old, majority male customers who frequent marijuana dispensaries, my client base tends to be the opposite demographic. I see and advise a majority of female clients who are of middle or advanced age and who are often hoping to puzzle out their various ailments in a non-toxic or natural way. Many of the women I guide in their use of CBD and THC are pari or post-menopausal. Some are dealing with pain, symptoms of pain from Lyme disease, Fibromyalgia, or hormone imbalance and mood issues, or a combination of all of the above. Although pharmaceuticals and conventional treatments have brought life extension and balanced health to millions of women, it does not solve all the problems, ailments, and symptoms that manifest differently in every individual. And many of those who suffer are looking for an alternative to pharmaceuticals and invasive treatments. They realize that conventional medicine is there if necessary, but they are looking for agency and empowerment in their health. I believe medical marijuana in the form of properly formulated THC and CBD can empower female patients.
CBD and Menopause and Hormonal Regulation
As women transition into later adulthood, hormonal changes, osteoporosis, and the stress of being a modern adult take its toll on the body. Whether the women you know are pro-cannabis or not, they have chemicals flowing in their body right now that are mimicked by the compounds in cannabis in what is called the endocannabinoid system (ECS.) According to a study seeking to explain the relationship between women’s endocannabinoid system and hormones it concluded that,
“the female reproductive system and ECS are intricately linked. Hormonal fluctuations throughout the menstrual cycle and pregnancy lead to changes in the expression of the cannabinoid receptors, endocannabinoids, and their associated synthetic and metabolic enzymes in the brain, ovaries, oviducts, uterus and in circulation.”
For women seeking to counteract the symptoms of osteoporosis, the results of another study are telling. “It appears that the main physiologic involvement of CB2 [the receptor for cannabidiol (CBD)] is associated with… protecting the skeleton against age-related bone loss. Indeed, in humans… the gene encoding CB2, are strongly associated with postmenopausal osteoporosis.” Thus, hormone issues and osteoporosis—two issues that pharmaceutical companies spend billions developing drugs for—could be helped and regulated by natural cannabinoids such as THC and CBD that are found in a plant readily grown at home.
Although more research is needed, it is not hard to conclude that delivering exogenous (external cannabinoids created by the cannabis plant) to the system could affect hormonal fluctuations and therefore address the accompanying symptoms. And since it is generally understood that the ECS is a system regulator , one could hypothesize that using cannabis could help regulate the hormonal system and bone health during difficult times such as during menstruation or menopause. (It’s also important to note that because women’s brains are fully developed by 30 years old, experimenting conservatively with cannabis to alleviate the symptoms of hormone imbalance or bone-loss is a non-toxic and safer alternative to some drugs.)
Another interesting study in the British Journal of Pharmacology found that the CB1 receptor (which is responsible for interacting with THC, the psychoactive constituent of cannabis,) is a modulator of hormone health. The study concludes that the,
“CB1 receptor is expressed in the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland, and its activation is known to modulate all the endocrine hypothalamic-peripheral endocrine axes. An increasing amount of data highlights the role of the system in the stress response by influencing the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and in the control of reproduction by modifying gonadotropin release, fertility, and sexual behavior.”
To be clear, I am not a doctor. I am a cannabis practitioner. I am not recommending that women go out and start smoking marijuana because they are getting hot flashes, symptoms of anxiety and depression, stress, or PMS. THC and even CBD can increase anxiety in some users so it’s important to be informed (and consult your physician) before you experiment with cannabis in addressing these symptoms. But I have heard first-hand accounts from many women who have tried THC and CBD and attest to how much better they feel with the proper dose at the proper time in their cycle. Many older women have also experimented with cannabis in their youth so they may be comfortable with trying cannabis again in a medicinal form such as CBD tinctures or micro-dosing THC.
Many women who are experiencing symptoms related to hormonal balance or bone health are already taking prescription pharmaceuticals to address their symptoms. Ironically, according to Dr. Ross of the Holistic Cannabis Academy, adverse side-effects are the main reason why women stop osteoporosis drugs. If the pills work then that is another woman who can keep up with her life, her job, her children, her grandchildren, and the daily stress of being an adult. But if the drugs don’t work, or if the side-effects of the pills are unacceptable, women need to explore other options. Many of the women coming to me for medical marijuana help and education are also seeking health empowerment and natural solutions to their issues. When I explain to them that they have an ECS, a natural system in place in their bodies that responds to the regulating effects of THC and CBD, they feel hopeful that cannabis might help them regain agency in their health.
