Endometriosis occurs when the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus, called the endometrium, grows outside the uterus. Endometriosis impacts 10% of all women, a total of 176 million women worldwide. Symptoms can range from no pain at all, just infertility, pain and heavy bleeding only during menstrual periods and disabling pain 24/7. There is no cure and diagnosis may take up to a decade.
Endometriosis can be found growing in the ovaries, bowel or pelvis, but occasionally in the lungs, brain and other areas. Endometriosis sheds similarly to uterine lining, causing bleeding and pain in organs during the menstrual period. Severe endometriosis can cause adhesions and scar tissue; organs attach to each other or the spine, causing severe pain and reducing mobility permanently.
Many components of the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) are found in endometrial tissue and their levels are regulated by the menstrual cycle (in rodent models of the disease). These include cannabinoid receptors type 1 and type 2 (CB1 and CB2), N-acyl phosphatidylethanolamine phospholipase D (NAPE-PLD), an enzyme that synthesises endocannabinoids and fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) an enzyme that breaks down endocannabinoids. The highest concentration of the endocannabinioid anandamide (AEA, the ‘bliss’ molecule) in the reproductive system is found in the uterus.
Endometriosis is linked to Endocannabinoid Deficiency (ECD). Women with endometriosis have lower levels of CB1 receptors in endometrial tissue. Reduced ECS function leads to the spread of endometriosis throughout the body and increased pain. Endometriosis pain is mediated through CB1 receptors. Human endometriosis cells proliferated (divided and grew) less when stimulated with a synthetic cannabinoid called WIN 55212-2. Rodent studies of endometriosis found animals had more pain when treated with AM251, a drug that inhibits the cannabinoid receptors and less pain when treated with WIN 55212-2.
Environmental toxins such as dioxin have been linked to ECD. Dioxin decreases levels of CB1 in endometrial tissue. As we are subjected to pollution in our air, water, grass and food as well as BPA in water bottles and receipts, it’s no wonder so many women in developed countries now have severe endometriosis. In the future we are certain more toxins will be linked to endometriosis risk as well as ECD.
Hormonal treatments for endometriosis carry certain risks, such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT’s) which are blood clots in the legs that can travel to the lungs and can kill. Dr Michele Ross, co-founded GreenStone Labs in May 2013 to bring new Cannabis technologies to market. Dr Ross has endometriosis and had used hormonal birth control and Lupron to manage her symptoms. She was hospitalised for lung blood clots which almost killed her. She hopes cannabinoid products will help other women avoid the same life-threatening condition, which feels like a heart attack and stops your ability to breathe.
Dr Ross holds a Doctorate in Neuroscience from the University of Texas South-western Medical Centre and has researched addiction, mental health and psychopharmacology for over 10 years. She has a Bachelors in Psychology from Boston College and worked as a Post-doctoral Research Scholar at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Dr Ross is a proud member of the International Cannabinoid Research Society (ICRS) and the Colorado Cannabis Clinicians. A selection of her scientific papers is available on Google Scholar.
It is very important that women with endometriosis on hormonal treatments do not smoke and this means Cannabis, too. Smoking increases the risk of deadly blood clots. If you prefer to inhale rather than eat your Cannabis, please vape. Vaporising Cannabis is better than smoking because it doesn’t burn the Cannabis. Smoking Cannabis releases toxins similar to cigarettes, can cause lung irritation and often disintegrates cannabinoids with healing properties. Vaporising Cannabis heats the air around the Cannabis, releasing a range of cannabinoids, each with unique health benefits.
Eating large doses of Cannabis Oil (CO) daily is essential if you want to make the switch from pills to Cannabis only. In some states in the US you can purchase CO in capsules to make it easier to swallow and remember dosing. If capsules are not available in your area, you can also purchase preloaded syringes of CO to squirt into your mouth, or take Cannabis tincture drops that you put under your tongue. If you have sleep issues, eating an edible (brownie, cookie or ‘gummy’, for example) infused with Cannabis at night can help.
Cannabis topicals, in the form of creams or lotions you put on your skin, can help with pelvic or back pain during the day.
Another way to get Cannabis into your body is via transdermal patches, similar to birth control or nicotine patches. This discrete method provides extended release medication for up to ten hours and is perfect for people who feel uncomfortable with other methods such as vaporising Cannabis. It’s a great way for women with endometriosis to be able to be active and return to their normal lives. Some have not imagined being able to have a life again! Non-psychoactive versions of Cannabis, such as CBD-only patches, may help some to get through work or other functions without feeling “high” at all.
Juicing raw Cannabis (before plants have flowered) may reduce pain and inflammation associated with endometriosis, without the high from decarboxylated Cannabis. Raw Cannabis contains THCa and CBDa, non-psychoactive precursors of THC and CBD. Juice strains of Cannabis with high levels of CBDa for best results. Daily juicing may cause remission of endometriosis.
Women with endometriosis are also encouraged to avoid chemicals in their food, hair and beauty products and environment, in addition to using Cannabis therapy. Go green!
Currently the only way to diagnose endometriosis is through a surgical procedure called a laparoscopy (often not covered by health insurance). Hence, diagnosis of endometriosis takes about a decade for the average woman. A simple biomarker of endometriosis, such as reduced endocannabinoids in blood or endometriosis tissue could save millions for the healthcare system and years of unnecessary pain for 176 million women suffering from the disease.
Mayo Clinic: Endometriosis, The molecular connections between the cannabinoid system and endometriosis (2012), Progesterone-dependent regulation of endometrial cannabinoid receptor type 1 (CB1-R) expression is disrupted in women with endometriosis and in isolated stromal cells exposed to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) (2012), Endocannabinoid involvement in endometriosis (2010), Antiproliferative effects of cannabinoid agonists on deep infiltrating endometriosis (2010)
Adapted from; Cannabis Helps Endometriosis