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Why cannabis could play a vital role in women’s health

Millions of women in the UK are living with symptoms, which could be helped by medical cannabis.

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Women's health

Millions of women in the UK are living with debilitating physical and mental health symptoms, many of which could be helped by medical cannabis.

It’s no secret that the current medical system has generally failed women.

Last year a Government inquiry uncovered that serious medical conditions were commonly dismissed as “women’s problems”, contributing to a string of healthcare scandals over several decades.

The UK government is now launching a review in an attempt to better understand women’s experiences of the modern healthcare system, including how pain is treated, which it says will create the first-ever government-led Women’s Health Strategy. 

Womens health: A banner advert for The Medical Cannabis Clinics

It’s hardly surprising that research has found increasing numbers of women looking for alternative options, from yoga and acupuncture, to medical cannabis.

Many women have found that the rebalancing of their endocannabinoid system can be helpful in the management of conditions ranging from endometriosis, bladder and nerve pain, gynaecological pain and PMS to mental health conditions such as anxiety, insomnia and depression.

But we need more research, specifically focused on the impact of cannabinoids in women.

Here’s what we know so far.

Menopause

According to the British Menopause Society (BMS), menopausal symptoms affect more than 75 per cent of women and last an average of seven years. These include low mood, anxiety, depression, insomnia, low libido, poor memory and brain fog, which can all have a huge impact on a woman’s quality of life.

A recent study found that one in every three women near the menopause transition uses cannabis for symptom management. Dr Dani Gordon has successfully treated many women experiencing menopausal symptoms with cannabinoids, which help to rebalance the hormones. 

She said: “We have cannabinoid receptors in our womb, in our uterus, throughout our female reproductive tract, and also in the brain area, the hypothalamus that deals with the stress response. When we introduce a high-CBD during the day and then a little bit of THC to help people sleep at night, the perimenopausal symptom clusters respond well to this in the majority of cases.”

Period Pain and PMS

As many as three in four women suffer from mild premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms in the weeks leading up to their period, with the most common cycle-related issues being two-fold – both mental, including anxiety and mood swings, and physical, such as cramps and headaches caused by a fluctuation in hormones.

Medical cannabis can help with both elements. Low mood, depression, anxiety and stress are all linked to low serotonin levels and by interacting with the serotonin receptors in our brain, cannabis may be able to regulate mood and promote happier feelings. On top of this, many people report that cannabis is an effective painkiller, with its anti-inflammatory properties and ability to desensitise pain receptors around the body.

Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a debilitating condition, where cells similar to the ones in the lining of the womb are found elsewhere in the body, causing a wide range of symptoms including painful and heavy periods, fatigue and bladder and digestive problems and potential infertility.

Despite around 1.5 million women in the UK living with the condition, it takes an average of seven years for them to be diagnosed.

While research is still in its infancy, increasingly women are finding medical cannabis helpful for managing their symptoms. Women with the condition are thought to have fewer cannabinoid receptors in their pelvis, meaning their body isn’t equipped with the tools that would normally prevent the growth of aberrant cells and destroy them. 

Studies have shown that when certain cannabinoid receptors are activated (either by the body’s endocannabinoids or THC found in cannabis) this could prevent cells from multiplying, while compounds such as CBD may stop the cells from migrating. 

Pelvic pain

Thousands of women in the UK are thought to suffer from pelvic pain – a cover-all term that can range from chronic low level, to agonising pain, felt by women that arises from the pelvic area. It can have a massive impact upon the individual’s ability to engage in pain free sexual intercourse and can cause great psychological suffering and depression. 

The current pain management strategies for pelvic pain focus mainly on medical treatments such as hormonal therapy, pain medicines or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or surgical re-sectioning. 

But Dr Sally Ghazaleh, a pain management consultant at Integro Clinics says her patients have found success with cannabis medicines, she commented: “Patients stated that as well as reducing pain, they felt that medical cannabis considerably decreased gastrointestinal symptoms, sleep problems, feelings of depression and anxiety. Most importantly an appreciable number reported they were able to reduce some of their traditional medication.”

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Women's health

Study: Can cannabis help you have better sex?

Those who use cannabis regularly may have better orgasms and over sexual function.

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can cannabis help you have better sex

Cannabis consumption may improve sexual function, arousal, and orgasm, according to a new study.

