· By Allison Norris
CBD for Women's Health
By now, you're probably pretty well-versed on what CBD is (cannabidiol, a naturally occurring compound of the cannabis plant, for what it's worth). And, if you aren't, you can learn more on the CBD 101 section of our website or in one of our previous blog posts. Also, because we are a company owned and run (mostly) by women, we are particularly interested in how CBD and women's health go hand-in-hand. Here's a fun fact: In 2019, more than 64 million Americans reported trying CBD, and, not surprisingly, the majority of them were female.
Remind us—who run the world? Right, right, right.
As we learned as soon as we got our first periods, womanhood is crampy, moody, awkward, sometimes messy, and often confounding. It can be *empowering,* sure, because we're in this X-chromosome-fueled club together, but anyone who's had to tie her Gap quarter-zip around her waist in the early days of not knowing anything about her cycle (*cough* this writer) knows, it's something men will never understand. And, if they did, we'd have a lot more research on it.
But, that's a long conversation for another day.
We could go on and on about how using CBD supports things unique to women's health, however, you have things to do and places to be, so we've narrowed it down to a few key categories, all relevant to people who have or have had a monthly cycle.
Let's get into it!
CBD and PMS
Depending on the hormones waves in each cycle (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone), many women suffer some wild PMS symptoms.
If you're a man reading this, no, it's not all mood swings and greasy foods. It's period pain, menstrual cramps, stomach upset, night sweats, and breast pain, too. We don't have to explain to you why we get to sit in bed and binge watch reality TV. It is our God-given right, damnit. It is the gift we give ourselves for what our bodies endure for the future of humanity!
Here are a few ways to think about CBD for PMS:
- CBD can help soothe bloating and cramps
- CBD helps moderate mood irregularities and overall mental health
- CBD can help alleviate discomfort from swollen or tender breasts
- CBD can help lower stress hormone levels, improving liver detox capabilities and reducing inflammation
Additionally, CBD can decrease the production of inflammatory prostaglandins that lead to painful menstrual cramps, and both THC and CBD can reduce the intensity of cramps. Studies suggest that CBD can bring the same pain relief as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) by inhibiting the prostaglandin-producing enzyme without NSAID’s side effects. All you need to know from that sentence is CBD is good for your PMS symptoms, okay?
CBD and hormonal imbalances
As we mentioned, when women are riding their hormones, we can sometimes feel out of whack.
Many of us have hormal imbalances, if not always, at least sometimes during our child-bearing years. It's par for the womanhood course, unfortunately. But, we no longer live in a world where our primary doctor hears, "I feel like my hormones are out of whack" and immediately puts us on The Pill.
Now, we have options, and taking CBD is one of them. According to healthywomen.org:
One study investigating the effect of CBD found that it helped regulate the secretion of the stress-activating hormone cortisol. By influencing hormone regulation, CBD can help prevent hormonal imbalance. Also, when you use hemp-based CBD products, you're getting omega fatty acids and gamma linolenic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid which is known to help regulate hormones.
Another +1 for CBD.
CBD and acne
Related to our cycles is one of the most obvious signs that we are hormonal beings: acne!
Ugh, the stories we have about acne and rogue, throbbing pimples on the day of a school dance. Anyone else?
This isn't a uniquely female problem, either, so it's great news that Harvard recently told us:
Some laboratory research on human cells suggests CBD may have anti-inflammatory effects on oil-secreting glands in the skin. This might have implications for acne and other inflammatory skin disorders, but further research is needed to confirm this.
Always with the further research, these guys, but we'll take what we can get.
New Term: Endocannabinoid system
Anyone who's birthed a child, watched a child birthed, or attempted any tucks in a Pure Barre class knows that the female pelvis is incredibly powerful.
Turns out, that powerful pelvis also contains something called the endocannabinoid system, which:
is an inherent part of the reproductive tract and has an important role in pregnancy and childbirth. There may also be fluctuations in the endocannabinoid system due to natural changes in estrogen levels in fertile women. The level of endocannabinoids increases on the first day of the menstrual cycle, reaches a peak at ovulation, and decreases until the period starts again. The ECS is involved in supporting female health and the control of female reproductive events. As plant-based cannabinoids can mimic the natural ones, they may help to restore the balance.
This is essential—knowing that CBD can help the mysterious, inner-workings of our bodies work better is huge. Like many things, we don't have to completely understand how it works to be glad that it does.
CBD and anxiety
So, here's the sad thing: One in three women is likely to run into an anxiety disorder at some point in her life. But, we kinda already knew that, didn't we?
