With the medical community taking a closer look at the therapeutic properties of compounds derived from the cannabis plant, scientists continue to discover new ways in which medical marijuana may provide relief for individuals suffering from a broad range of conditions. One of those is polycystic ovary syndrome, or PCOS.
What is polycystic ovary syndrome?
Polycystic ovary syndrome is a hormonal and reproductive disorder that affects one in 10 women of childbearing age in the United States and remains the leading cause of female infertility worldwide. The primary indicators of PCOS are irregular periods, enlarged ovaries with multiple cysts, and increased androgen production.
Other symptoms of PCOS, which typically vary from one woman to another, may include chronic pelvic and back pain, weight gain, fatigue, abnormal hair growth, acne, depression, anxiety, headaches and trouble sleeping. Studies show women with PCOS also have a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease and stroke, and endometrial cancer.
What’s the connection between PCOS and the endocannabinoid system?
The majority of PCOS symptoms are linked to the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS), which regulates countless neurological and biological functions—including those carried out by the female reproductive system.
The ECS actually got its name from scientists researching how tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) affects the body. Recent evidence suggests the cannabinoids in medical marijuana may help the ECS re-establish balance in key bodily systems, which could help provide relief for women with PCOS.
What causes polycystic ovary syndrome?
Though the exact cause of PCOS is unknown, doctors believe it is a combination of genetics (as symptoms often run in families) and environmental factors. Women with polycystic ovary syndrome usually show signs of low-level inflammation, which can stimulate the production of androgen—a male hormone typically produced only in small quantities in women.
Higher-than-normal androgen levels can prevent a woman’s ovaries from releasing eggs as they normally would during the menstrual cycle. Inside each ovary are small sacs called follicles that break open and release the eggs, but in the case of PCOS, those follicles never break open and instead become cysts.
Polycystic ovary syndrome is also linked to increased insulin levels and a condition called insulin resistance, in which the body does not respond normally to the hormone insulin. This causes it to work harder to produce more insulin, which can also trigger increased androgen production.
How is PCOS typically treated?
Diet and lifestyle changes are often the first line of defense and may help women with mild PCOS symptoms find relief. Eating healthier foods, losing weight, and increasing physical activity can help regulate the menstrual cycle and promote a healthy hormonal balance in women with PCOS, which may also increase their chance of becoming pregnant.
For women with more pronounced symptoms, there are several medications available to help alleviate the pain, mood changes, fatigue and other symptoms associated with PCOS. However, like most prescription drugs, they come with significant side effects that can cause women more harm than good, especially if they hope to one day conceive.
Most women with PCOS manage their symptoms with a combination of birth control pills (to help regulate the menstrual cycle), hormonal treatment (to induce ovulation in women trying to get pregnant), diabetes medications (to treat insulin resistance), antidepressants and/or anti-anxiety medications, over-the-counter pain relievers, and medications to help with acne and excessive hair growth.
Medical marijuana is quickly gaining attention as a possible treatment for PCOS.
Though the link between cannabis and PCOS relief is a relatively new idea, related studies show promise that the natural cannabinoids present in medical marijuana can treat a broad range of symptoms associated with the condition.
For example, several studies are looking into how both THC and CBD (cannabidiol) interact with the endocannabinoid system to promote a normal inflammatory response in the body and help regulate the immune system, which may have far-reaching effects for PCOS sufferers.
“Some people believe the anti-inflammatory qualities can help with cramps and back pain,” said pain specialist Dr. Shivani Amin in a recent bud.com article. An active member of the Maryland Cannabis Task Force, Dr. Amin is a strong advocate for exploration into the benefits of medical marijuana for women with PCOS.
Using natural cannabinoids to help restore internal balance may also help with hormone regulation, which in turn could assist in the treatment of PCOS-related insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, obesity and mood changes.
In general, women are already more likely than men to suffer from depression and anxiety, and polycystic ovary syndrome raises that likelihood. One Washington State University study found that cannabis “significantly reduced ratings of depression, stress and anxiety.” Specifically, high-CBD strains were best for depression, while high-THC strains were more effective for stress and anxiety.
Finally, because the pain associated with polycystic ovary syndrome can be debilitating, one of the most promising aspects of mmj treatment is pain relief.
“Every type of pain has been successfully treated with cannabis, especially in terms of spasming muscle fibers—organ spasming, as well as general muscle spasms,” said Seattle-based naturopathic physician Dr. Iris Crawford in a recent interview with Leafly magazine. “It helps with the way our brain experiences pain. It has so many benefits and so few side effects compared to any pain medication, namely something like Vicodin, which is addictive and constipates you. Cannabis is virtually free of side effects.”
Medical cannabis offers a variety of treatment options for women with PCOS.
If you are a woman with polycystic ovary syndrome and you live in a state where medical marijuana is legal, you have a number of different mmj treatment options available. While cannabis is not a cure, it is a safer, natural alternative to relieving many of the symptoms associated with PCOS, without the harsh side effects of prescription medication.
The first step is talking with your physician about your condition and how medical marijuana may help provide relief. Then, once you complete the certification and approval process and receive your medical marijuana card, a visit to your local dispensary and a chat with your budtender can help you find the treatment option that best fits your needs and lifestyle.
At Desert Rose Dispensary, we put our patients first.
Living with any condition that causes ongoing pain and discomfort has a profound impact on your quality of life. The caring and compassionate dispensary staff at Desert Rose understands this and goes the extra mile to make every patient feel welcome and valued.
If you have questions about polycystic ovary syndrome or other health conditions and are seeking answers about medical marijuana treatment, we can help. Our dispensary is conveniently located in North Phoenix on the corner of 7th Avenue and Happy Valley Road.
Visit our Contact Page today for complete directions, and be sure to take advantage of our new extended hours! We are open from 8:00AM to 10:00PM every day, with tax-free hours during the first and last two hours of each day.