- Endometriosis is a condition that causes intense pelvic pain and affects millions of women around the globe.
- It is characterised by abnormal growth of endometrial tissue outside the uterus.
- Cannabis seems to help alleviate the symptoms of this disorder, with more women turning to this ancient plant for relief every day.
What is endometriosis?
Endometriosis is a chronic disorder that affects more than 170 million women around the world. It occurs when the layer of tissue that normally covers the inside of the uterus, or endometrium, grows outside of it. This often happens on the fallopian tubes, ovaries, and on the tissue lining the pelvis. In most severe cases, tissue growth can appear in the vagina, cervix, intestines, and bladder, and, in very extreme cases, even in the lungs. When this abnormal tissue breaks down and bleeds with each menstrual cycle, just as it would inside the uterus, it has nowhere to go, it becomes trapped.
What are the symptoms of endometriosis?
Although some women do not experience any symptoms, most suffer some or all of the following:
- Painful periods. Pain may increase over time and become debilitating.
- Pain during or after sex
- Painful bowel movements
- Intermenstrual bleeding
What causes endometriosis?
The cause of endometriosis remains unknown, although some theories pinpoint environmental pollution as a possible cause. According to these studies, dioxins could play a key role in the development of endometriosis. Other risk factors include delayed childbearing, short menstrual cycles (of less than 27 days), and increased duration of menstrual bleeding (beyond 8 days.)
Link between the endocannabinoid system and endometriosis
The endocannabinoid system is a network of cell receptors found throughout the body, mainly in the brain, nervous and immune systems, and other peripheral organs. These receptors interact with endocannabinoids, the compounds produced by the body, and can also interact with the marijuana cannabinoids. Cannabinoids activate CB1 and CB2 receptors, which in turn regulate a variety of bodily functions, and maintain homeostasis, that is, a stable equilibrium within the body where everything works smoothly.
Research indicates that certain imbalances in the endocannabinoid system can lead to endometriosis. The endometrium seems to have some cannabinoid receptors, which fluctuate according to the woman’s menstrual cycle.
Extrauterine growth of endometrial tissue is linked to severe pain, and unfortunately its cause is still unknown. But some recent studies suggest that the endocannabinoid system contributes to mechanisms underlying both the abnormal growths and the pain associated with endometriosis. This new focus could be vital in the search for the so long-awaited cure for this disease.
Is cannabis effective for the treatment of endometriosis?
For now, endometriosis has no cure. Even though the latest findings indicate that the endocannabinoid system is a key factor in the development of this disorder, more research is still needed before a specific treatment can be defined. And even though cannabis cannot cure endometriosis, it can definitely help. Some marijuana cannabinoids, like CBD, have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, so they can help alleviate the pain and cramps associated with it. Whether you are an endometriosis sufferer or not, this is definitely a good alternative for menstrual pain relief, without having to resort to painkillers like ibuprofen, full of harmful side effects.
In some countries, there are already some cannabis-based products on the market designed for this purpose: from suppositories to oils and creams. A wide range of products to suit all tastes.
It must be taken into consideration that every plant has different levels of cannabinoids and that, with the wrong dosage, they can have an adverse effect on the body. For this reason, further research on the therapeutic properties of cannabinoids is much needed, as it is essential to establish the correct dose with the right compounds for effectiveness. This is especially important in the case of endometriosis, as it is clear that the endocannabinoid system is closely related to the condition. Maybe in the future a cannabinoid-based treatment could help rebalance the functions of this system and contribute to the recovery or even cure of endometriosis patients.
For now, the most advisable course of action for endometriosis sufferers is to start with low THC and CBD levels, and keep trying until finding the most effective dose. The best varieties are those with 1:1 or 1:2 THC:CBD ratios, for instance OG Kush CBD or Bubba Kush CBD. For those who do not tolerate well the psychoactive effect of THC, it is best to choose Pure CBD strains like Dinamed CBD Plus.
Regarding ways of consuming cannabis, this is a truly personal choice. Cannabis oil can be easily produced at home, as explained here. Cannabis can also be ingested, though this is not recommended for unaccustomed users, as the psychoactive effects are high and dose measurement proves more difficult. Vaporisers are another relatively healthy alternative, or it can be simply smoked.
Endocannabinoid involvement in endometriosis: Natalia Dmitrieva, Hiroshi Nagabukuro, David Resuehr, Guohua Zhang, Stacy L. McAllister, Kristina A. McGinty, Ken Mackie, Karen J.Berkley.
DIOXINS AND ENDOMETRIOSIS: COHORT STUDY OF WOMEN IN WEST VIRGINIA: Diliberto, J J., Staats, Dee Ann, L. Sirinek, J Becker, D. J. Jude, S. Chouinard, T. Smith, G. C. Clark, R. B. Landy, AND L S. Birnbaum. DIOXINS AND ENDOMETRIOSIS: COHORT STUDY OF WOMEN IN WEST VIRGINIA. Presented at 24th Inter. Symp. on Halogenated Environmental Organic Pollutants and POPs, Berlin, Germany, Sept. 6-10, 2004.
The Clinical Significance of Endocannabinoids in Endometriosis Pain Management: Jerome Bouaziz, Alexandra Bar On, Daniel S. Seidman, and David Soriano. Published Online: 1 Apr 2017.