Cannabis and Endometriosis: The Roles of the Gut Microbiota and the Endocannabinoid System

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“Endometriosis, a chronic condition affecting around 10-14% of women, is challenging to manage, due to its complex pathogenesis and limited treatment options. Research has suggested a potential role of the gut microbiota and the endocannabinoid system in the development and progression of endometriosis. This narrative review aims to explore the role of, and any potential interactions between, the endocannabinoid system (ECS) and the gut microbiota in endometriosis. This review found that both the ECS and microbiota influence endometriosis, with the former regulating inflammation and pain perception and the latter influencing immune responses and hormonal balance. There is evidence that a dysregulation of the endocannabinoid system and the gut microbiota influence endometriosis symptoms and progression via changes in CB1 receptor expression and increased circulating levels of endocannabinoids. Microbial imbalances in the gut, such as increases in Prevotella, have been directly correlated to increased bloating, a common endometriosis symptom, while increases in E. coli have supported the bacterial contamination hypothesis as a potential pathway for endometriosis pathogenesis. These microbial imbalances have been correlated with increases in inflammatory markers such as TNF-α and IL-6, both often raised in those with endometriosis. Protective effects of the ECS on the gut were observed by increases in endocannabinoids, including 2-AG, resulting in decreased inflammation and improved gut permeability. Given these findings, both the ECS and the gut microbiota may be targets for therapeutic interventions for endometriosis; however, clinical studies are required to determine effectiveness.”

The Place of Cannabinoids in the Treatment of Gynecological Pain

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“Cannabis sativa (L), a plant with an extensive history of medicinal usage across numerous cultures, has received increased attention over recent years for its therapeutic potential for gynecological disorders such as endometriosis, chronic pelvic pain, and primary dysmenorrhea, due at least in part to shortcomings with current management options. Despite this growing interest, cannabis inhabits an unusual position in the modern medical pharmacopoeia, being a legal medicine, legal recreational drug, and an illicit drug, depending on jurisdiction. To date, the majority of studies investigating cannabis use have found that most people are using illicit cannabis, with numerous obstacles to medical cannabis adoption having been identified, including outdated drug-driving laws, workplace drug testing policies, the cost of quality-assured medical cannabis products, a lack of cannabis education for healthcare professionals, and significant and persistent stigma. Although currently lacking robust clinical trial data, a growing evidence base of retrospective data, cohort studies, and surveys does support potential use in gynecological pain conditions, with most evidence focusing on endometriosis. Cannabis consumers report substantial reductions in pelvic pain, as well as common comorbid symptoms such as gastrointestinal disturbances, mood disorders such as anxiety and depression, and poor sleep. Substitution effects were reported, with >50% reduction or cessation in opioid and/or non-opioid analgesics being the most common. However, a substantial minority report not disclosing cannabis consumption to their health professional. Therefore, while such deprescribing trends are potentially beneficial, the importance of medical supervision during this process is paramount given the possibility for withdrawal symptoms.”

“Cannabis, whether purchased illicitly, or obtained through legal means, is commonly used by those with chronic pelvic pain, especially people with endometriosis. People report several benefits from using cannabis, including being able to reduce their normal medications including opioid based painkillers, but often don’t tell their health professional about this. This could lead to issues with withdrawal symptoms, so clinicians should be aware of the high prevalence of use of cannabis in this population.”

Development, Characterization and Evidence of Anti-Endometriotic Activity of Phytocannabinoid-Rich Nanoemulsions

