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Cannabis in Women’s Health

More women are openly consuming the natural remedy

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Cannabis in Women’s Health

Since Canada’s cannabis legalization, more and more, people are turning to this natural remedy for relief from pain, stress, anxiety, sleep, and more. Cannabis consumption among women, in particular, has grown steadily, with an increased number of women turning to cannabis for a variety of health needs.

Cannabis may be known by many names, but it’s usually referred to as “she,” with only the female plants producing the prized buds loaded with cannabinoids. Popular and consumer references still tend to focus squarely on men, however. In fact, female cannabis consumption is becoming increasingly visible as more women turn to this natural remedy for their health. Women are consuming nearly as much cannabis as men, according to reporting about Cannatrack, Applied Knowledge’s cannabis consumption tracker. It found that, from October 2018 to September 2019, approximately 33 percent of Canadian females had consumed cannabis, compared to 34 percent of males. As cannabis slowly sheds its outdated association with the male “stoner” stereotype, consumption among women could potentially tip even higher. “I think there are a lot of women who quietly use cannabis,” says Sabrina Ramkellawan, COO and co-founder of Knowde Group Inc., a research organization and consultancy specializing in plant-based medicine. “Women may be more reluctant than men to say that they’re users; it seems like it’s still more common, or acceptable, for men. With women being seen as caregivers, there’s that stigma. “As more and more people are getting used to seeing and hearing about other women using cannabis, including professional women, the more women feel comfortable telling their own stories,” she says.

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Who’s consuming cannabis?

Among male and female cannabis consumers, the greatest concentration is in the 21 to 39 age range, though women in the 19- to 24-year-old bracket are more likely to consume than men, Cannatrack showed.

Age groupMenWomen
19 to 2036%40%
21 to 2446%50%
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How much do women use cannabis?

The Cannatrack data also revealed that among both genders, more consumers are shifting from being “light” users (less than once a month) to “high” or “medium” users (between once a week minimum and once a month).

The highest percentage of women who consume cannabis more than once a week is in those aged 19 to 20 and 25 to 29.

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What types of health issues are women consuming cannabis for?

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Menopause

According to the Midlife Women Veterans Health Survey, to help manage their menopausal symptoms, 27 percent of women said they had used or were currently using cannabis. Another 10 percent reported they were interested in trying cannabis to treat menopause-related problems. Only 19 percent reported using more conventional approaches such as hormonal therapy.

The Midlife Women Veterans Health Survey reported on women with an average age of 56 who reported menopause symptoms, including the following.

insomnia27%
night sweats, hot flashes, flushes54%
vaginal dryness, painful urination69%

Cannabis may be helpful in mitigating the symptoms of menopause because, just as with the many changes that come with the cessation of menstruation, cannabis is a complex plant consisting of hundreds of compounds and having multiple effects.

“Menopause is not just one thing; it’s a bunch of things, and cannabis doesn’t just target one thing,” Ramkellawan says. “It affects mood, it affects pain, it affects sleep; it really lends itself well to many conditions for women because it hits on so many different receptors.”

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Endometriosis

This disease is marked by the growth of endometrial tissue outside the uterine cavity, which causes chronic pelvic pain and can lead to infertility.

Endometriosis affects one in 10 women of childbearing age.

Although research is limited, mice studies have shown that daily treatments with THC alleviated pain and reduced cognitive impairments sometimes associated with the condition. Cannabis also inhibited the development of endometrial cysts.

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Arthritis pain

Arthritis affects one in four Canadian women and one in six men.

A poll by the Arthritis Foundation found that 29 percent of people who participated in their recent survey reported current use of cannabis (mostly CBD in liquid or topical form), and nearly 80 percent of respondents were either using it, had used it in the past, or were considering it. People noted improvement in physical function, sleep, and pain or stiffness.

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Fibromyalgia

Symptoms associated with fibromyalgia include widespread musculoskeletal pain as well as fatigue, cognitive problems, mood disturbances, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches, and sleep problems.

Fibromyalgia is far more prevalent in women than men, with approximately 90 percent of cases being diagnosed among females.

Although limited, research suggests that people with the condition who consumed cannabis experienced significant improvements in pain intensity.

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Migraines, insomnia, and anxiety

These are other conditions some women are consuming cannabis to treat—issues that are far more common in women than men. “Some women are using cannabis to help with sexual function as well,” Ramkellawan says.

See our web exclusive at alive.com/webexclusive/for more on the role cannabis may play in improving women’s sexual health.

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What does the future hold?

Ramkellawan hopes that there will more cannabis research dedicated specifically to women’s health, such as the plant’s effectiveness in treating endometriosis and menopause.

She also suspects there will be a greater variety of ways to administer cannabis, including vaginal suppositories. (“There are women currently making their own,” Ramkellawan says.) Effective topical applications, such as creams or gels that absorb easily, which are popular among seniors with arthritis, could also become more common.

High-ranking women in the cannabis field

Sabrina Ramkellawan

The co-founder of Knowde Group Inc. is a former registered nurse and one of Canada’s leading cannabinoid researchers. The president of Clinical Research Association of Canada, Ramkellawan also teaches a cannabis certificate program to health care providers at the Michener Institute of Education at the University Health Network.

Melinda Rombouts

The CEO of Eve & Co, a female-focused cannabis brand, has extensive knowledge in plant biology and experience in greenhouse operations. Through its wholly owned subsidiary, Natural MedCo Ltd., Eve & Co is a licensed producer and seller of dried cannabis and cannabis plants.

Rachel Colic

Founder of The Boss Ladies of Cannabis, Colic is a brand strategist with a background in advertising. Colic launched this listing of female leaders after noticing that just 25 percent of women hold executive positions in the industry.

Cannabis and anxiety in women

While cannabis may help relieve anxiety, some research suggests that women may be more likely than men to get anxiety-related symptoms from occasional use. If you’re consuming cannabis, watch for feelings of nervousness or restlessness or a heart-racing sensation. If those symptoms appear, consider reducing the dose.

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