For many women, “that” time of the month isn’t great. But for women suffering from endometriosis it is often more than unbearable. According to WomensHealth.gov, roughly 11 percent, or 6.5 million women, in the United States alone suffer from this often-debilitating condition.
Endometriosis is an extremely painful and debilitating condition where the endometrial tissue that normally builds up as a part of the hormonal cycle grows outside of the womb.
There is little in the way of treatment beyond controlling symptoms. This is too often done with hormonal birth control, over the counter and prescription anti-inflammatory drugs and pain relievers, even opiates in some cases. However, research suggests that cannabis may not just provide relief, but a possible treatment for the condition itself.
What is Endometriosis and Can Cannabis Help?
Endometriosis causes the growth of endometrial tissue on the outside of the womb When this tissue grows outside of the womb it is unable to shed and leads to intense, crippling pain. Instead, it continues to grow, almost like a web, around reproductive organs. In extreme cases, the organs can become fused together, a condition called “frozen pelvis.”
Other symptoms of endometriosis aside from severe menstrual cramping include chronic lower-back, abdominal, and pelvic pain, painful intercourse, painful urination and/or bowel movements, IBS like symptoms and even infertility. Those suffering from endometriosis also have an increased rate of developing ovarian cancer.
Considering the symptoms, cannabis as an alternative treatment might seem to many like a logical option when current treatments are only focused on relieving symptoms. After all, cannabis is already used to treat many chronic pain disorders as well as digestive issues like IBS. Early research suggests that cannabis is an effective treatment for endometriosis.
Mouse Studies Suggest THC Could Treat Endometriosis
Studies have found medical marijuana may be more beneficial than just treating symptoms of endometriosis. Beyond the symptoms, a study titled “Disease-modifying effects of natural delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol 1 in endometriosis-associated pain” was published in the journal eLife and suggested that cannabis may reduce the severity of endometrial tissue growth. The study was conducted on mice which were subjected to surgical implantation of endometrial tissues in their abdomen. In the control group, fragments of abdominal fat were implanted instead. Mice with the endometrial tissue implants developed similar symptoms as women suffering from endometriosis. This included hypersensitivity (pain) in the abdomen and mild anxiety like behavior.
The mice received a daily dose of 2 milligrams of THC per kilogram of body weight for a total of 28 days. This dosage was found to alleviate hypersensitivity and pain and even restored some cognitive functions like memory. Interestingly, the THC also appeared to block endometrial tissue growth outside of the endometrium.
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How CBD Affects Endometriosis
Similar to the findings with the mice study using THC, another study published in the British Pharmacological Society Journals found that while THC may be more effective against pain relief, CBD may stop endometriotic cells from migrating.
CBD effectively blocks the activation of the GPR18 receptor, which can stop endometrial cells from migrating. There is also potential evidence that as beneficial as THC may be, it also may activate that receptor. This suggests that using THC and CBD in tandem may be the best course of action in treating endometriosis with cannabis.
Along with potential stopping the spread of dangerous tissues, CBD may also be able to desensitize the pain receptor TRPV1. To top it off the fact that cannabidiol brings down inflammation is also a benefit.
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Your Endocannabinoid System and Endometriosis
The truth is, like many other conditions, we are only just starting to understand what may really be causing endometriosis. It turns out that a Clinical Endocannabinoid Deficiency could be the root cause of this condition as well as many others.
Researchers have found evidence to suggest that women with endometriosis have fewer CB1 receptors in their endometrial tissue. Low levels of CB1 receptors could be a major cause of symptoms of endometriosis as well as the likelihood of the condition to spread.
There is still a lot of research to be done when it comes to fully understanding the link between the endocannabinoid system, but these studies show promise that we are headed in the right direction for a real treatment rather than symptom management.
Getting Your Medical Marijuana Card for Endometriosis
If you or a loved one are suffering from endometriosis you may want to know if medical cannabis is the right option for you. Depending on where you live, this may be an option for you. Leafwell is here to help make the process easier and less intimidating. We walk you through your state’s process from meeting your doctor to getting your certification and eventual renewal. Chronic pain, such as that experienced by women suffering from endometriosis, is a common qualifying condition so you may be eligible for a card in your state.