International Journal of Pharmaceutics

“During the last decades, the cannabinoid research for therapeutic purposes has been rapidly advancing, with an ever-growing body of evidence of beneficial effects for a wide sort of conditions, including those related to mucosal and epithelial homeostasis, inflammatory processes, immune responses, nociception, and modulating cell differentiation. β-caryophyllene (BCP) is a lipophilic volatile sesquiterpene, known as non-cannabis-derived phytocannabinoid, with documented anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative and analgesic effects in both in vitro and in vivo models. Copaiba oil (COPA) is an oil-resin, mainly composed of BCP and other lipophilic and volatile components. COPA is reported to show several therapeutic effects, including anti-endometriotic properties and its use is widespread throughout the Amazonian folk medicine. COPA was nanoencapsulated into nanoemulsions (NE), then evaluated regarding the potential for transvaginal drug delivery and providing endometrial stromal cell proliferation in vitro. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) showed that spherical NE were obtained with COPA concentration that varied from 5 to 7 wt%, while surfactant was maintained at 7.75 wt%. Dynamic light scattering (DLS) measurements showed droplet sizes of 30.03 ± 1.18, 35.47 ± 2.02, 43.98 ± 4.23 and PdI of 0.189, 0.175 and 0.182, respectively, with stability against coalescence and Ostwald ripening during 90 days. Physicochemical characterization results suggest that NE were able to both improve solubility and loading capacity, and increase thermal stability of COPA volatile components. Moreover, they showed slow and sustained release for up to eight hours, following the Higuchi kinetic model. Endometrial stromal cells from non-endometriotic lesions and ectopic endometrium were treated with different concentrations of COPA-loaded NE for 48h to evaluate its effect on cell viability and morphology. The results suggested significant decrease in cell viability and morphological modifications in concentrations higher than 150 μg/ml of COPA-loaded NE, but not when cells were treated with the vehicle (without COPA). Given the relevance of Copaifera spp. species in folk medicine and their bio economical importance in the Amazon, the development of novel formulations to overcome the technological limitations related to BCP and COPA, is promising. Our results showed that COPA-loaded NE can lead to a novel, uterus-targeting, more effective and promising natural alternative treatment of endometriosis.”

Role of the endocannabinoid system in the pathophysiology of endometriosis and therapeutic implications

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“Endometriosis patients experience debilitating chronic pain, and the first-line treatment is ineffective at managing symptoms. Although surgical removal of the lesions provides temporary relief, more than 50% of the patients experience disease recurrence. Despite being a leading cause of hysterectomy, endometriosis lacks satisfactory treatments and a cure. Another challenge is the poor understanding of disease pathophysiology which adds to the delays in diagnosis and overall compromised quality of life. Endometriosis patients are in dire need of an effective therapeutic strategy that is both economical and effective in managing symptoms, while fertility is unaffected.

Endocannabinoids and phytocannabinoids possess anti-inflammatory, anti-nociceptive, and anti-proliferative properties that may prove beneficial for endometriosis management, given that inflammation, vascularization, and pain are hallmark features of endometriosis.

Endocannabinoids are a complex network of molecules that play a central role in physiological processes including homeostasis and tissue repair, but endocannabinoids have also been associated in the pathophysiology of several chronic inflammatory diseases including endometriosis and cancers. The lack of satisfactory treatment options combined with the recent legalization of recreational cannabinoids in some parts of the world has led to a rise in self-management strategies including the use of cannabinoids for endometriosis-related pain and other symptoms.

In this review, we provide a comprehensive overview of endocannabinoids with a focus on their potential roles in the pathophysiology of endometriosis. We further provide evidence-driven perspectives on the current state of knowledge on endometriosis-associated pain, inflammation, and therapeutic avenues exploiting the endocannabinoid system for its management.”

Detection of Cannabinoid Receptor Expression by Endometriotic Lesions in Women with Endometriosis as an Alternative to Opioid-Based Pain Medication

The Journal of Immunology

“Emerging information suggests a potential role of medicinal cannabis in pain medication in addition to enhancing immune functions.

Endometriosis is a disease of women of reproductive age associated with infertility and reproductive failure as well as chronic pain of varying degrees depending on the stage of the disease. Currently, opioids are being preferred over nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) due to the latter’s side effects. However, as the opioids are becoming a source of addiction, additional pain medication is urgently needed.

Cannabis offers an alternative therapy for treating the pain associated with endometriosis.

Information on the use and effectiveness of cannabis against endometriotic pain is lacking. Moreover, expression of receptors for endocannabinoids by the ovarian endometriotic lesions is not known. The goal of this study was to examine whether cannabinoid receptors 1 and 2 (CB1 and CB2) are expressed by ovarian endometriotic lesions.

Archived normal ovarian tissues, ovaries with endometriotic lesions, and normal endometrial tissues were examined for the presence of endometrial stromal cells using CD10 (a marker of endometrial stromal cells). Expression of CB1 and CB2 were determined by immunohistochemistry, immunoblotting, and gene expression studies.

