Features // November 11, 2020 // Erin Hiatt

Why Some Women Choose Weed for Wellness

Why Some Women Choose Weed for Wellness
The 2020 election cycle added four states to the adult-use (a.k.a. recreational) legal cannabis tally. Now women in New Jersey, South Dakota, Montana, and Arizona can join the ranks in the 11 other legal states that already have access to the medicinal benefits of cannabis. Cannabis can help ease symptoms of a common denominator among cisgender women: the menstrual cycle. Many women use cannabis for relief from mood swings, pain, and other discomforts that accompany the long arc of the reproductive cycle.

Ancient Medicine

Using cannabis for female issues is by no means a new idea. It’s rumored that the Egyptian Pharaoh Hatshepsut used cannabis for menstrual pains, with the Ebers Papyrus from around 1550 BC indicating that cannabis ground into honey could be inserted into the vagina to aid childbirth. England’s Queen Victoria is believed to have been given cannabis for menstrual cramps from her private doctor in 1890, while a law for midwives dating back to 1480 recommends that, following a Caesarian section, mothers should be bandaged with “a plaster made of three eggs, hemp cloth, and Armenian earth.”  The research on cannabis, and more specifically women and cannabis, is probably not much further along than it was in the days of Queen Victoria. However, there are informal studies and mounds of anecdotes demonstrating that cannabis can help women manage the symptoms of their menstrual cycles and achieve a more balanced sense of wellness.  For some women, menstrual cycles are a breeze, but for many others they can be painful and emotionally difficult. The majority of women have cycles that lie in the middle of those extremes. They experience a range of symptoms including breast tenderness, cramps, back pain, mood swings, headaches, bloating, anxiety and depression. Let’s take a look at how cannabis could help women with reproductive and sexual health and wellness.

Does Weed Help with Premenstrual Syndrome?

Around 90 percent of women report symptoms ahead of their periods  like bloating, headaches, and moodiness that begin about 1-2 weeks before menses. These symptoms are collectively known as premenstrual syndrome, or PMS. Some women experience symptoms so painful that they miss school or work.  Cannabis, especially the non-intoxicating cannabinoid CBD, could help relieve many of the symptoms associated with this phase because of its potent anti-inflammatory properties. Though some cycles of PMS may recede once menses starts, for many women, cramps and bloating continue during their period.  To help relieve menstrual cramps, one UK-based company, Daye, has developed a CBD-coated tampon. In the U.S., health and sexual wellness cannabis company Foria offers a vaginal suppository for menstrual and pelvic discomfort. 

Can Weed Relieve Endometriosis Pain?

Between 10 and 20 percent of women have endometriosis, a disorder in which tissue — the endometrium —  that typically lines the inside of your uterus grows on the outside instead. When a woman’s period starts, this tissue becomes trapped, irritating surrounding tissues which can lead to scar tissue and in some cases, extreme pelvic pain.  Though cannabis cannot get rid of endometriosis, some women find relief through cannabis use from some of the most common symptoms of endometriosis, including inflammation, pain, anxiety and depression, and fatigue. 

Weed for Perimenopause and Menopause

The perimenopause (meaning the transition to menopause) phase can be downright mystifying for women because it meanders through symptoms like irregular periods, mood swings, vaginal dryness, fatigue, and lower sex drive, and can linger for up to 10 years. To help ease anxiety and sleeplessness that also go along with this phase, consuming CBD or finding a strain that inspires calm and relaxation can help women experiencing perimenopausal symptoms.  After more than 12 months without menstruating, menopause sets in. This phase is highlighted by vaginal dryness, sleep disturbances and hot flashes. CBD may once again save the day for women in menopause because of its anti-inflammatory, anti-anxiety benefits. 

Cannabis Lube Can Be a Game-Changer

For many women in perimenopause or menopause, sex can become difficult, cause anxiety, or even pain. Coming to the end of reproductive life shouldn’t mean the end of a pleasurable sex life. For women in these phases, cannabis lube could be a wonderful addition to their sex life.  Scratch that — cannabis lube could be a sex life game-changer for women of any age.  Cannabis lube can not only help with vaginal irritation and pain that happens to just about everyone at one time or another during sex, it may also heighten senstivity to the sexual experience, and intensify orgasms. For women with conditions like vaginitis, PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), or vaginismus, the cannabinoids in the lube, particularly CBD, may reduce pain from penetration and reduce inflammation.  Another benefit of a more inclusive legal cannabis marketplace is that the industry will be prodded to acknowledge thesignificant buying power of women and offer more products that support women’s wellness. A few companies making cannabis products aimed at women’s wellness to keep an eye out for are the aforementioned Foria and Daye, along with topicals brand Quim, the vape pen line Blissiva and the women's wellness network Ellementa