Young people who use cannabis frequently may have better orgasms and overall sexual function, findings from a new observational study have revealed.

A team of researchers in Spain examined impact of alcohol and cannabis on sexual function in 274 men and women, aged 18 to 30 years old.

Sixty eight per cent of participants identified as female, while 32 per cent identified as male. 

women's health: A banner advert for The Medical Cannabis Clinics

The study analysed the effects using three commonly used surveys, designed to identify alcohol and cannabis use disorders, as well as changes to a person’s sexual functioning, Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, Cannabis Abuse Screening Test (CAST), and Changes in Sexual Functioning Questionnaire Short-Form. 

The findings revealed a higher score in sexual function, as well as arousal and orgasm, in participants who were identified as being “high risk” of having cannabis-related problems and addiction associated with alcohol consumption. 

Sexual function and arousal was found to be generally higher among heavy consumers compared to non-consumers, which the authors have indicated could be linked to the lesser feelings of anxiety and shame, as a result of the effects of cannabis.

There was no significant difference in results between men and women, indicating that young people who use cannabis frequently, regardless of gender, have better overall sexual function.

These results are consistent with previous findings involving 216 people, who used cannabis to improve their sexual experience.

Researchers concluded: “Sexual function is improved in young people who are high-risk cannabis consumers with a moderate risk of alcohol use, resulting in increased desire, arousal, and orgasm. This improvement is usually associated with a reduction in anxiety and shame, which facilitates sexual relationships.”

Women’s sexual wellness

Previous findings have also suggested that cannabis may increase sexual desire and orgasm intensity. 

But while this study has revealed positive effects on both genders, others have focused on the role it could play in improving sexual wellbeing in women.

Its effects are thought to help relieve discomfort in women, particularly those with gynaecological conditions such as endometriosis, leading to a more enjoyable experience.

In a study of almost 400 women in 2019, most reported increases in sex drive, improvement in orgasm and a decrease in pain after consuming cannabis, and concluded that cannabis “appears to improve satisfaction with orgasm”.

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Women's health

Why three quarters of endometriosis patients still access medical cannabis illegally

72 per cent of Australian and 88 per cent of New Zealand patients reported self-administering cannabis.

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High levels of medical cannabis use have been recorded among endometriosis patients.

Three quarters of endometriosis patients who access medical cannabis still do so illicitly, according to new findings from Australia. 

A new study from researchers in Australia has revealed that three quarters of endometriosis patients who reported using medical cannabis, access it via the legacy market. 

Researchers exploring the role of medical cannabis in the treatment of endometriosis say that while many patients report positive outcomes for cannabis in managing symptoms of the condition, many are using it without their doctor’s supervision.

ENDOMETRIOSIS: WOMEN'S HEALTH BANNER

Endometriosis is a complex and difficult to manage condition, affecting one in 10 women in the UK. 

It occurs when the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) grows outside of the uterine cavity in other areas of the body, most frequently involving the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and pelvic lining, however it can affect any of the organs in the body.

The primary symptoms are pelvic pain before and during menstruation, pain during sexual intercourse, nausea, fatigue, and infertility. 

High levels of medical cannabis use have been recorded among endometriosis patients, with many reporting its efficacy in reducing pain and other symptoms, including sleep, nausea and vomiting.

The findings

Researchers led by Justin Sinclair surveyed over 200 patients with an endometriosis diagnosis in Australia and New Zealand, to examine legal versus illicit cannabis use, their understanding of access and their interactions with healthcare professionals. 

Results showed that 72 per cent of Australian and 88 per cent of New Zealand patients reported self-administering cannabis illicitly.

Only 23 per cent of Australian and six per cent New Zealand respondents accessed cannabis through a doctor’s prescription, despite it being available legally in the countries. 

In addition, around 20 per cent reported not disclosing their use of cannabis to their doctor, citing concern over “legal repercussions”, “societal judgment”, or their “doctors’ reaction and presumed unwillingness to prescribe” medical cannabis. 

Researchers stated that the potential consequences of using cannabis without medical supervision were of  “particular concern” and recommended the need for improvements in doctor and patient communication.

They concluded: “While evidence for a substantial substitution effect by cannabis was demonstrated in these data, of particular concern are the clinical consequences of using cannabis without medical supervision, particularly with regard to drug interactions and the tapering or cessation of certain medications without that supervision. 

