Women’s Health & Cannabis Focus

bottle surrounded green leaves

Medical cannabis is out of the haze and into the headlines as expanded research programs share its proven benefits with wider audiences. Some of the most recognized applications of cannabinoid-based medicine are in the treatment of neuropathic pain, inflammation and muscle spasticity. A range of pronounced analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties have inspired emerging studies into cannabis’s potential applications for women’s health. It is estimated that at least 20% of women globally suffer from chronic gynecological challenges, for example, endometriosis, dysmenorrhea, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and fibroids, to name just a few. Despite the prevalence of these often painful and incurable disorders, funding for research is limited.

The research gap in women’s health is part of a larger picture: despite strides in improving the status of women globally, health care inequality remains an ongoing challenge. However, this is slowly changing. Recently, there has been a surge of interest and funding for research related to women’s health. In particular, research and development for cannabis-based therapies targeting women’s health challenges is making headway. The female reproductive system has the highest concentration of endocannabinoid receptors after the human brain, making it particularly receptive to cannabis-based therapies. In fact, since antiquity, cannabis has been traditionally used for treating women’s medical conditions. From ancient Mesopotamia to Victorian England, cannabis has brought relief to women throughout history who have suffered from menstrual discomfort, endometriosis, the pain of contractions, and hormone-related nausea. While cannabis prohibition halted the development of medical cannabis treatment options for women, this trend has reversed and is quickly making up for lost time.

One of the world leaders in this field is the Lumir Lab at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Funded by the Israeli investment firm, Asana Bio Group Ltd., the lab provides clinical trial services for medical cannabis product development related to women’s health. In their first joint study with Israeli start-up Gynica, the Lumir Lab is investigating the use of cannabinoids in the treatment of endometriosis. Endometriosis occurs when uterine tissue migrates from the uterus to other parts of the body, causing pain and discomfort, and affects an estimated 180 million women worldwide. Although there is anecdotal evidence supporting the use of cannabis in reducing symptoms, and even preventing the spread of the disease, prohibitive attitudes towards researching cannabis have stalled progress. However, these attitudes are changing. This shift and the resulting increase in clinical research and development of cannabis-based treatments for gynecological challenges ranging from PMS to menopause can potentially improve the quality of life and long-term health outcomes for millions of women worldwide.

Esther Barak Landes is a member of the Gynica board of advisors and a prolific, successful tech deal-maker in Israel.  In her opinion, “Women’s health issues need to be better addressed in today’s medical world, and Gynica has made its core mission to make this a global agenda. The company is leading breakthrough research today, which will efficiently improve the health of women worldwide in diverse medical fields.” 

The underrepresentation of women’s health-related research and product development has negatively affected women and abandoned them to inefficient and sometimes painful interventions. Alternatively, women also opt to self-medicate with cannabis. While this is a common trend among chronic pain and inflammation sufferers, women have also been found to use cannabis to relieve the anxiety and depression associated with sexual trauma. Clinical studies have demonstrated the efficacy of cannabis in mitigating the symptoms of PTSD in military veterans.while studies uniquely investigating women experiencing PTSD that is rooted in sexual trauma have been far less popular. Hopefully, this research gap will soon be reduced and the psychological and physical health needs of women will be more effectively addressed.

HASHcreative started working with Gynica last year. In that time, CEO Avital Bayer has realized that women’s pain is not taken as seriously as men’s, and significant biases exist in the way healthcare research and funding is allocated. She cites data points showing:

  • Male sexual pleasure is studied five times more than female pain, even though Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) affects 90% of females; and 
  • 40% of women with PMS don’t respond to medication, while a wide range of treatments exists for Erectile Dysfunction (ED). 

According to Bayer, “Gynica believes it’s time for research and medicine to deep dive into female health issues and allow women to live their full potential by reducing suffering.”

In the rapidly expanding medical cannabis ecosystem, research and development are placing women’s health front and center. While there is still a long road to travel, both in the maximization of cannabis research and medicine and in addressing health-related gender inequality, medical cannabis companies are quickly recognizing the importance of developing specific products and therapies specifically for women. Increased funding for woman-centered research is the first step down this road.

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