Endometriosis is a painful condition in which tissue that’s meant to grow inside one’s uterus, grows on the outside, leading to painful periods, nausea, and possibly even infertility and ovarian cancer. It’s a rather misunderstood disease.
While some doctors grasp at options, leaving endometriosis patients increasingly infuriated with various extreme treatments, others have found cannabis to be the most effective and safest way to relieve the ailment’s symptoms.
“I am living proof that cannabis-infused topicals can be a revolutionary choice for those experiencing endometriosis or other uterine or vaginal pain,” says Chelsea Cebara, creator of the formula for Velvet Swing, a cannabis lubricant that can also be used as a topical to treat endometriosis pain. But it’s not just topicals that can relieve symptoms, and cannabis can also help people with endometriosis treat more than their vaginal pain.
From methods of intake to effectiveness and safety, MERRY JANE spoke with doctors, people living with endometriosis, and creators of cannabis wellness products to learn about how our favorite plant can make life easier for people living with the caustic condition.
1. There is a lot that we don’t understand about endometriosis.
Unfortunately, as is the case for many women’s health reproductive health conditions, more research is needed on endometriosis. In addition to being extremely painful, and leading to infertility and ovarian cancers, doctors still aren’t always sure of the best treatment method, or what causes it, writes Mayo Clinic. In an interview with MERRY JANE, Dr. Lakisha Jenkins, a naturopath and registered herbalist who works with cannabis and frequently sees women with endometriosis, agreed. “It’s difficult to treat, and we need more information on it,” she said.
2. Customize your treatment method.
Dr. Jenkins is confident that with some patience, endometriosis patients can find symptom relief through cannabis. However, as the disease affects everyone differently, as does cannabis, sometimes trial-and-error is in order to find the best medicine regimen for you. “It’s not always going to be a one-size fits all type of situation,” the doctors says. “But I really believe that people can find their optimum blend [of cannabis products] to decrease the symptoms of endometriosis by [interacting with] the endocannabinoid system — one hundred percent.”
3. Some doctors say cannabis can treat endometriosis.
Mainstream Western approaches to treating endometriosis, and not simply relieving the symptoms, can be pretty extreme, such as a hysterectomy with removal of the ovaries. Other mainstream approaches involve hormone therapy, such as taking hormonal birth control to help relieve painful periods.
According to Dr. Jenkins, cannabis can act as a hormone regulator, as well, and many patients enjoy the benefits of such in place of, or in addition to, other medications. “The endocannabinoid system acts as a regulator for the endocrine system, which regulates your hormones,” Dr. Jenkins says. “CBD is one [cannabinoid] that leads the charge. It gives that regulatory action,” she adds, which is great news for those who live in non-legal states and only have access to hemp-derived CBD.
4. Cannabis can relieve pain.
From arthritis to cancer relief, we know that cannabis works to treat pain. And endometriosis is an extremely painful condition. “I am in the cannabis industry because of how effective cannabis was at treating my endometriosis,” Cebara of Velvet Swing says. “Like many sufferers, I had been prescribed all manner of painkillers and muscle relaxers, and turned to cannabis out of desperation. The very first time I tried it, my pain was gone.”
5. Cannabis can relieve painful periods and painful sex.
While endometriosis can cause pain all the time, menstrual periods, in particular, can be ultra-painful. “One of the biggest symptoms with endometriosis is painful periods, so our menstrual suppository, Foria Relief, is a natural fit,” says Kiana Reeves, the managing director of Foria Wellness, another cannabis and sexual wellness company. She adds that endometriosis patients have told her Foria products help penetrative sex become more comfortable, as well. Like other topicals, Foria works by activating specific cannabinoid receptors in the pelvic region, which helps relieve pain.
6. Different methods of intake work for different needs and results.
As mentioned, everyone reacts to both endometriosis symptoms and cannabis relief differently. Dr. Jenkins recommends edibles for treatment, as they last a long time, don’t involve inhalation of smoke, and can easily be used for microdosing to alleviate the effects of endometriosis.
“Going through your digestive system will give you the longest amount of effectiveness,” she says. However, if an attack of cramps comes suddenly, vaping or smoking may be the quickest and easiest option. Others prefer topical products such as Foria, and Dr. Jenkins says many patients play with a combination of products, depending on what they’re dealing with daily.
7. You can experience symptom relief without a psychoactive effect.
While some endometriosis patients welcome the natural high that comes with the medicine of endometriosis pain relief, for those who don’t enjoy a THC high — or work jobs where they need to be clear-headed — there are ways to use cannabis to treat endometriosis without a psychoactive effect. To start, pure CBD is always an option, and Dr. Jenkins recommends micro-dosing with edibles for those not looking for a heavy high. While it depends on your body weight, anywhere from 2.5mg to 20mg could be considered a microdose of cannabis.
8. Cannabis can relieve endometriosis-associated nausea.
Yup, along with pain, people living with endometriosis often deal with debilitating nausea. Luckily, there’s a natural plant remedy for that. “Cannabis is very soothing and healing to the mucous membrane of the digestive tract,” Dr. Jenkins says.
9. There are several products already on the market to relieve endometriosis symptoms.
Along with Foria and Velvet Swing, those interested in topical pain relief from endometriosis or period paid should try Whoopi & Maya, the cannabis company created by Whoopi Goldberg and award-winning cannabis infuser Maya Elisabeth. Along with topical body balms, Whoopi & Maya sells a medical cannabis lavender soak that is just the ticket for relief from symptoms.
10. Cannabis is a safe way to experiment with endometriosis treatment.
While we support whatever is best for the patient in question, some endometriosis treatments, such as surgery, are irreversible, and the ongoing opioid crisis continues to highlight the dangers of using prescription painkillers. In 2017, drug overdoses took 72,000 lives, with 30,000 deaths attributed to the misuse of fentanyl, a prescription painkiller. Meanwhile, the number of people who’ve died from a cannabis overdose remains at zero.
Unfortunately, just like endometriosis, cannabis-based treatment also needs more research, due to federal illegality. So far, all studies have indicated that it’s a safe and effective treatment. Still, in non-legal states, OB/GYNs may be hesitant to recommend cannabis. But rest assured, endometriosis patients can explore the plant’s healing powers by themselves — though again, finding the best dosage and method of intake for your body might be a trial-and-error process — without worrying about dying in the process. We’ll toke to that.
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