“Improving doctor and patient communication about MC use may improve levels of medical oversight, the preference for legal MC adoption over acquisition via illicit supply and reducing cannabis-associated stigma.”

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What is the best way to take CBD for period pain?

There is nothing worse than struggling with PMS symptoms during a busy day.

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Periods: A row of CBD tamp

We examine the best way to take CBD during your period to target the different symptoms such as cramps, muscle pain, sleeplessness and acne.

There is nothing worse than needing to get through a busy day while struggling with period pain.

There are many different ways to take CBD for period pain from oils to edibles. However, are some more effective than others?. While taking an oil or edible does work, there are plenty of alternative options out there. We examine what methods could work best for cramps, sleeplessness or even acne.

Period: A cup of CBD hot chocolate

CBD hot chocolate: best for comfort

Chocolate is a very normal craving to have during your period. The sugar, fat and carbohydrate content increases our serotonin which is responsible for feelings of well-being.

Period cravings usually start within the seven to ten days before your period starts along with all the other PMS symptoms such as bloating or acne. While there is nothing wrong with having a big slab of chocolate if your body is craving it, why not try mixing it up with a hot drink?

It’s not all bad as dark chocolate can contain anti-oxidants and minerals that the body needs. Hot drinks can help to relax tense or sore muscles too. These drinks are usually infused with nanoparticles of CBD which are absorbed by the body. Although, there is very little research to suggest how much is absorbed this way.

It can be fun to experiment by adding a drop (or two) of your own oil into a drink. However, oil and water don’t mix so you may notice the CBD sitting on top of the drink. It can still be absorbed this way though or alternatively, water-soluble CBD is also sold.

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CBD patches: best for cramps

CBD patches are great for targeting the exact area that is experiencing pain. They can be left on overnight too meaning they won’t wear off after a few hours as oil or tinctures might. A slow, steady release of CBD is absorbed into the system meaning you can go to work without worrying.

A case study and literature review from 2020 suggests that CBD patches may be helpful for decreasing inflammation and blocking pain for patients recovering from back or nerve pain.

CBD bath bombs: best for cramps and lower back pains

Muscle aches and tension can be a common symptoms of pre-menstrual tension (PMT) leading to pain. The uterus contacts when getting ready to expel its lining. It is triggered by hormones that give it the signal to start the contractions. While most people with periods experience cramps, some may experience them severely especially those with endometriosis or pelvic pain.

Some people may find a hot bath helps to relax and soothe cramps. It can also help if the pain is keeping you awake at night. CBD bath bombs work in a similar way to topical creams or lotions. The CBD is absorbed through the skin. They also release fragrant essential oils which help with relaxation.

Terpenes, which give plants their smell, can also boost the effects of CBD. Linalool, the terpene in lavender would be a great choice for a bath bomb to help with sleep or relaxation. While alpha-bisabolol and chamazulene are terpenes found in chamomile that have similar effects.

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Periods: A row of tampons on a blue background

CBD tampons: best for direct application

Okay, hear us out on this one!

Vaginal absorption is one of the fastest ways to get a dose of CBD into the system. The walls of the vagina (the mucous membranes) absorb the CBD immediately into the bloodstream where it can get to work. So if you are feeling the effects and need a fast fix, then tampons may be a good option.

For those who may not want to or cannot insert a tampon, there are different topicals that can be applied in intimate areas. It may cause irritation to use your normal CBD oil or products that have not been designed for that area. Alternatively, CBD suppositories also work in both the vagina and anus.

The usual rules about changing tampons regularity still apply with the CBD versions. Toxic shock can still occur despite CBD’s antibacterial properties.

CBD skincare: best for acne

Our skin changes during our period and starts to become more oily. Sebum is natural oil produced by our bodies that increases during our cycle. Excess sebum, dirt and bacteria can build up to block pores creating acne or breakouts.

A study on women with oily skin showed that there was an increase in sebum during the week leading up to menstruation and the first week of their period. This then decreased to its lowest level during the second week of their menstrual cycle.

CBD is thought to have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties which may help to reduce the risk of infection or the severity of a breakout. Studies also show it may help to control sebum production meaning it is less oily.
There are a lot of different beauty products on the market containing CBD or hemp seed oil. It is worth examining the label of different products as some mislabel hemp oil as CBD although it contains none.

Period: A subscription banner for cannabis health news

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