Treat yourself like a Queen
Cannabis and the female body
Have you ever felt like royalty when you’re using cannabis? Maybe you will after reading this. In the 1890’s, Queen Victoria was given cannabis tincture every month to treat her menstrual cramps. Her doctor even called it “one of the most valuable medicines we possess.” Since then, cannabis has been demonized and many of its medicinal properties forgotten. Now, in the information age, we’re finally beginning to understand its incredible range of benefits, and in particular, the benefits it offers women.
In the past, females were excluded or underrepresented in both clinical and preclinical studies. In the last decade, clinical research has paid more attention to female patients, although females are still underrepresented. In the last two decades, both animal and human studies on cannabis have revealed important sex-related differences in hormone and neurotransmitter functions. However much more research is required to fully understand these differences and how to address them from a medical standpoint.
Some of the important distinctions we have been able to draw from this research includes some major benefits and some serious risks that are important to be aware of.
Cannabis is not a miracle drug and always presents risks. Women can develop a tolerance for cannabis more quickly than men and they are prone to experiencing worse withdrawal symptoms, including sleep disturbance, lack of appetite and irritability. There is some research that suggests women may be prone to more noticeable short-term memory impairment, and symptoms of depression and anxiety. And the research suggests, and I can confirm from my experience with female patients, that dizziness is a very common reaction for women.
The key to any successful cannabis treatment, as I feel compelled to mention in most of my articles, is to use a small amount. Many of the negative effects and experiences that are associated with cannabis could potentially be averted by taking less. Remember to start low and go slow.
As Queen Victoria would tell you, it’s during the menstrual cycle that cannabis offers many of its unique benefits to women. One of the major factors concerning how cannabis interacts with women’s bodies is the hormone, estrogen. Simply, higher estrogen levels appear to make women more sensitive to the effects of cannabis. When estrogen levels peak and begin to fall, a day or two before ovulation, women will experience the strongest effects from cannabis. This means that less cannabis is needed to achieve the same result.
Women can experience as much as 30% more pain relief from cannabis compared to men, easing back pain, breast tenderness, abdominal pain, cramps and headaches. In addition to estrogen levels, this increased pain relief may also have to do with body fat distribution and metabolism; it’s been shown in rodent studies that females more readily convert the cannabinoid, THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), which provides pain relief and muscle relaxation, into 11-Hydroxy-THC, which is a metabolite that is more easily absorbed into the bloodstream and is a more potent form of THC. Importantly, the other key cannabinoid in cannabis, CBD (Cannabidiol), provides great pain relief as well, due to its anti-inflammatory effects.
Pain relief isn’t the only benefit that cannabis may offer women. Using small amounts of cannabis can also improve mood, due to the mood-lifting and potential antidepressant effects of CBD. This may be of particular use during the luteal phase of the menstruation cycle when the body is preparing to shed uterine tissue, and those with Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) or Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD) can experience some of their worst emotional ups and downs.
Diarrhea and gastrointestinal (GI) distress may not be the most queenly problem to talk about, but it is undoubtedly a part of the menstrual cycle for many women and queens alike. As previously mentioned, the cannabinoids in cannabis have muscle relaxing and anti-inflammatory effects, and they also may provide bowel regulation. Both THC and CBD have been shown to have potential benefits for the digestive system: regulating appetite, reducing nausea and vomiting, and improving GI movement, among other benefits.
In addition to helping relieve pain, improving mood, and potentially regulating the GI tract, cannabis can also be used to greatly reduce stress. The THC in cannabis can have great relaxation benefits, but most notably the CBD offers powerful anti-anxiety effects in addition to being non-psychoactive (meaning it won’t get you high), unlike THC. This decrease in stress, and more specifically a decrease in the cortisol (the “stress hormone”) in the body, can lead to many improvements in quality of life.
Interestingly, cortisol reduces collagen production in the body. Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies and is vital for the strength and elasticity of skin, tendons, and bone. So, reducing stress with cannabis and reducing the cortisol in our bodies may have positive effects on the look and feel of our skin and the strength of our bones and tissue; a beauty secret even the Queen may not have been aware of herself.
As early as 2000 BC, tonics with hemp seed, saffron, mint and beer were used to ease child- birth. And in 1596 a medical text listed cannabis to help with menstruation. So it’s not just Queen Victoria who had this figured out, but this powerful treatment has been known for a very long time; we simply decided to “forget” it in favour of others. Does that mean that cannabis is the miracle cure for everything that ails women? No, but it is back on the table, and many doctors are beginning to once again consider it “one of the most valuable medicines we possess.” And you don’t even have to be a queen to give it a try.
Michael Murchison is a Cannabis Counsellor working out of Canadian Cannabis clinics throughout the GTA, offering free knowledge and guidance to hundreds of medical cannabis patients every day. Canvasrx.com, firstname.lastname@example.org