Intense expression for CB1 and CB2 was detected in the epithelial cells in ovarian endometriotic lesions. Compared with stroma in ovaries with endometriotic lesions, the expression of CB1 and CB2 was significantly higher in the epithelial cells in endometriotic lesions in the ovary (P < 0.0001 and P < 0.05, respectively). Immunoblotting and gene expression assays showed similar patterns for CB1 and CB2 protein and CNR1 (gene encoding CB1) and CNR2 (gene encoding CB2) gene expression.

These results suggest that ovarian endometriotic lesions express CB1 and CB2 receptors, and these lesions may respond to cannabinoids as pain medication. These results will form a foundation for a clinical study with larger cohorts.”

“Cannabinoids are compounds found in cannabis.”

Molecular and Biochemical Mechanism of Cannabidiol in the Management of the Inflammatory and Oxidative Processes Associated with Endometriosis


“Endometriosis is usually associated with inflammation and chronic pelvic pain. This paper focuses the attention on the anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant and analgesic effects of cannabidiol (CBD) and on its potential role in endometriosis. We employed an in vivo model of endometriosis and administered CBD daily by gavage.

CBD administration strongly reduced lesions diameter, volume and area. In particular, it was able to modify lesion morphology, reducing epithelial glands and stroma.

CBD showed anti-oxidant effects reducing lipid peroxidation, the expression of Nox-1 and Nox-4 enzymes.

CBD restored the oxidative equilibrium of the endogenous cellular defense as showed by the SOD activity and the GSH levels in the lesions.

CBD also showed important antifibrotic effects as showed by the Masson trichrome staining and by downregulated expression of MMP-9, iNOS and TGF-β.

CBD was able to reduce inflammation both in the harvested lesions, as showed by the increased Ikb-α and reduced COX2 cytosolic expressions and reduced NFkB nuclear localization, and in the peritoneal fluids as showed by the decreased TNF-α, PGE2 and IL-1α levels.

CBD has important analgesic effects as showed by the reduced mast cells recruitment in the spinal cord and the reduced release of neuro-sensitizing and pro-inflammatory mediators.

In conclusion, the collected data showed that CBD has an effective and coordinated effects in endometriosis suppression.”

Effects of cannabis ingestion on endometriosis-associated pelvic pain and related symptoms

Ostovari, Yu research published in PLOS ONE - Healthcare Ergonomics  Analytics Lab - Purdue University“Background: The use of cannabis for symptoms of endometriosis was investigated utilising retrospective archival data from Strainprint Technologies Ltd., a Canadian data technology company with a mobile phone application that tracks a range of data including dose, mode of administration, chemovar and their effects on various self-reported outcomes, including pelvic pain.

Results: A total number of 252 participants identifying as suffering endometriosis recorded 16193 sessions using cannabis between April 2017 and February 2020. The most common method of ingestion was inhalation (n = 10914, 67.4%), with pain as the most common reported symptom being treated by cannabis (n = 9281, 57.3%). Gastrointestinal symptoms, though a less common reason for cannabis usage (15.2%), had the greatest self-reported improvement after use. Inhaled forms had higher efficacy for pain, while oral forms were superior for mood and gastrointestinal symptoms. Dosage varied across ingestion methods, with a median dose of 9 inhalations (IQR 5 to 11) for inhaled dosage forms and 1 mg/mL (IQR 0.5 to 2) for other ingested dosage forms. The ratio of THC to CBD had a statistically significant, yet clinically small, differential effect on efficacy, depending on method of ingestion.

Conclusions: Cannabis appears to be effective for pelvic pain, gastrointestinal issues and mood, with effectiveness differing based on method of ingestion. The greater propensity for use of an inhaled dosage delivery may be due to the rapid onset of pain-relieving effects versus the slower onset of oral products. Oral forms appeared to be superior compared to inhaled forms in the less commonly reported mood or gastrointestinal categories. Clinical trials investigating the tolerability and effectiveness of cannabis for endometriosis pain and associated symptoms are urgently required.”

“Recent studies have suggested that a dysfunction in the endocannabinoid system (ECS) is present in endometriosis patients, and that aspects of endometriosis-associated pain may be targeted by modulating the ECS .Previous research on the use of illicit cannabis in women with endometriosis has shown promise in the treatment of endometriosis pain and co-morbid symptoms such as poor sleep, gastrointestinal upset and mood disorders.”

The Endocannabinoid System: A Potential Target for the Treatment of Various Diseases

ijms-logo“The Endocannabinoid System (ECS) is primarily responsible for maintaining homeostasis, a balance in internal environment (temperature, mood, and immune system) and energy input and output in living, biological systems.

In addition to regulating physiological processes, the ECS directly influences anxiety, feeding behaviour/appetite, emotional behaviour, depression, nervous functions, neurogenesis, neuroprotection, reward, cognition, learning, memory, pain sensation, fertility, pregnancy, and pre-and post-natal development.

The ECS is also involved in several pathophysiological diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and neurodegenerative diseases. In recent years, genetic and pharmacological manipulation of the ECS has gained significant interest in medicine, research, and drug discovery and development.

The distribution of the components of the ECS system throughout the body, and the physiological/pathophysiological role of the ECS-signalling pathways in many diseases, all offer promising opportunities for the development of novel cannabinergic, cannabimimetic, and cannabinoid-based therapeutic drugs that genetically or pharmacologically modulate the ECS via inhibition of metabolic pathways and/or agonism or antagonism of the receptors of the ECS. This modulation results in the differential expression/activity of the components of the ECS that may be beneficial in the treatment of a number of diseases.

This manuscript in-depth review will investigate the potential of the ECS in the treatment of various diseases, and to put forth the suggestion that many of these secondary metabolites of Cannabis sativa L. (hereafter referred to as “C. sativa L.” or “medical cannabis”), may also have potential as lead compounds in the development of cannabinoid-based pharmaceuticals for a variety of diseases.”


“Cannabis sativa L. as a Natural Drug Meeting the Criteria of a Multitarget Approach to Treatment”

Disease-modifying effects of natural Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol in endometriosis-associated pain.

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“Endometriosis is a chronic painful disease highly prevalent in women that is defined by growth of endometrial tissue outside the uterine cavity and lacks adequate treatment.

Medical use of cannabis derivatives is a current hot topic and it is unknown whether phytocannabinoids may modify endometriosis symptoms and development.

Here we evaluate the effects of repeated exposure to Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in a mouse model of surgically-induced endometriosis.

In this model, female mice develop mechanical hypersensitivity in the caudal abdomen, mild anxiety-like behavior and substantial memory deficits associated with the presence of extrauterine endometrial cysts.

Interestingly, daily treatments with THC (2 mg/kg) alleviate mechanical hypersensitivity and pain unpleasantness, modify uterine innervation and restore cognitive function without altering the anxiogenic phenotype. Strikingly, THC also inhibits the development of endometrial cysts.

These data highlight the interest of scheduled clinical trials designed to investigate possible benefits of THC for women with endometriosis.”

The role of the endocannabinoid system in aetiopathogenesis of endometriosis: A potential therapeutic target.

European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology Home“Endometriosis affects a large proportion of women during their reproductive years and is associated with pain and infertility, also affecting psychological wellbeing and quality of life. The pathogenesis of the disease remains unclear, although it is believed to be multifactorial.

The endocannabinoid system (ECS) consists of a number of ligands, receptors and enzymes, and has gained interests in endometriosis research. This review aims to summarise all available evidence reporting the roles of the ECS in endometriosis.

A literature search of the PubMed, EMBASE, and Web of Science electronic medical databases was performed. Original and review articles published in peer-reviewed journals were included. No publication date or publication status restrictions were imposed.

Significant differences in the concentrations and expressions of the components of the ECS were reported in the eutopic and ectopic endometrium, and the systemic circulation of women with endometriosis compared to controls. Endometriosis appears to be associated with downregulation of CB1 receptors and upregulation of TRPV1 receptors.

The role of CB1 and progesterone in anti-inflammatory action and the role of TRPV1 in inflammation and pain are of particular interests. Furthermore, the ECS has been reported to be involved in processes relevant to endometriosis, including cell migration, cell proliferation, apoptosis, inflammation, and interacts with sex steroid hormones.

The ECS may play a role in disease establishment, progression, and pain in endometriosis. However, reports are based on studies of limited size and there are inconsistencies among the definition of their control groups. There are also conflicting reports regarding precise involvement of the ECS in endometriosis. Future research with larger numbers, strict inclusion and exclusion criteria and detailed clinical information is imperative.”