Should You Be Considering Cannabis For Cramp Relief?

Should You Be Considering

Cannabis For Cramp Relief?

Cramps. Mood swings. Headaches. Sound familiar? Rather than turning to painkillers, heating pads, and chocolate each month during your menstrual cycle, try a more effective and more natural solution — cannabis. The potential benefits of cannabis for many disease states and ailments has been widely discussed and researched, but new legislation and broader access to this product is bringing cannabis to a more mainstream audience. It takes advantage of this substance and hides the possibilities of it. For women’s health in particular, cannabis can be extremely effective in helping with symptoms surrounding menstruation.

I came to cannabis reluctantly, trying to preserve some quality of life for myself after being housebound from a severe autoimmune condition for 15 years. The drugs prescribed to help the condition precipitated life endangering side effects. When I, like so many others in serious disease states, was “out of options” with traditional medicine, I turned to cannabis.

"For women's health in particular, cannabis can be extremely effective in helping with symptoms surrounding menstruation."

I discovered that cannabis provided incremental relief when almost nothing else could. I then went on a mission to make the cannabis potent enough to help debilitating conditions and pure enough to be used by very sick people. I serendipitously invented the first standardized cannabis extracts for medicinal purposes (after GW Pharma’s initial work on Sativex). I shared the extracts with a few select physicians and a top oncologist came back to me, declaring that his stage four cancer patients were going into remission 96% of the time after using the extracts. That was when the story of my business, Constance Therapeutics, began.

There I was, combining two of the most disruptive and least supported trends in business: medicinal cannabis and women leadership. Patients who had tried the extracts wanted more product Word of mouth about the quality and benefits of the product resulted in a much desired outcome, but also common downfall of a new business —  managing overwhelming demand. I was also facing the challenge of growing a business for a product that was federally illegal and only legal for medicinal purposes within my state of California. There were, and still are, a lack of industry regulations, with a national culture war coming to a head and cannabis caught in the middle. I just wanted to be able to get more people treatment options that were very much in need. To say there have been challenges would be an understatement.

I started to do things differently, and for the first five years, other people in the industry really questioned my methods. Rather than making medicinal cannabis from “garbage” or leftover trim, I created extracts from the trimmed whole plant female bud. I also wanted to pay closer attention to the strain genetics, believing that certain strains can be more powerful and helpful than others. Making these important changes as well as creating a patented extraction process, took more time to fine tune, but has made Constance Therapeutics products of a higher quality and therefore more effective.

In addition to questions and pushback I initially encountered for my unconventional production methods, I was also questioned as a female in this roll. I am still constantly in meetings, conferences, and events where those in the industry look around to find the male CEO and scientist of my company. Even my current partners have admitted to assuming my male consultant was the CEO of the company early on. When I started in cannabis, only 7% of all participants were women, and most were very young women in more junior roles. Now, we are seeing serious leadership from women on the medicinal cannabis side, primarily in California, but also in Colorado. It’s exciting to see the shift. I always tell women that there is plenty of space in the industry, and you don’t have to just think about being a grower or product developer, you can be an accountant, a lawyer, a business consultant — you name it. Being a female cannabis entrepreneur for the last 10 years certainly has not been boring! But it’s also been incredibly rewarding, and I’ve been able to see more and more the amazing skills that this plant can do.

Part of the slow participation of women in the industry is because women haven’t been cannabis users historically. We’ve been castigated for using psychoactive substances, while on the flip side, these substances have been reserved for the male heroic passage or journey in most indigenous cultures. We’ve also had the incessantly present unconscious attitude that women should be good girls. There are so many negative terms for women who are deemed too sexually active or “wild,” for example.

There was a risk of being written off as out of control or inappropriate for smoking a joint.  Experimentation with psychoactivity has been male territory, and still largely is.  Fortunately, we are seeing a shift, especially with younger generations where there is an evolving consciousness about gender in general. With more open minds, we are turning more attention to invention and creative uses of plants and our native human intelligence. That gives me hope — I see signs that things are swinging toward a natural integration where cannabis might even be seen as part of traditional health care. It might even be seen more as an extension of wellness and self-care practices with product available at your local health food market.

Cannabis is maybe the MOST broadly useful plant that exists on Earth! Women are missing out by not viewing cannabis as a potential health and wellness tool.

There’s an inherent natural fit for women and cannabis. Female fertilized plants offer the most potent cannabis. Plants were a big part of early women’s lives. There is also some very early research which indicates that women’s endocannabinoid systems are often more sensitive than men’s. This suggests to me that CBD combinations with particular genetically sourced THC, can provide greater relief to women.

The majority of our patients tend to be women using cannabis for the first time or who are novice users who feel like their without options in terms of traditional care. This usually means that they have a terminal disease, but they can also often be incapacitated from an autoimmune or Lyme disease or another type of undifferentiated chronic pain. Over the last decade, my work evolved to meet the needs of the patients doctors sent to us. We are inherently biased toward women in need of other care options when it comes to developing product. It’s a serious pleasure to meet the needs of women who often face more health problems than men with less traditional medical support.

"My favorite part of being a female cannabis entrepreneur is being able to provide products that meet women's needs for healing, comfort and relief." Author Constance Finley

This is why I feel that cannabis needs to be called upon more often in women’s health — not just for serious disease states. We know that there are many benefits of the plant that lend themselves to symptom management surrounding the menstrual cycle, menopause, and even aiding in sexual wellness. The menstrual cycle in particular can be especially difficult for many women to manage, with very wide-ranging symptoms.

