Women who have endometriosis sometimes suffer from chronic pain. This pain can take many forms and can even include painful bowel movements, intestinal pain, and, most commonly discussed, severe periods and menstrual cramps.
If this sort of pain and discomfort is a constant part of your life, you may be looking for any solution that will work, and for some, that answer is weed. "While I don't believe cannabis can treat endometriosis, it can help significantly with the pain associated with these symptoms," says Brandon Nolte, owner of Healthy Hemp Oil and author of The Ultimate Guide to CBD Hemp Oil.
Pain management is a big part of maintaining the life you want, and weed can help with that. "Cannabis helps ease pain by attaching to the body's natural cannabinoid receptor sites in the brain. These sites, when unlocked, help decrease pain levels and reduce inflammation within the body," says Nolte. Weed can also provide pain relief without significant side effects that come with pharmaceutical painkillers (like opioids).
Endometriosis is a common health issue faced by many women with very little known about how it develops and very few treatment options. "Endometriosis refers to the presence of endometrial cells, the cells that normally line the uterus, outside of the uterine cavity," says Christine Carter Sterling, MD, a gynecologist based in San Diego and founder of TheSterlingLife.com.
Endometriosis is most frequently found within the pelvis, but has also been found in the brain, liver, and other remote tissues. "One would think that the more endometrial tissue present outside of the uterus would correlate with the severity of the symptoms, but that is often not the case. Sometimes we discover severe endometriosis scarring within the body when operating for another reason in a patient with little to no pain," says Dr. Sterling. In other cases, a woman will have severe symptoms but very little endometrial tissue outside the uterus. "We are still learning about endometriosis, and I suspect over the next 10 years we will have a great deal more understanding about this often debilitating disease," says Dr. Sterling.
These inflamed adhesions cause swelling and pain in the locations where they attach. "The endocannabinoid system is regulated by endocannabinoids, cannabinoids your body naturally makes," says Janet Sweeney, chief executive officer and founder of Phoenix Tears, a national provider of cannabis- and hemp-derived wellness products. "Endocannabinoids are found throughout the body and are even found in mother's milk. These chemicals effect homeostasis in your body, keeping it in balance," says Sweeney.
Some of the benefits include pain and immune system responses. "CB1 receptors are found in the brain as well as in the liver, vascular system, and fat tissue. CB2 receptors are present on immune cells throughout the body and in some regions of the brain," says Dr. Sterling.
THC, via the CB1 receptors in the brain, activates the dopamine reward system in the brain, leading to the rewarding effects of marijuana, much like chocolate, sex, and other drugs. "While we know that CB1 receptors are found on immune cells, our understanding of how marijuana interacts with these receptors and what the consequences are of these interactions is still in its infancy. We just do not know," says Dr. Sterling.
Some research shows that CBD oil not only suppresses the immune response, reducing pain and inflammation, but can also reduce anxiety and depression caused by chronic disease. "While more research needs to be done, CBD oil shows great promise as a treatment for this disease," says Sweeney.
One great way to use weed to help with endometriosis is to use cannabis suppositories. These products are easy to use and provide localized pain relief, says Nolte. "A more common way is to use cannabis topicals, which are lotions infused with the benefits of cannabis," says Nolte. These products are absorbed through your skin and target the painful areas underneath. For endometriosis, it can be rubbed on the abdomen to help ease the pain. For longer-lasting results, cannabis patches can be used, says Nolte.