Women’s wellness is a term that’s only just coming to the forefront of medical discussion and has, until now, been largely dismissed. It’s now apparent that the kind of cramps that keep you in bed all day or make your head spin in the middle of your work day are not something to grin and bear - they’re something to look into and treat. While not all bad menstrual cramps are caused by something sinister, more and more women are being diagnosed with endometriosis - 700,000 women in Australia to date, in fact. But what is Endometriosis (‘endo’) and what does cannabis have to do with it?
Endometriosis is when ‘endometrium’ (tissue that usually grows on the inside of the uterus) grows outside of the uterus - usually on the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Because it’s the same stuff that lives inside the uterus, it acts the same and bleeds in sync with the menstrual cycle. Ouch. The list of complications endo can cause is long, but to make a long story short it causes women a lot of pain. While there are some treatments such as laparoscopic surgery and hormonal medications that can help deal with some of the pain, it's familiar for women to suffer daily with no reduction in symptoms. In some women, the pain carries on long after their menstrual cycle has finished and will inevitably be with them for a good part of their life. Luckily, our favourite plant (cannabis!) can play a big part in helping them.
Plant-based medicine, in particular cannabis, can help alleviate several symptoms of endo - and have actually been used for centuries. Currently, research is scarce, but growing and the topic shows a LOT of promise with successful case studies emerging more frequently.
How did we first make the link between endometriosis treatment and cannabis?
If we take a look back in time, there is plenty of evidence to suggest that many women in all cultures were utilising the benefits of cannabis to help reduce the side effects of the menstrual cycle. Queen Victoria was famously known to have terrible menstrual pains and used cannabis tinctures to help relax muscles and manage side effects.
Egyptians and women from the roman empire are all said to have used cannabis for everything from easing the pains of childbirth to reducing period cramps. There seems to be a body of evidence mounting and enough history that proves cannabis to be the most effective - and original - pain relief for women.
How does Cannabis help treat endometriosis?
Recent research suggests that changes to the endocannabinoid system in women that have endometriosis could be extremely positive. What we already know is that the uterus is abundant in cb1 and cb2 receptors - making therapy and treatment via cannabinoids a very attractive option.
Endometriosis causes a variety of symptoms and complications, the main struggle being intense and chronic pain. Using Cannabinoids to regulate the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) shows promise in alleviating pain by both dealing to inflammation (one cause of endo pain) and the pain management itself. But, another and lesser considered way to combat endo pains with Cannabis is via the psychological factors. You might already have read up on the brain’s incredible ability to influence physical feelings and reactions just by thinking. Women battling with endo commonly experience anxiety in the form of ‘pain catastrophising’ - an exaggerated negative response in anticipation of pain which can in fact (thanks brain) amplify the pain experience. It is here that we turn to cannabinoids providing axiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects.
Less big words from now on, promise.
Here’s how cannabis can be practically used to manage Endometriosis.
What type of cannabis should you take? When dosing for any indication, the standard rule is always to start low and go slow. Cannabis products come in many different shapes and sizes, and for women's wellness, some products will do a better job than others. There are three types of cannabis-derived products that may help (separate or together) with managing Endo. Those three are; CBD, THC and Terpenes.
THC cannabis products can help alleviate symptoms of pain, but there is care required when it comes to dosing. THC products can be potent and will indeed provide a psychoactive effect if taken in high doses. Only small doses of 10mg should be considered and dosed in stages. CBD, on the other hand, will not provide any psychoactive effect and can help with a wide range of indications and is especially useful for inflammation and reducing sore muscles and joints. When dosing CBD for women's wellness around 50mg of CBD and upwards will have noticeable effects.
How to take CBD for endo:
- CBD transdermal patches are a great way to receive a certain amount of cannabinoids directly to the bloodstream.
- High CBD, Low THC tincture. Using a concentrated form of cannabis such as a full-plant extract will help deliver the cannabinoids in the correct ratios you need.
- CBD topical cream. Rubbing a topical ointment onto the skin can help reduce inflammation and send cannabinoids directly to a localised part of the body.
How to take Terpenes for endo:
When you can’t get access to THC or CBD - or just want to start a little more gently - Terpenes are the safe and legal way to go. Terpenes have been medically researched and are clinically proven to help in reducing inflammation, pain and anxiety, to name a few. Terpenes are best delivered in a tincture - carried by Hemp Seed Oil - orally.
Specific Terpenes to look for when treating Endometriosis:
Myrcene Terpene is one of our personal favourites. It’s anti-inflammatory, analgesic and axiolytic (anti-anxiety) - offering a solution to the inflammation, subsequent pain and psychological amplification of endometriosis. Also aiding to combat these symptoms is Limonene Terpene - an anti-depressant and anti-inflammatory, Linalool Terpene - with anti-anxiety properties, and Caryophyllene Terpenes - strong analgesics and anti-inflammatories.
Terpenes are best served in a ‘tincture’, blending the perfect combination of two or more terpenes to specifically target symptoms.