So, how does it all work? The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is the regulatory system for all mammals. Our ECS regulates all of the body’s systems, helping to manage everything from the nervous system and pain receptors, to circulatory systems and inflammation. Cannabis affects the ECS very similarly to the natural cannabinoids our bodies make on demand when needed, so we are not introducing an unknown substance.

This is a substance that our deepest regulatory system understands intrinsically. Cannabis is also a gentler affecting bioactive compound than those synthetically created that hit one point from the pharmaceutical allopathic model. Cannabis affects multiple targets at once, which accounts for its initiation of pleasure, well-being, affinity, humor, perspective, appetite and affection. The benefits are not unilateral or one note which makes it a great fit for that time of month where the symptoms are anything but uniform.

Temperature, pain, appetite, sleep, feelings of wellbeing or discomfort, intestinal function, and other body functions, all are controlled at the most basic level by the ECS. CBD and THC both affect the ECS, helping to decrease pain or discomfort that might be associated with cramps, backaches, and even headaches.

Additionally, benefits of CBD and THC on the ECS can help with stabilizing mood and decreasing bloating and inflammation of the body associated with the menstrual cycle. The general misery we all experience during menstruation is complex and varied across the body. Cannabis can act as a medicine that is broad-based, meeting multiple needs and comforting gently, without putting you into a comatose state. Cannabis can do a lot of good with little to no interference in daily life unlike most other pharmaceutical substances.

Through our ECS, the bioactive compounds in phytocannabinoids (CBD, THC) controls our underlying bodily and mental functions. Our ECS internally produces endogenous cannabinoids when we need them, and when we add phytocannabinoids from the plant, we tonify and bathe our receptors in a higher quantity or potency than our own natural system provides. So we give our bodies a jolt of what we normally produce ourselves when using cannabis. Some womens’ ECS’ are made so happy that they experience a sense of coming into their own through using cannabis.

A few weeks ago, I saw a friend of mine who was complaining about a persistent headache related to hormones. She couldn’t get it to go away with over-the-counter pills. She took one hit of our Constance Therapeutics FOCUS vape pen, which is 68% CBD and 3.07% THC, and she felt relief within three minutes. She took one more hit after an hour, and she no longer had any headache. This friend is extremely sensitive to any THC but she experienced no psychoactivity at all with that mixture. Her experience is an example of just one way in which cannabis can help significantly with menstrual symptoms and is why we do what we do!

For women looking to start incorporating cannabis into their care routines, my recommendation is to start with CBD. CBD doesn’t have the psychoactive effects most people associate with cannabis but instead actually provides focusing and anti-anxiety and anti-depression properties through serotonin enhancement and mood enhancement effects. Depending on a woman’s individual needs, CBD is highly efficacious against certain kinds of pain. CBD can help with cramping, lower backache and headaches, including migraines.

You’ll have to ask yourself, how severe are the symptoms? At Constance Therapeutics, a recommendation for menstrual symptoms may be as simple as a CBD vape pen for mild cramping, depression and back pain that passes in a day, but it can increase from there by incorporating THC and upping the dosage to a triage of products that would be worked into daily life all month long for severe menstrual issues. If you find that you need more for symptom management, THC will provide added benefits and any psychoactivity from experiencing THC typically goes away with a few uses, which is known as the attenuation process.

Even if you start with CBD, don’t overlook THC! The synergy between CBD and THC makes both cannabinoids more effective. If you live in a state where THC is legal, use a product that has a meaningful level of THC in it — our CBD rich formulations have 68% CBD and 3.07% THC. It makes for a more effective product, and 95% of people don’t experience psychoactive effects from THC in that mixture.

The simplest, fastest and shortest lasting method of ingesting cannabis is vaping. I typically recommend that delivery method for menstruation. Secondly, topicals on the area of pain and discomfort can be very effective for stomach cramping and even backaches. Finally, for more long-lasting effects and a more cumulative benefit, directly ingesting a capsule or liquid from a syringe into the buccal area of the mouth is recommended. We coach women to find what combination of ratios, genetics and delivery method work for them in particular. Experiment and take notes of what you do or don’t like to determine what’s best for you.

Keep in mind that when looking for cannabis, quality and knowing the source is key. Just like you might buy organic fruits and vegetables that go into your body from a known farmer at your farmers’ market, you want to buy cannabis from a known producer always. Don’t buy products from an online-only retailer. Ask where the cannabis was grown, by whom, and with what growing methods. How long has the company been in cannabis? I recommend that you get CBD from growers who follow organic soil health practices and who identify the origin of their CBD. Farm Bill Hemp developed for medicinal purposes is best, versus an industrial hemp source. Choose Whole Plant Extracts over Isolates or Distillates. Also, is there a female CEO or COO or head of R&D? I’m biased, but I like to ask that question if I’m buying women’s health products.

My favorite part of being a female cannabis entrepreneur is being able to provide products that meet women’s needs for healing, comfort and relief. The changing relationship women have with cannabis has been exciting to witness, and I look forward to seeing cannabis become a regular part of women’s health care routines and even wellness routines. Women are finally giving themselves permission to slow down, take a break and prioritize their own well-being — whether dedicating just a few minutes, hours, or even days to practicing self care. We often work full time jobs, act as caretakers, and manage the home, which means we do several more jobs than our partners. I love the idea of adopting a “Sabbath” of sorts even once a month or once a week to use cannabis consciously. Using cannabis doesn’t mean closing off parts of your life, but rather embracing them! Listen to your children, take a walk with your dog, touch your significant other, relax with your favorite meal — utilize cannabis not only as a way to manage uncomfortable symptoms, but also for enjoyment and to enhance experiences, not escape them.

Constance Finley

Constance Finley, founder and CEO of Constance Therapeutics, was inspired by her own personal experience with a chronic illness.

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