Is Cannabis a Natural PCOS Treatment? We Asked an Expert
P olycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder affecting one in 15 people with ovaries worldwide. It’s frequently painful and a cause of infertility.
Dr. Iris Crawford is a Seattle-based naturopathic physician specializing in hormonal issues and cannabis. She took the time to chat about the origins of the disorder, misconceptions surrounding the disease, and the use of cannabis to treat some of its most problematic side effects.
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Leafly: Your specialty is in hormonal variations. Do you work with a lot with PCOS patients in your practice?
Dr. Iris Crawford: I did a podcast [about PCOS] a couple of times which generated a lot of phone calls. I had women from around the country calling and going “help me!” because there’s just not a lot of options out there for women with PCOS. There’s a lot of information they aren’t getting from their general physicians.
I quickly learned about the different ways people have been helped by cannabis as medicine when they have so few other options—especially when managing chronic pain.
What’s one thing about PCOS that isn’t well understood?
Crawford: With the majority of PCOS sufferers, there is an issue that if never corrected, never lets you be free of the condition. It lies within insulin resistance. If you have insulin resistance and it continues to be untreated, you will constantly be in the pathology of irregular testosterone production and the entire gamut of symptoms that go with it. Even lean people can have insulin resistance.
Some providers treat weight as a symptom of PCOS, while others treat it as a root cause. Where do things fall in that spectrum? Is it different for everyone?
Crawford: It’s both. It’s very much a “chicken-and-egg” scenario. PCOS can occur while you have extra weight on your body, but insulin resistance also causes weight gain.
The other thing that causes insulin resistance is not weight but stress, especially in women. Stress causes high cortisol which promotes insulin resistance as well.
Tell us about your background using cannabis as a holistic treatment.
Crawford: When I grew up, I became very comfortable with recreational use around me because my mom used cannabis. It was never something that was scary for me. I’ve always found it harmless.
When I became a naturopathic doctor, of course, I could see the benefit of plant-based medicine as a whole. I took a class about the use of cannabinoids and how our endocannabinoid system evolved with the plant. I quickly learned about the different ways people have been helped by cannabis as medicine when they have so few other options—especially when managing chronic pain.
Especially pertaining to female reproductive issues like constant inflammation, how do you think cannabinoids can help in managing the chronic pain of PCOS as well as post-rupture treatment?
Crawford: 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. 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.
[Pain also] makes us irritable and grumpy, and a lot of people have major depression when they are chronic pain sufferers. Cannabis is beneficial for those things, too.
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Not to mention mood as it relates to the side effects of hormonal swings and PMS.
Crawford: I recently began to focus on outreach messages regarding women and depression. Women are two to four times more likely to attempt suicide.
Anxiety, depression, and insomnia are all issues related to hormone imbalances. Hormonal imbalances are twice as likely to happen in women, and this isn’t with women who are perimenopausal — I’ve treated a girl as young as 16 who was having panic attacks due to hormone imbalance. These hormonal imbalances are caused by stress which is part of a syndrome called Adrenal Fatigue. This has become an epidemic among women and I am dedicating the rest of my career to it.
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Crawford: And it comes back to the cortisol connection to blood sugar. Every woman who struggles with PCOS should be evaluated for adrenal fatigue as well as hormonal imbalance. It’s part of the whole picture. Facial hair and acne can also be typical complaints of sufferers with PCOS.
Most of the work I do with women will involve a weight loss component. I have an approach that helps take the extra weight off very quickly and then allows them to keep it off without dieting. It works as a reset to metabolism. It’s a huge piece of the puzzle for sufferers, as they have usually tried every diet out there.
Dietary advice can be very trendy.
Crawford: Yep. I work with women who can’t lose weight even on a keto diet, so it’s very frustrating. That’s where I become a detective. There is an underlying cause as to why your body won’t release that fat. Usually, it’s a hormone imbalance and/or a broken metabolism from a history of dieting, and also environmental toxins.
Oftentimes my experience with Western medicine has been reduced to a number on the scale. The vast majority of my doctors have focused on that number, which can bring a lot of guilt and shame into picture. The general conclusion is you’re sick because you’re fat.
Crawford: Yes, totally. You’ll often see the focus on BMI, which has no relevance to your general health. The Incredible Hulk would be obese according to BMI standards. Percentage of body fat is really where it’s at.
If someone wasn’t based in the Pacific Northwest, how could they access your service?
Crawford: I have patients calling from all over the country and I’m able to help them long distance. I don’t refer out because it’s so specialized. It’s called the Crawford Hormone Revitalization Method and it’s my specific specialty. It grew out of me seeing, on a nationwide level, women who were not getting the help they needed.We discussed polycystic ovarian syndrome with Dr. Iris Crawford, a naturopathic physician who uses cannabis to treat symptom associated with PCOS.
CBD for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Would you consider cannabidiol as a possible treatment of the symptoms of PCOS? Success has been shown in CBD treating anxiety, pain, PMS, and sleep issues. CBD’s anxiolytic, non-psychoactive properties can potentially be beneficial for PCOS patients and help them feel calm and relaxed and improve their sleep quality.
What is PCOS?
