Queen Victoria’s well-documented usage of marijuana to relieve menstrual cramps might be passed around today as a humorous historical factoid, but modern research indicates that the queen’s doctors may have been onto something. Science overwhelmingly indicates that cannabis has beneficial effects on PMS, a stage in the menstrual cycle that is, for most women, characterized by painful cramping.
As early as 1978, Dr. Sidney Cohen published research revealing that like most pain medication, marijuana lessens the brain’s awareness of pain. And specifically for the nasty cramps experienced during one’s PMS, cannabis serves to relax the body’s muscles. Some marijuana users have also reported less frequent and dramatically shorter periods, which is corroborated by research indicating that marijuana can result in missed periods and all-around irregular menstrual cycles. Summed up by the health information outlet Medic8: “Marijuana can cause irregular or missed periods. However, some women claim that it increases blood flow which reduces painful cramping.”
But Medic8 also warns the drug can double almost as a form of birth control, affecting ovulation and breaking down overstimulated sperm that come into contact with THC-laced vaginal mucus. For that reason, for all its positive effects on menstrual cramps, marijuana might not be the best choice of pain medication for women seeking to conceive. Still, while pregnant women aren’t exactly advised to smoke weed, a new study published in the Journal of Perinatology finds that the drug doesn’t increase any risk of fetal anomalies. It’s also the choice of some pregnant women to fight morning sickness and even labor pains.
Also relevant to women’s health, research shows that those consuming marijuana have lower body mass indexes and rates of diabetes. Marijuana even appears to contribute to treating breast cancer, which ranks among the most serious threats to women’s health.
Weed might even change your organsms.
The drug’s ability to heighten one’s senses through increasing blood flow can even help women achieve orgasm, according to Women’s Health magazine. And in her book, "Mary Jane: The Complete Marijuana Handbook for Women," Cheri Sicard writes that the physiological experiences of being high and having an orgasm are remarkably similar in their effects on the brain and hormones. Along with boosting creativity and possibly contributing to overall longer lifespans, there appear to be plenty of reasons for the recent rise in marijuana’s popularity among women, although there’s no denying the very special appeal of dodging menstrual cramps.
So all in all, it looks like you can add science to the growing list of reasons that marijuana legalization could benefit society, from reforming our broken prison system to destigmatizing people of color and lower income brackets. That’s not to say the drug is without its health drawbacks, potentially limiting sperm production and irritating the lungs, but no contest, alcohol and tobacco appear to pose far greater public health risks, and neither is exactly an ally to menstruating women like marijuana is.
Yet ultimately, for all its benefits for women in particular, the classic triumvirate of racism, sexism, and classism has always cast society’s concept of the typical marijuana user as a poor man of color rather than a woman fighting back against PMS. For now, we can only hope that research about marijuana’s health benefits becomes more pervasive, and that women become more widely recognized and accepted as stakeholders in the national fight for legalization.