Get ready to take a journey back in time. It’s only in relatively recent history (over the past 80 to 90 years) that cannabis has had such a bad reputation. Doctors in Western cultures prescribed cannabis medicines into the early 20th century. Today, the herb is still considered a valuable healing aid in Indian Ayurvedic medical practice and is regularly used by many cultures around the globe. Some of the most common consumers? Women. Based on historical evidence, here are 9 reasons why cannabis is excellent for women’s health.
1. Menstrual cramps
Cannabis medicines were once so valuable that they were fit for queens. England’s Queen Victoria was famously prescribed indica tinctures to relieve her menstrual cramps in the late 1800s. Her physician, Sir J. Russel Reynolds, even sang the herb’s praises in the 1890s, writing,
When pure and administered carefully, [cannabis] is one of the most valuable medicines we possess.
Reynolds’ love of cannabis medicines for women’s health was echoed by practitioners in ancient Chinese cultures. In what would become the Chinese Materia Medica in 1928, researchers highlighted practices using cannabis for menstrual disorders. These practices were based on techniques that were several thousand years old.
2. Wedding night jitters
As Robert Clarke, a cannabis researcher, and Mark Merlin, a professor of Botany at the University of Hawaii at Manoa explain in their comprehensive guide, Cannabis: Evolution and Ethnobotany, cannabis concoctions aided women in what is now Uzbekistan on their wedding night, easing pain and promoting relaxation before the supposed loss of virginity. To help brides cope, hashish was mixed with lambs fat “before defloration.”
3. Labor pains
Many cultures around the globe used cannabis as a women’s aid during labor and pregnancy. Today, cannabis consumption during pregnancy remains one of the most controversial aspects of cannabis research and regulation. However, cannabis was viewed as one of the most powerful women’s medicines to help women throughout the childbirth process.
As Journalist Joe Dolce mentions in Brave New Weed, women ate cannabis flowers to ease pregnancy pains during the neolithic era. Historical and archeological evidence also suggests that cannabis was used to facilitate labor and childbirth in ancient China, Egypt, India, and Arabic nations. Cannabis treatments included inhaled vapors, teas, culinary concoctions, and topical applications.
Women are more likely to suffer migraines than men. In fact, women are three times more likely to experience these excruciating headaches. Interestingly, cannabis was a “preferred” treatment for migraine and headache disorders in Western cultures until around 1942. Beginning in the 1940s, cannabis medicines were replaced with more modern pain treatments.
According to a historical and scientific review written by neurologist and medical researcher Dr. Ethan Russo, cannabis was referenced as a common treatment for headaches in multiple ancient cultures, including Indian, Chinese, Egyptian, Assyrian, Greek, Roman, and Islamic.
Unfortunately, women are nearly twice as likely to experience major depression than men. While this discrepancy is far from fair, it’s well-known that cannabis can boost mood and promote feelings of positive well-being. Our ancestors knew this as well, which is why cannabis was used to ease symptoms of depression in many ancient cultures.
According to Clarke and Merlin, in Indian Ayurvedic medicine, cannabis was used to promote happiness and encourage talkativeness. Cannabis was later used in Argentina to relieve depression. The herb was also used for this purpose in the British Isles.
In 1899, just a half-century before cannabis became illegal for physicians in many Western countries to prescribe, the British Pharmacologist Walter Ernest Dixon claimed that cannabis was a valuable “food accessory.” He also found that smoked and inhaled cannabis was beneficial during “fits of depression, mental fatigue, nervous headache, and exhaustion.”
The essence of cannabis is female. According to ancient Chinese tradition, the flowering tops of female cannabis plants were thought to contain large concentrations of yin energy.
Yin is the representative term for the receptive feminine forces in the world. The opposite of yin is yang, which refers to more creative male energy.
In ancient China, cannabis flowers were prescribed in cases of lost yin. As Clarke and Merlin explain, “lost yin” could present symptoms of menstrual distress, rheumatism, malaria, b-vitamin deficiencies, constipation, and absentmindedness.
While both men and women experience fatigue, women are two to four times more likely to be diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome than men.
As it turns out, cannabis has been used as a remedy for fatigue and muscle exhaustion for millennia. In India, Himalayan regions, and in Europe, cannabis medicines were thought to improve stamina and provide relief from fatigue. Depending on the dose, preparation, and variety of cannabis, many ancient cultures also used the herb as a sleep aid.
Today, women around the globe must contend with unrealistic expectations about their body weight and physical appearance. As many as 20 million women and 10 million men in the United States suffer from a clinically diagnosable eating disorder. Countless more struggle to maintain positive feelings about diet.
Perhaps to no one’s surprise, cannabis has been used to stimulate appetite and aid in weight management for a few thousand years. Not only can the herb inspire you to eat more, but modern scientific research suggests that it releases pleasure molecules in the brain that can make the experience of eating more pleasurable and enjoyable.
Who wouldn’t appreciate an herb that makes you enjoy one of the most healing forms of self-love – nourishment?
9. Mother’s aid
Throughout human history, cannabis has been used for purposes that today are shrouded in controversy and emotionally-charged opinions. This includes the administration of cannabis concoctions to children by caring mothers. In what is now Uzbekistan, cannabis candies were made by boiling the plant in water and mashing the sieved drink with sugar, saffron, and egg whites.
Clarke and Merlin cite that these candies were “popular among women” and were given to children to prevent crying and to ease pain for boys undergoing circumcision.
Even today, teas made from cannabis leaves are given to some Jamaican children by mothers hoping to improve their intelligence and help them in school.
However, it’s important to point out that the cannabis products used in these contexts are far different from the dried bud and potent extracts often sold today in both legal and illicit markets. It is debatable whether or not the cannabis teas used by Jamaican women are psychoactive. To make cannabis compounds psychoactive, they need to be heated and mixed with fat.
It’s safe to say that the products used in these circumstances likely contain much lower concentrations of THC, the compound that causes the famous cannabis “high.”
The historical relationship women have had with the cannabis plant goes far beyond these nine instances. For more details, check out these articles on how our human ancestors used cannabis for sexual health and pregnancy.