EducationMedical cannabis and endometriosis symptom management

Medical cannabis and endometriosis symptom management

8 min read

Sam North

Medical cannabis and endometriosis symptom management


Although the field of medical cannabis research may still be in its infancy, it is slowly (but surely) proving to be an effective and safe complementary treatment option for a wide range of medical conditions. One such condition is endometriosis, a distressing condition affecting the female reproductive system, characterized by the abnormal growth of endometrial tissue outside its usual location.

Endometriosis can be an incredibly debilitating and difficult condition to live with, causing pain during intercourse and menstruation, as well as fatigue, and gastrointestinal issues. Conventional pain-relieving options, such as opioids, have been proven to be somewhat ineffective in managing pain from endometriosis, and women suffering from the debilitating condition are up to four times as likely to fall into the trap of opioid addiction.

And this is where medical cannabis may be able to play a crucial role. Studies have shown that medical cannabis can help to alleviate painful symptoms of endometriosis, as well as help to reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality. There is also emerging research pointing towards the fact that, when patients are provided with medical cannabis, they are able to reduce the level of opioid medications they consume, decreasing their risk of dependence.

Before we go any further, it is essential to point out that medicinal cannabis should never be viewed as a cure for endometriosis.

Instead, it should be seen as a complementary treatment option that can potentially provide relief from the pain and other symptoms of this condition. When administered as one part of a holistic treatment plan, medical cannabis may help to significantly improve the quality of life for those suffering from endometriosis.

What is endometriosis?

Endometriosis is a widespread condition characterized by the presence of small fragments of the uterine lining (endometrium) growing outside the uterus. These unusual growths can be found in various locations, such as the fallopian tubes, ovaries, bladder, bowel, vagina, or rectum.

Typically, endometriosis symptoms manifest as discomfort or pain in the lower abdomen, pelvis, or lower back, and may also contribute to fertility issues. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that some women may experience minimal or no symptoms at all.

The symptoms of endometriosis

The more commonly seen symptoms of endometriosis include:

  • Severe pain in the lower stomach, pelvis, and back
  • Extremely painful menstrual cycles
  • Excessive bleeding during menstruation
  • Pain during or after sexual intercourse
  • Infertility or difficulty getting pregnant
  • Fatigue and digestive issues such as bloating, constipation, nausea, and diarrhoea
  • Pain while urinating or defecating

The physical and emotional toll of endometriosis can be far-reaching. In addition to the pain, fertility issues, fatigue, and digestive problems associated with the condition, there is also the psychological impact that it can have.

Studies show that women with endometriosis are more likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety than those without the condition. This is due to the fact that endometriosis can have a dramatic impact on quality of life, leaving sufferers feeling frustrated, isolated, and overwhelmed.

How can medical cannabis help?

Before we dive into the current research surrounding medical cannabis and endometriosis, let's first break down what exactly medical cannabis is.

What is medical cannabis?

Medical cannabis refers to a vast range of cannabis products designed to be used for medical purposes. Unlike recreational cannabis, these products are specifically created with the intention of providing pain relief and symptom management and are subject to far-reaching and stringent regulatory requirements.

Medical cannabis is an incredibly versatile substance and can be administered in numerous forms, such as:

  • Edibles (capsules, tablets, gummies etc.)
  • Tinctures (liquid extracts)
  • Vaporisers
  • Topicals (creams and ointments)
  • Dried plant material
  • Cannabis oils

The form in which medical cannabis is administered will depend on individual preference, doctors' recommendations, and the condition being treated.

But how does cannabis interact with humans?

To answer this question, we will need to discuss both cannabinoids, terpenes, and the endocannabinoid system.

The endocannabinoid system

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a complex internal network of receptors and molecules (endocannabinoids) that interact with each other in order to regulate vital bodily functions, such as the regulation of inflammation, mood, sleep, pain perception, appetite, energy metabolism, and immune response.

When medical cannabis is administered, the contained phytocannabinoids (cannabinoids produced by plants) interact with the ECS.

For instance, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is a cannabinoid that binds to the CB1 receptor and may have an effect on pain regulation. Meanwhile, cannabidiol (CBD), another phytocannabinoid found in medical cannabis, works primarily by interacting with the CB2 receptor, modulating the activity of different neurotransmitters throughout the body, and reducing the enzymatic breakdown of our own endocannabinoids.

