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.
Dr. Iris Crawford
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.
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and CBD
Updated on January 25, 2019. Medical content reviewed by Dr. Joseph Rosado, MD, M.B.A, Chief Medical Officer
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal issue that typically affects women of childbearing age. This condition is frequently characterized by irregular or absent periods, acne, excessive hair growth and polycystic ovaries.
Symptoms of PCOS
Although the ovaries may produce a buildup of follicles over time, those with this disorder may not always have cysts. Rather, PCOS manifests when the reproductive hormones are imbalanced. These hormones are responsible for ensuring the ovaries remain in healthy working condition. In women with PCOS, the irregularity of these hormones can create reproductive and ovary issues over time.
When left untreated, PCOS can create a variety of complications for the patient, including:
- Mood disorders
- Miscarriage during pregnancies
- Liver inflammation
- High blood pressure
- Endometrial cancer
Because PCOS creates the potential for other health complications, it’s crucial to find a form of relief that helps a patient efficiently manage their symptoms. Because the precise cause of PCOS is not entirely known, the manifestation of this disorder is not always preventable. However, patients have access to a myriad of options — including medical cannabidiol (CBD) products — that can help alleviate their daily discomforts.
How PCOS Affect the Endocannabinoid System
Although the exact cause of PCOS is not entirely known, researchers believe the production of insulin plays a crucial role in the formation of this hormone disorder. This is a vital piece of information to understand when examining the endocannabinoid system, which can explain why the body of patients with PCOS struggles to reach normalized hormone levels.
Hormones are responsible for ensuring proper bodily regulation. Those with PCOS may exhibit insulin resistance that contributes to their formation of hormonal imbalances. CB1 and CB2 receptors — two fundamental components of the endocannabinoid system — play a fundamental role in ensuring hormones receive proper signals that provide normal levels of production.
In women with PCOS, however, CB1 in adipose tissue is significantly higher than for those without this hormonal disorder. The overexpression of these cannabinoid receptors created insulin resistance, causing the androgen production levels to rise. This imbalance can create difficulties in ensuring ovulation, stimulating PCOS as a result.
How CBD Regulates the Endocannabinoid System of Patients With PCOS
Because research studies suggest that dysfunction or irregularity in the endocannabinoid system can stimulate the development of PCOS, it’s essential to find a form of treatment that helps to normalize this system.
Luckily, CBD may provide the healing powers necessary to help PCOS patients find relief. The cannabinoids from marijuana plant products, such as CBD, can modulate the body by supplementing it with the cannabinoids it needs.
CBD interacts with CB1 and CB2 receptors to help ensure proper bodily regulation. Insulin and other crucial hormones undergo a normalizing effect, alleviating many of the side effects caused by PCOS.
Forms of CBD for Patients With PCOS
Although the symptoms of PCOS can cause significant discomfort and pain, there are many pharmaceuticals currently available in the medical field that can offer relief. One such option is CBD, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid within marijuana that lessens PCOS side effects.
If you decide to include CBD into your treatment plan, it’s essential to choose which form of medical cannabis is best suited for you. Patients with PCOS have access to many CBD products in a variety of forms, including:
- Smoking: Smoking is one method of intake that produces immediate relief. This form is accessible for those experiencing discomfort, nausea or other symptoms of PCOS. However, patients suffering from asthma or throat discomfort should find an alternative method.
- Vaporizing: Vaporizing is another popular form of CBD intake for PCOS patients due to this method’s ability to ward off unwanted symptoms quickly. Unlike smoking, you’re only inhaling water vapor, which will not irritate the throat or lungs as much.
- Edibles: Edibles offer a tastier alternative to vaporizing and smoking with long-lasting effects and measurable dosages that are easy to track. Edible products include food products, capsules and more.
Always consult with a trained physician to develop the medical cannabis plan best suited to your needs.
The Best CBD Products for Patients With PCOS
Once you decide to incorporate CBD into your wellness plan, it’s time to determine what products you’ll need to use. Researchers and herbalists craft various cannabis strains to treat a myriad of conditions for higher levels of effectiveness and potency. If you find yourself currently experience PCOS symptoms, consider choosing from the following CBD varieties:
- AC/DC (Hybrid)
- Pennywise (Indica)
- Pineapple Express (Sativa)
- Chocolope (Hybrid)
- Blackberry Kush (Indica)
PCOS can produce a range of symptoms and side effects, so it’s essential to choose the cannabis strains best suited for your condition. Be sure to check with our marijuana strains page to learn more about which CBD varieties may work best for you!
Learn More About PCOS and CBD at MarijuanaDoctors.com
At MarijuanaDoctors.com, we provide you with the resources you need to stay up-to-date on the latest cannabis news in the industry. Whether you want to learn more about PCOS or are merely looking for a way to connect to trained medical marijuana professionals in your area, be sure to scan our extensive database today for the information you deserve.
Learn More About Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
Learn more about Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and what makes medical marijuana an effective treatment for Polycystic Ovary Syndrome’s symptoms.
Learn more about your marijuana-related treatment options. Find out how CBD can be used to treat the symptoms of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome.