Pubdate: Sun, 22 May 2016
Source: San Jose Mercury News (CA)
Copyright: 2016 San Jose Mercury News
Author: Martha Ross


Women Are Flocking to Medical Marijuana for Relief From Menstrual Distress

When it comes to her periods, 41-year-old Katie has always had it 
rough. She'll typically suffer intense cramps that leave her shaking 
and sick enough to vomit. "The first four days are awful, brutal," 
says the San Francisco waitress. That is, unless she's medicated. For 
many years, Katie, who asked that her last name not be used, only got 
marginal relief from loading up on high-dose ibuprofen over the 
course of her seven-day cycle. Recently, she's found what she 
considers to be a more natural and much more effective remedy: 
cannabis-infused tinctures and balms designed to relieve menstrual 
pain and discomfort.

The products come from a new company, Whoopi and Maya, co-owned by 
"The View" co-host Whoopi Goldberg and well-known Bay Area medical 
cannabis producer Maya Elisabeth.

The products, launched in April, also include an Epsom salt bath and 
raw chocolate for eating or sipping. All contain "healing" herbs and 
minerals, as well as one or the other of marijuana's best-known 
active ingredients: THC, known for its euphoric effects, and CBD, 
said to offer pot's pain-relief benefits without getting people high.

The products come packaged in elegant black jars and bottles labeled 
with self-pampering names like Savor, Soak and Relax. Anyone with a 
medical marijuana prescription can purchase them at dispensaries in 
cities around the Bay Area and the state at prices ranging from 
$11.99 to $59.99.

With this launch, Goldberg and her partner Elisabeth are looking to 
claim a stake in California's booming medical marijuana industry. 
Sales of medical marijuana hit $2.7 billion in the state in 2015 and 
may double if voters approve recreational use in November. Goldberg 
and Elisabeth, the owner of the Om Edibles medical marijuana 
collective, are also joining other entrepreneurial women from around 
the country who are trying to make the business and culture of 
cannabis more friendly to women.

But even as cannabis gains mainstream acceptance for its medical 
potential, many traditional physicians say the jury is still out on 
whether any of these products is a panacea for much of what ails us.

Goldberg certainly believes in the power of the plant, saying 
cannabis has offered "literally the only relief" from a lifetime of 
painful periods.

Based on her own experience, she and Elisabeth specifically wanted to 
create products for women, notably marijuana neophytes who don't want 
to smoke a joint and get high to get relief.

"Smoking a joint is fine, but most people can't smoke a joint and go 
to work," Goldberg told Vanity Fair.

They also hope to challenge the view that products targeted to women 
constitute what's waved off as a "niche market." That view isn't 
surprising in an industry most popularly known for its stoner dude 
movie heroes, from Cheech and Chong to Seth Rogen and his "Pineapple 
Express" crew. When Goldberg heard the "niche" designation, she says 
she thought, "a 'niche' that includes half the population!"

Other entrepreneurial types, seeing potential in this market, include 
a California company, Foria, which earlier this year released its own 
remedy for painful periods: tampon-sized, THC- or CBDfilled cocoa 
butter vaginal suppositories, which also claim to bring relief to 
women suffering from endometriosis.

Their business aspirations aside, Goldberg and Elisabeth sound almost 
messianic in their desire to educate women about marijuana's 
potential healing benefits. They point out that cannabis has a long 
history in medicine and in women's health.

Royal patient

Its first recorded uses to treat cramps or heavy or irregular periods 
go as far back as ancient Mesopotamia. It also happens that one of 
history's most famous medical marijuana patients was Queen Victoria, 
who received monthly doses of a cannabis tincture for much of her 
adult life to reduce menstrual discomfort, according to an article in 
the Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics.

"Cannabis is a wonderful remedy, and combined with other superfoods 
and medicinal herbs, it can provide the type of relief many women 
need," says Elisabeth.

But as medical marijuana emerges from its longtime "evil weed" 
status, traditional doctors aren't ready to begin prescribing it, 
including for menstrual discomfort, says Keith Humphreys, a professor 
of psychiatry and director of the Mental Health Policy section at 
Stanford University.

One reason, he notes, is that marijuana is still illegal under 
federal law - in the same Schedule 1 classification as heroin and 
LSD. Another is that these federal restrictions mean its medical uses 
haven't been subjected to a rigorous FDA testing process.

There certainly is evidence that marijuana is useful for treating 
nausea, loss of appetite and spasticity in patients with cancer, HIV/ 
AIDS and multiple sclerosis, respectively, he says. But there is no 
evidence yet that it relieves menstrual symptoms, he adds.

"It falls more into the herbal domain, the health food store domain," 
Humphreys says. "That's an unregulated world, and people can claim 
all kinds of things."

And while Humphreys says he means no disrespect to Goldberg, he adds: 
"No doctor is going to recommend marijuana to a patient based on the 
endorsement of a celebrity."

That said, given the plant's chemical properties, the idea that it 
potentially offers medical benefits "is not a wacky thing," Humphreys 
says. And, more research is certainly justified with a growing number 
of states legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational purposes. 
He agrees with the American Medical Association's call to federal 
agencies to lift restrictions on funding, research and access to 
cannabis that hinder well-designed clinical studies.

Michael Backes, author of the "Cannabis Pharmacy: The Practical Guide 
to Medical Marijuana," says there is plenty of "observational data" 
supporting claims that marijuana reduces menstrual discomfort. Still, 
he advises caution, because it hasn't gone through rigorous 
scientific testing to determine levels for safe and effective use.

If a woman wants to try these products, he says she should start 
slowly, at the lowest possible dose, and see how her body reacts.

How it works

Katie previously smoked marijuana occasionally and sought out help 
from Elisabeth three or four years ago to see if cannabis would help 
with her periods.

"She's just so beloved in the community," Katie says. "She believes 
so much in the power of the plant."

Since then, Katie has learned a thing or two about what works for 
her. When her period hits, Katie won't use the Whoopi and Maya 
"Relax" tincture during the day. It comes with THC, or 
tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive ingredient in the plant, 
which will "put me a little bit out of commission."

But she loves using it at bedtime because it helps her sleep through 
the night. "Before I'd wake up in the middle of the night in 
terrible, terrible pain," she says.

When she's at work, where she has to be on her feet, she might bring 
a jar of the topical rub in her purse and apply it to her lower back 
and belly. The rub contains CBD, or cannabidiol, which is said to 
have anti-inflammatory and other healing properties. The rub also 
contains white willow bark, the active ingredient in aspirin, and St. 
Johns wort. According to the label, those ingredients increase blood 
flow and raise mood, while "our signature blend of essential oils 
make this salve both discreet and intoxicatingly enjoyable."

Katie is clearly a fan: "Within 10 minutes, I feel the effects." She 
says cannabis has transformed her life, bringing her much needed 
relief for one week out of every month.

"I love these products," she says. "They have been a godsend."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom