How Weed Helps Women's Health

In every woman's life, she will endure tremendous amounts of pain. Could cannabis make things a little easier?

We note that the subject contained in this article represents illegal activity in certain jurisdictions. Whilst we do not condone any acts which are contrary to any such laws, we understand that readers in those jurisdictions which have decriminalised cannabis may find this article of interest.

Periods. Childbirth. Menopause. If there's one guarantee in life, it's that if you're a woman, you'll have to learn to live with physical pain. For women with endometriosis or PCOS, that pain can be almost never-ending. However, don't be discouraged ladies, it may not have to be that way for much longer.

While women have endured pain throughout the millennia, they have also consistently turned to one remedy in order to alleviate their pains: Cannabis.

Cannabis is a particularly viable pain-relief product for women because a woman's uterus happens to be filled with endocannabinoid receptors; that is, receptors that respond to the use of cannabis.

Over the centuries, a majority of symptoms concerning women's health were thought to be cured through a combination of CBD oils, hemp seeds and cannabis inhalation. In the present day, many highly-influential women continue to advocate the benefits of cannabis for women's health and lifestyle. With unbudging legislative restrictions within the growing industry, however, can cannabis remain on the right side of history regarding women's health?

Women's Health in Ancient Times and the Middle Ages

Cannabis has been found within many industry-based trades since ancient times, we know that hemp was a substantial part of trade industries – found in pottery, clothing and textiles. In ancient Egypt, according to a 1500BC medical text, Ebers Papyrus, cannabis was utilised by combining hemp seeds with other ingredients for women during childbirth to aid in pain relief. The Ebers Papyrus also suggests that the administration of cannabis occurred via inhalation, suppositories and as an ointment.

In 1992, the remains of a fourth-century fourteen-year-old girl were found in a cave in Israel, having died during childbirth. Traces of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) were found in ashes in her abdomen, indicating that she had inhaled cannabis to assist with her intense labour pains.

In Persia and the Middle East, the use of cannabis has been documented as a reliable treatment for uterine pains and was believed to help with healthy foetus development and act as a preventative for miscarriage. From the ninth century to the thirteenth century, Persian physicians recommended hemp seeds and cannabis leaves to resolve any uterus-related ailments.

Cannabis in Early and Late Modern Period

It wasn't until the twentieth century that many women-related conditions such as ovarian cancer and endometriosis were properly diagnosed, however, cannabis has had a long-standing relationship with the treatment of these conditions before this was the case. In 1564, the Kräterbuch of Taberaemontanus, a German medical text has several mentions of cannabis as a treatment option for women with "disease of the uterus".

The nineteenth-century has an abundance of medical literature promoting the use of cannabis as a treatment option. In 1851, physician Sir Alexander Christion, who had extensively studied cannabis, wrote that it could assist with cervix dilation without causing tiredness and was "essential" for active labour and "promoting uterine contraction". In 1854, The Dispensatory of the United States published that cannabis could also quicken labour without using anaesthesia.

In 1862, American physician T.L Wright promoted cannabis as a treatment for severe morning sickness. He stated that he "found vomiting to be completely arrested by cannabis Indica, given in repeated doses every four hours."

In 1872, there was a reference to cannabis being a superior option for women-related ailments and uterine cancer compared to opium and chloroform, and shortly after, medical journals began reporting on the use of cannabis for heavy periods (mennoraghia) and period pain (dysmenorrhea). Medical publications such as The British Medical Journal published several recommendations for cannabis use to treat heavy periods in 1883.

Sir John Russel Reynolds, Queen Victoria's physician, who was well-known for his work on the plant for most of his career, openly endorsed Indian hemp for intense period pain. It is even claimed (albeit unsubstantiated) that Queen Victoria was prescribed a monthly dosage of cannabis to help relieve her cramps. Although there is no first-hand evidence to say whether or not this is true, it is known that the queen was a fan of painkillers according to her diaries – notably her use (and praise) of chloroform during childbirth – so she may well have tried cannabis at least once.

Weed and Women Today

Modern science will tell you that not all women's health issues can be solved with cannabis and that it is deemed unsafe in circumstances of pregnancy and active labour. However, many symptoms of period pain, endometriosis and menopause can be alleviated with the aid of cannabis.

CBD can help with muscle spasms that occur with period pain, while suppositories are anecdotally recommended in the U.S. and Canada for endometriosis symptoms despite the lack of clinical evidence and availability. Cannabis-based medicines can also assist with menopausal symptoms such as hot/cold flushes, mood swings and headaches.

Cannabis, specifically wellness products, have been gaining a lot of attention since the introduction of the U.S Farm Bill in 2018. Highly influential females are jumping on the bandwagon to endorse and advocate cannabis for wellness and women's health.

From Kim Kardashian tweeting about being "obsessed with everything CBD-related" to Miley Cyrus being an open advocate for smoking weed, cannabis use within legalised states in the U.S and Canada are slowly (but surely) making headway. In 2019, lifestyle guru, Martha Stewart partnered with Canopy Growth to release a range of CBD-infused products for wellness and even pet health.

In 2016, Whoopi Goldberg and Maya Elisabeth founded Whoopi & Maya, a medical cannabis company aiming to offer pain relief for menstrual cramps after noticing a large gap in the market for non-invasive aid for women's health.

Unfortunately, in 2020, Whoopi & Maya were forced to close its operation due to legalisation obstacles during what is considered to be a challenging time for the evolving cannabis industry.

Regardless, it is clear that cannabis has been an active and effective contributor to women's health throughout the ages. While cannabis might not be recommended for pregnancy and labour pains in the twenty-first century, it's long-standing presence in the medical community depicts a solid example of its benefits with pain-related conditions within women's health.

While cannabis-based products are still facing legalisation challenges, the anecdotal evidence and increasing demand for cannabis as a reliable, safe treatment option continues to rise.

And if history has taught us anything, it's that women have continued to fight for their rights, their freedom and their voice throughout the ages. Having the right to use cannabis-related treatment options might very well be the next thing that they achieve.

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Taylor Ridewood
Taylor Ridewood

Taylor is a Sydney-based writer with a background in psychology and professional writing. She has a keen interest in the benefits of medicinal cannabis and enjoys researching the multi-faceted effects of cannabis on the body and mind.

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