I was a faculty at a school for pregnant and parenting moms for over a decade. I found that when my students felt empowered, healthy, and free from pharmaceutical side-effects, they did better in school, were better moms, and better students! We like to know that doctors and conventional medicine is there when we need it, but using a non-toxic plant to reduce pharmaceutical intake and invasive treatments is often the morale booster (or anti-depressant?) many women need. But this isn’t the only form of regulation that cannabinoids have been found to perform. The above study also found that, “endocannabinoids are important modulators in the physiological response of [hormones] during repetitive stress conditions and in pathological conditions, such as anxiety, phobias, depression, and posttraumatic stress disorders”.
Confirming scientific evidence for the role of the ECS and its regulation of body mass, the study also states that, “the relevance of the [ECS] is further strengthened by the notion that drugs interfering with the activity of the endocannabinoid system are considered as promising candidates for the treatment of various diseases, including obesity.”
THC or CBD for Women’s Health
I believe many patients, and the practitioners who care for them have a healthy skepticism of the medicinal benefits of cannabis because it just seems too good to be true. How can the compounds in a plant possibly help with hormone balance, bone health, as well as obesity, let alone neurotoxicity or stroke prevention? Although our scientific understanding is still catching up with the evidence, the layman’s answer is straight-forward; cannabinoids are system regulators. They are like social workers or first-responders who seem to recognize when the behavior of cells is out of balance and thus seeks to bring it back to homeostasis. We rarely question why a first responder can fight a fire, resuscitate a victim, and save a cat stuck in a tree. It’s just what fire-fighters do. Firefighters are analogous to THC. They can work, but they can also have side-effects. Just as a fire-fighter may need to break a window or hose an apartment down, THC can also make the user cognitively-impaired, trigger anxiety, or create unwanted sedation. On the other hand, I think of CBD as analogous to a social-worker. CBD is a gentle compound that tones or trains our own system to seek balance. If a woman is nervous or anxious about trying THC, then CBD is a reasonable and conservative first step into medical marijuana.
But walking into a medical marijuana dispensary and asking for something that will regulate hormone function is not simple. Each person’s ECS is unique and therefore, it requires a unique remedy as well as unique frame-of-reference for how, why, when, and how much CBD or THC to take. I find that my clients who I work with one-on-one, whose ailments and disease pathology I understand, whose lifestyle and stress triggers I’ve mapped out, have better success with plant cannabinoids such as THC and CBD. My suggestions are not magic bullets for all of my clients. Some have ailments or an internal resistance to CBD and THC that prevents them from benefitting. Others merely feel stoned or groggy on the compounds and discontinue use. Whether it’s positive or negative data, my main goal is to devise systems that work for my clients. My name in Hebrew literally means “help” and I am truly passionate about helping the women in my community have agency in their health so they can better contribute to society.
So, with the above evidence as inspiration for trying cannabinoids, what is the best way to use them in order to get their hormone and health regulating benefits? Let’s assume you live in a state or country without access to medical marijuana. You will want to try CBD as it is produced by certified hemp farmers. (In my case they are organic farmers living in Holland and Israel.) I have found that just like medical marijuana strains, CBD from different sources does seem to have different effects for users. This does not mean that one type of CBD is good and another is bad. It just means that one may work for one patient in a different way than another strain might work.
The simplest way to experiment with CBD is in a liquid “tincture” form. My CBD comes in oil infusions and alcohol/glycerin infusions. Since our tissues are oil or “lipid” based, and organic oils such as coconut or olive oil are lipid-based, as well as cannabinoid resin, then when you deliver cannabinoids via an oil medium, the idea is that cannabinoids will be delivered deeper into the cells and tissues. For a woman managing hormone issues, I would suggest a daily maintenance dose of about 20-30mg a day as well as the occasionally 10-20 dose as-needed for flare-ups. CBD seems to build up in its effectiveness over time so I suggest users follow a trial or course of CBD so that they can build it up in the system over 3-4 weeks and assess its efficacy after it has had the chance to ‘tone’ or train the cells to become regulated on their own.
I would also suggest that sufferers explore using a vaporizer. This is a way to heat the oil into a vaper and inhale it into the lungs for rapid delivery into the blood stream and brain. This could be helpful for anxious episodes, or pain and other symptom flare-ups. I have had many clients use CBD and THC successfully in topical applications as well. A topical application to the temples may help with headaches. Applied to the belly could help with cramps and indigestion. Applied to the limbs might help with neuropathic pain.
The important thing is to have a good understanding of how CBD might work for you, to be conservative and patient in your use of it, and to seek advice from health practitioner or cannabis consultant in order to get the most benefit from this amazing, plant-based cell regulator.