PCOS stands for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. It refers to a condition which affects the hormonal levels of a woman. PCOS is characterized by the production of higher-than-normal male hormones. Physical signs are severe acne, dandruff, weight gain, hirsutism, and male-pattern baldness. Internal symptoms include missed periods and abnormal heavy flow, multiple cysts, pelvic pain and thickening of the uterus wall. The occasional skipping of menstrual periods reduces the chance of becoming pregnant, therefore women suffering from PCOS tend to struggle with fertility. The ovaries may also develop several fluid collections preventing the regular release of eggs. PCOS causes an increase in insulin; the hormone that regulates how the foods you consume is transformed into energy. It may also prevent your body from regulating the amount of this hormone making insulin blood levels to be higher than normal. Risk factors are unhealthy eating habits, obesity, lack of enough exercise and genetics.
Symptoms of PCOS cause substantial discomfort and pain. One treatment option that is gaining momentum today is cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive chemical found in medical cannabis. It works fast to reduce symptoms of PCOS. Note that there are many different varieties of CBD products that vary in potency and dosage. The exact dose that suits you depends on your symptoms; PCOS produces a broad range of signs and side effects. You must factor in the same while choosing the variety that best suits your condition.
For a medical condition always consult with a healthcare professional before consuming CBD.
Why Can CBD Work For Treating PCOS?
Anti-inflammatory/Pain Relief Properties
Cannabidiol (CBD) is an anti-inflammatory and has pain relief properties. There is evidence glycinergic CBDs are strong therapeutical agents that can be used to treat neuropathic and inflammatory pain. They are, therefore, capable of attenuating compulsive pain without causing significant analgesic tolerance and psychoactive side effects. Cannabidiols also possess anti-anxiety properties and hence are usually administered for patients with anxiety disorders. These properties make CBD ideal for the treat PCOS symptoms, primarily sleep and anxiety issues.
Maintains a Healthy ECS
ECS (Endocannabinoid system) is a signaling mechanism that maintains homeostasis in your body. It is composed of Endocannabinoids and two cannabinoid receptors whose role is to balance all the processes including reproduction. Research has shown that ECS malfunction causes PCOS in some women. Cannabinoid shares identical chemical makeup with endocannabinoids, therefore it helps keep your system running smoothly. So, supplementing with CBD has a direct effect on PCOS patients; it aids the treatment process.
What Are The Benefits of Using CBD to Treat PCOS?
A 2005 study by Hollinrake 1 revealed that women with PCOS are more likely to develop stress and depression. Patients using CBD will not only feel calmer but also reap heavily from its anti-stress effect. It helps patients cope with the otherwise painful and disturbing symptoms. The fact that CBD has everything it takes to help your system run smoothly means it can restore hormonal balance. The end result is a decrease in menstrual irregularity and a corresponding increase in the likelihood of conceiving. Cannabidiols also reduce body fats and hence are effective in controlling weight, one of the risk factors for developing PCOS. The characteristic reduction in pain, when using CBD, relieves patients if the agony.
How PCOS Affects The Endocannabinoid System (ECS)
ECS is composed of a series of receptors present in all major bodily systems. Its function is to keep virtually every physiological process, such as digestion, pain modulation and the reproductive system in a state of balance. Under normal circumstance, devoid of PCOS, naturally released cannabinoids constantly act on the receptors thus eliciting chemical responses which, in turn, maintain the various bodily processes in homeostasis. PCOS, characterized by the growth of small cysts on the ovaries, is an organized metabolic and endocrine disorder. It causes excessive production of androgen, insulin, hyperlipidemia, anovulatory, acne, hirsute, adrenal hyperplasia and weight gain. The disorder, therefore, destabilizes ECS making your body to develop several disturbing symptoms.
How Can I Use CBD to Treat PCOS?
Before you start using CBD for any health reason, it is important that you consult your doctor first. This is because the doctor will be able to evaluate your body and the extent of the disease or condition. This way, the doctor is also able to advise you the best way to use CBD to treat PCOS.
CBD is currently being offered in different forms such as oil, paste, tablets, and vapes. CBD oil or paste has been shown as being a preferred option for many people. However, it is best to choose the form that you feel most comfortable using.
If used properly, CBD can be a great option for many people. However, it’s important to remember that every person is unique and everyone’s reaction to CBD is different. The recommended dosage from each product can differ greatly, creating some confusion. Dosage may be different depending on the percentage of CBD oil you are using.
We recommend the Step-Up method as described by Leinow and Birnbaum in their book CBD: A Patient’s Guide to Medicinal Cannabis 2 . For detailed information about dosage, see our post on CBD dosage.
What Are Studies Saying About Using CBD For PCOS?
A study by Alison J. Dawson 3 has shown that endocannabinoid receptor blockage brought about by CBD lowers alanine amino transfer in women with PCOS that has no relationship with weight loss. This finding shows that CBD can eliminate disturbing PCOS symptoms and reinstate homeostasis in the body. The study was composed of two groups, each of 50 obese women suffering from PCOS. The group put on CBD recorded impressive results that confirm CBD is effective in the treatment of PCOS.
Another study 4 conducted by the International Journal of Endocrinology obtained a similar finding. The study involved one group of 173 women with Polycystic Ovary syndrome, aged 20-53, and a different one with 125, healthy (weight and age-matched) randomly selected from the population. The results mirrored those of the separate study, further confirming that CBD is effective for treating PCOS. While these results are a step in the right direction be sure you consult your medical practitioner for expert advice on the PCOS treatment regime.Can CBD Work for treating PCOS? Read Hemppedia's guide for a detailed review of the effect of Cannabidiol (CBD) on Polycystic Ovary Syndrome ]]>