The complexities of the female body can be both daunting and mesmerizing. In the field of science, it has been common for clinical studies to be conducted on all male participants, as there are so many variables when observing the female body. As we shift into a new, more progressive time for medicine, there are more and more studies focusing on women’s health – specifically in regards to cannabis. Researchers are finding that cannabis effects women in a number of unique ways. It all starts with the nervous system… and a little bud.
The way bodies process cannabis is through our endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS plays a major role in the regulation of immune and nervous system responses. It is composed of a network of endocannabinoids (or neurotransmitters) that bind to cannabinoid receptors present throughout the mammalian central nervous system. The ECS regulates hormones related to reproductive functions as well as response to stress.
The female reproductive system and ECS are intricately linked. In fact, humans produce a number cannabinoids internally without the presence of exogenous cannabinoids (produced outside the body by plants). The greatest concentration of these is found in the brain. We have receptors throughout our bodies, in our glands, bones and organs, which can be stimulated by both endogenous cannabinoids and those we consume from cannabis. This aids in a number of immune system functions including: fertility, pregnancy, pre- and postnatal development, appetite, mood, memory and pain sensation.
This could mean that cannabis has the potential to soothe the body’s response to less than favorable symptoms of menstruation. In addition to its role in hormonal systems, both THCA and CBD have been well studied for their anti-inflammatory effects. CBD has also been shown to have the ability to help regulate muscle spasming in the body. Though it hasn’t been directly examined, it’s possible these effects could play a role in management of cramping and swelling during menstruation.
Think of a period cramp as a muscle spasm similar to when you flex a muscle. CBD does not hinder this process, but rather aids in cellular restoration and calms the intensity of the spasm by regulating nervous system responses. Instead of numbing the body to the spasms and swelling like some over-the-counter medications, cannabinoids will help regulate so only beneficial acute inflammation occurs, empowering the body to flow through its process as needed.
A study released in the Journal of Biological Chemistry suggests that the CB2 receptor within the ECS is associated with protecting the skeleton against age-related bone loss. This could be monumental in treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis (1). In addition to cannabis’ role in mood stability, this could be an ideal treatment for women coping with symptoms of menopause.
Although there are many benefits of cannabis for women’s health, it is important to understand there may be potential risks to reproductive health when consuming cannabis regularly. There is still little evidence to support whether or not long term consumption of cannabis can permanently affect fertility. However, studies suggest that cannabis can disrupt hypothalamic release of gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH), leading to reduced estrogen and progesterone production and anovulatory menstrual cycles (2).
This hormonal modification could play a role in how cannabis affects women in terms of tolerance. When levels of estrogen are higher in the body, there is an increased sensitivity to cannabinoids like THC, making for much stronger psychoactive effects. On the contrary, higher levels of progesterone decrease sensitivity. Each woman’s body is unique in the production of hormones and how they react to cannabinoids. With your ECS balancing such a sensitive system, it is difficult to generalize these effects, as we are still learning each day about how cannabis interacts with the body.
Every woman could benefit from their own unique cannabinoid diet. For emotional stress taking a higher dose of CBD (200 mg+) using a sublingual or edible product will do wonders. Topicals infused with THCA and CBD are excellent for targeted treatment for physiological discomfort. The more frequently a topical is applied, the more bioavailable the cannabinoids will become as your skin soaks it in. By applying the cannabinoids directly to your skin, you are allowing them to flow into your system to interact with the ECS local to where you have treated. There are a number of bath products on the market now perfect for deep penetration. Soaking in a warm bath infused with cannabinoids can help target pain throughout the whole body, which may be ideal for women experiencing symptoms of endometriosis, arthritis or osteoporosis. Most importantly, you should always consult a medical professional before mixing and matching cannabis with your medicine routine, as they will be able to guide you on the path towards safe and effective cannabis options.
This female plant has so much to offer to the female body. No wonder it’s been used for centuries in women’s health. We have just begun to observe the possibilities of what cannabis has to offer to women, scientifically speaking. As more doors open for cannabis research, we will be able to unveil truths about this plant and how powerful it can be in the hands of women.
SOURCE (2): https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27354844
Courtney Maltais is a microbiologist and co-founder of The Clear, a pharmaceutical grade cannabis concentrate company established in 2013. Maltais has a passion for educational-outreach within the cannabis space, and is a member of the NCIA’s Scientific Advisory Committee. She has worked with industry leaders in both cultivation and manufacturing with a focus on using science and technology to build an ethical, innovative, and sustainable industry.