We could point to infinity reasons for that, and hormones always seem to play a part. There is a very cool and forward-thinking doctor at Yale (Yale!) studying CBD's potential for anxiety management. Historically, medical treatment for anxiety disorders has included prescribing things like benzodiazepines (medications which are twice as likely to be prescribed to women as men, for what it's worth).
As we know, these medications have been associated with a significant risk of abuse and can lead to fatal overdoses when they're combined with alcohol or opioids.
Dr. Lichenstein’s study seeks to determine brain mechanisms behind how CBD affects the behavior of women, building on currently limited evidence showing that a single dose of CBD affects functional brain responses in healthy men and evidence that sex may influence how cannabis and its constituent compounds affect these responses.
More to come here, but this is good news. Studies by women for women have a safe place here.
CBD and stress reduction
Womanhood is uniquely stressful. And, if we know anything, we know that our consistent CBD use has helped to reduce stress. Whether it's keeping our cool in the school pickup line, having more patience for our husband's volume preferences for whatever "the game" is on any given night, or resisting the urge to say what you really want to say to that annoying co-worker in the team meeting, CBD can help to manage mood swings. And, we can't speak to your moods, but ours can be real doozies!
Even Psychology Today has our back on CBD and moods, saying:
For decades, the World Health Organization’s expert committee on drug dependence has offered a long list of conditions that CBD may benefit. Research studies on both animals and humans have shown that CBD may help lower feelings of isolation, relieve autism symptoms, and reduce the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It seems CBD can calm the brain and support the hippocampus, which is a brain area important for healthy emotion and memory.
The support for CBD and mood stabilization is so wide at this point, American Eagle launched a line of wellness products to its fantastically large customer base, and Martha Stewart just recently launched a CBD company of her own. Given her relationship with Snoop Dogg, the latter isn't terribly surprising. As Martha said in her press release about the launch:
I am thrilled to help improve our customers' daily lives through proven formulations that make wellness accessible and convenient, with offerings that address muscle discomfort, sleep deprivation, and stress.
Big celeb endorsements must mean we're really onto something here, no?
CBD in the bedroom
We get a lot of questions and one of the most common is if you can use our topical CBD to enhance your sexy time experience. The short answer is YES. From getting in the mood, to adding some tingles down there, our CBD products have you covered:
Women are turning to CBD to help improve their sex life. Dr. Dweck says that women are trying CBD oil, lubricants and sprays to enhance sexual activity and alleviate dryness and sexual pain. They hope that these products can increase pleasure, help libido, set the mood, relax muscles and ease performance anxiety. "Many women need to feel relaxed to want sex," says Dr. Sadaty. "CBD fits the bill."
What about CBD for pregnancy and breastfeeding?
Not all doctors are anti-cannabis plants during pregnancy anymore. Some women are so sick that their doctors actually recommend smoking pot. This article from The Cut starts with the story of a woman (Tara—not her real name) whose nausea was so intense, she and her midwife decided marijuana was the best solution for her. Her doctor wanted her to vape. She wanted to smoke from a pipe. They compromised on a bong—fewer carcinogens, apparently.
This was all in LA, naturally, but it's not out of the question elsewhere. There are some risks, obviously, so check out the article to read some of the stories of other women whose experiences were not as devoid of child services as Tara's was.
As the writeup says, "Child-welfare and cannabis laws, and their interpretations, differ widely from state to state, and even hospital to hospital. New York, Texas, and New Mexico have all passed laws separating child abuse from cannabis use."
Another interesting thing we learned in the piece, that if we think about it shouldn't really be surprising at all, is: Cannabis "use in pregnant women more than doubled between 2002 and 2017, according to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, and a more recent study from Kaiser Permanente in Northern California showed that the rate of use in early pregnancy rose by about 25 percent during the pandemic."
THC use during pregnancy is still highly-stigmatized.
CBD use is slightly less taboo, given that it has fewer mind-altering effects, but we can understand if you're hesitant to try it or discuss with your provider. Know, though, that research and human studies are happening, that CBD oils, CBD tincutres, and CBD gummies could be commonplace in pregnancy by the time our daughters have babies—should they choose.
CBD and post partum depression
According to the World Health Organization, about half a million women globally have some form of depression each year after the arrival of a baby. Some symptoms of PPA and PPD include:
- Appetite loss
- Emotional disconnection from the baby
Here's the frustrating, thing, though. There are huge potential benefits to using CBD as one of many natural remedies to support post-partum women. Studies show that CBD may help increase and balance serotonin levels in the brain, keep energy levels stable, improve sleep and restore a healthy appetite. It may take two weeks to feel the improvement, but the positive effects and anxiety relief could come almost immediately.
However, medications and supplements can pass through breast milk. Therefore, many medications, as well as cannabinoids like CBD, are not (yet) recommended for use by breastfeeding women.
The effects of CBD on infants are not yet known and require further research, so you should consult a healthcare professional to find the best possible solution for you.
CBD and chronic pain in women
Okay, we're really not picking on women, but it seems like God (or whoever you believe your creator to be) kinda did?
Women suffer from almost all chronic pain conditions to a much greater extent than their male counterparts do. Chronic pelvic pain (CPP) is commonly reported by women. A 2019 study on cannabis effectiveness found that 100 percent of the users who were using cannabis for CPP reported an average reduction in pain by 5.9 points—we're not totally clear on the scale there, but any reduction is a significant reduction as far as we're concerned.
Additional studies have shown that medical cannabis can be an effective option for chronic pain treatment in CPP patients who have not found success with other treatment options. Since the reproductive tract can be a main source of pain, especially during menstruation, using cannabinoids vaginally could bring easier relief.
CBD and menopause
You know how we always harp on the fact that CBD hasn't been researched enough? We have a lot of anecdotal evidence of how helpful it can be for major life events, like menopause, but you may have to trust us on some things.
As any woman who has gone through menopause can tell you, night sweats and insomnia are big frustrations during this time.
We can take comfort in this, though:
CBD may help stabilize mood changes, reduce sleep disturbances (a common menopause complaint) and decrease the rate of bone density loss that can occur during menopause. Alyssa Dweck, MD, an OB-GYN who practices in Westchester County in New York and author of The Complete A to Z for Your V, says she has seen women use CBD to help with insomnia during perimenopause and menopause.
"Sleep is interrupted during this time, impacting your day-to-day life," she says. Her patients are using CBD oil to help them stay asleep. She says it also helps them sleep when menopause-related anxiety keeps them up at night. "Women wake up with a busy mind and can't shut down their thoughts," she says.
A natural solution to a pretty sucky naturally-occuring phenomenon?
We're all in.
Some other things that happen during menopause:
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Weight gain
The blessings never cease, do they?!
Usually, women going through menopause have a decrease in estrogen levels and an increase in the 2-AG endocannabinoid. Unfortunately, lower estrogen levels can lead to an increase in pain in the vagina and a reduction in vaginal secretions. The good thing is that using CBD can counterbalance the high sensitivity and the dryness. That's something, at least.
CBD and endometriosis
Endometriosis occurs when tissue similar to the inner lining of the uterus grows outside its normal location. The damaged tissue may irritate surrounding tissue, leading to ovarian cysts, uterine scars, and fusing the surrounding body tissue.
One of the possible causes of endometriosis is an imbalance of estrogen.
Symptoms (period pain, discomfort during sex, spotting, heavy periods, infertility, difficulty urinating or having bowel movements) can be managed by medications or surgery. Unfortunately, many medications come with significant side effects and may still not bring full relief.
Many of us know about Lena Dubham's struggle with endometriosis, and if you read her column in Vogue, you recently learned that she had a full hysterectomy a few years ago because of how painful the condition was for her.
A study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine determined that millions of women experienced pain and discomfort during sex due to endometriosis, pelvic inflammatory disease and vaginismus. Medicine made from cannabis has long been used to manage gynaecological issues. Now, more and more people are choosing cannabinoids to reduce pain and improve desire.
Both the uterus and ovaries have many cannabinoid receptors, which means CBD oil and CBD gummies may be powerful in alleviating endometriosis pain in some women.
CBD and the *future* of women's health
So, among a lot of bummers, we saw some big rays of CBD-colored sunlight for women suffering from womanhood. We saw potential wellness improvements like:
- Improved sleep
- Less anxiety
- Restored skin balance
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Antidepressant properties
- Pain relief
- And, a clear, calming effect
CBD can provide relief to a lot of the things that specifically ail women. We're hopeful that people are studying the cannabis plant more, even through their personal, recreational use.
But, as we've said, further *peer-reviewed* research does need to be done on the wide range of benefits CBD can add to our lives, particularly in women's. We're hopeful! We're ready! We've set up news alerts and will share the latest research with you as we see it.
CBD = hope
It's an exciting time in the wellness world, and our hope is that fewer women will have to sit with heating pads on their abdomens avoiding the world for a week every month as they deal with real discomfort. But, there are big benefits to that alone time, too. So, we'll make you a deal: we'll help you feel better in your mind and body with our CBD products and we also won't tell your husband (or your mom or your partner or WHOMEVER) your PMS symptoms aren't nearly as bad as they used to be.
All you have to do is give them a try.