Terpenes, which are the aromatic molecules responsible for the unique smell and taste of certain strains of medical cannabis, may also interact with our bodies, and modulate the effects of cannabinoids in various ways. This action is referred to as the ‘entourage effect’ and is a key reason why medical cannabis products are often created with particular strain combinations in mind.

What does the research say?

Although research into medical cannabis for endometriosis is still in the preliminary stages, there are some interesting studies that we can look at.

The study, titled “Effects of cannabis ingestion on endometriosis-associated pelvic pain and related symptoms”, analysed 252 patients taking medical cannabis for endometriosis. It found that the effectiveness of cannabis varies based on the method of ingestion. Inhalation (vaporised dried flower or oil) was the best option for relieving pain, while oral forms containing elevated levels of CBD were better for improving mood and gastrointestinal symptoms. The dosages varied across ingestion methods.

The next study, published in the European Journal of Obstetrics, Gynaecology, and Reproductive Biology included 592 patients with endometriosis, and found that medical cannabis application may very well provide symptomatic relief while also lowering the rates of opioid administration. Along with these promising results, the paper concludes that there is still a lack of clinical evidence to make any recommendations.

Along with these two targeted studies, there is also mounting evidence that medical cannabis may be beneficial for managing chronic pain and inflammation.

In the study “Medicinal Cannabis for Treatment of Chronic Pain”, it was found that as many as two-thirds of patients reported pain relief as the main benefit of medical cannabis administration. This study backs up these findings, concluding that “cannabinoids have shown potential therapeutic benefits for various clinical conditions, including pain and inflammation”

With inflammation as the focus point, the paper “Antioxidative and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Cannabidioloffers some great insight into the mechanisms behind the anti-inflammatory action of certain medical cannabis options. The study highlights the role of CBD in modulating inflammatory pathways, suggesting that medical cannabis may be beneficial for managing inflammation associated with endometriosis.

The Benefits of Medical Cannabis For Endometriosis

Medical cannabis is proving to potentially be a great option for those looking for a complementary therapeutic option for symptom management. With the right product and dosage, it may provide relief from endometriosis-related pain, inflammation, gastrointestinal issues, fatigue, and anxiety.

Potential side effects of taking medical cannabis for endometriosis

Just like with any medication option, there are certain potential side effects that come with using medical cannabis. These include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Increased appetite
  • Paranoia and anxiety (this is usually a result of consuming too high levels of THC)
  • Dry eyes
  • Rapid heartbeat

Some medications may negatively interact with medical cannabis, so it is important to consult a doctor before taking any form of medical cannabis therapy.

When it comes to dosage requirements, it is again imperative to seek the guidance of a doctor before beginning any medical cannabis treatment. It is essential to start off with small doses and slowly build up as needed, ensuring that you remain aware of how they feel throughout the process. It may be a good idea to start a treatment journal, where you can track the dosage and effects.

The wrap up

Medical cannabis may be an effective treatment option for endometriosis, offering relief from the various symptoms associated with it. However, due to the lack of clinical evidence in this area, it is recommended to take a holistic approach when considering medical cannabis therapy.

It is essential to consult a doctor who is experienced in prescribing medical cannabis for endometritis before starting any form of medical cannabis treatment, and to start off with small doses, ensuring that you remain aware of how you feel throughout the beginning of your medical cannabis journey.

Accessing medical cannabis can be challenging due to the stigma surrounding it. However, Releaf makes it simple with our tailored monthly packages, specialist consultations for medical cannabis, and a unique medical cannabis card for protection, all based on your cannabis prescription.

It is important to seek medical advice before starting any new treatments. The patient advisors at Releaf are available to provide expert advice and support. Alternatively, click here to book a consultation with one of our specialist doctors.

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Sam North, a seasoned writer with over five years' experience and expertise in medicinal cannabis, brings clarity to complex concepts, focusing on education and informed use.

Our articles are written by experts and reviewed by medical professionals or compliance specialists. Adhering to stringent sourcing guidelines, we reference peer-reviewed studies and scholarly research. View our editorial policy.

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