Have you ever felt like your body was telling you things without checking with your brain first? It’s a good chance your hormones are hard at work, sending subtle (and some not-so-subtle) messages between parts of your body not typically associated with “thinking.” We tend to associate the word “hormones” with reproductive activities—sex, menstruation, lactation, to name a few—but that’s really just the tip of the iceberg.
Hormones are a broad class of signaling molecules your body produces to send messages to and from your organs, tissues, and brain. Most of what they do is undetectable on the conscious level, but occasionally their impact is undeniable, and it can even transfer between separate beings: Consider menstrual synchrony, aka the McClintock effect, whereby women sharing the same living quarters experience their menstrual cycles drawing closer together over time.
Cannabis introduces its own complex effects into the equation. The study of hormones and their effects is a vast and still-evolving science, but some interesting conjunctions between your hormones and cannabis are just now coming into focus as cannabis research gains traction in this country. Here are a few general tips to keep in mind if you’re a female using cannabis:
Similarly, high doses of cannabis affect women's balance more deeply than in men. Be aware of this when engaging in physical activity after imbibing cannabis. (Think about rescheduling that barre class if you’re buzzed.)
Cannabis produces fewer pain-relieving effects in women compared to men. In practical terms, this may mean that if you use cannabis for pain relief—it’s effective in combatting menstrual cramps, for instance—you may require higher doses than anticipated, especially if that dosage was a generic estimate generated for patients of either gender.
Cannabis interacts with estrogen, and some researchers speculate that the two share receptor pathways. What this means for you is that, depending on which stage of the menstrual cycle you’re in, cannabis will have a greater overall effect during the estrogen peaks immediately pre- and post-ovulation. And as a potential benefit, cannabis—at least in smaller doses—appears to increase women's’ sexual appetites.
After menopause, cannabis can help with symptoms such as bone loss and hot flashes, especially for women concerned with the risks (breast cancer and heart attacks, among others) associated with traditional estrogen replacement therapy (ERT). Specific cannabinoids—the active compounds found in cannabis—spur bone growth, increase “good” cholesterol, and lower insulin levels, for a start. Last but certainly not least, cannabis can help promote healthy and enjoyable sex after menopause, by boosting sex drive and reducing the pain sometimes reported in post-menopausal sex.
Of course, every person is different, and interacting with a complex medicine like cannabis introduces its own set of factors into the ecosystem of the body. If you’re working cannabis into your routine—whether for medicinal or recreational purposes—keep these tips in mind and enjoy this fascinating, powerful plant to the fullest—and safest—extent possible.