Navigating the vast landscape of women’s health can often feel like exploring uncharted territory. Few questions have been answered about the complexity of female physiology in general, let alone in relation to psychedelics.
In spite of the beginning stages of psychedelic research suggesting great therapeutic potential, it seems as though women-centered trials are not necessarily inhabiting the near future.
However, psychedelics like psilocybin mushrooms, LSD, and DMT have been proven effective for various mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and PTSD, and this may prove to have special relevance for women.
Anecdotal claims around psychedelics for women’s health range from reduced PMS cramping to improved mood and energy to decreased stress levels, however, research on this topic remains an untrodden path. Today, we cover microdosing as a mental and physical health practice and the potential implications and benefits for menopause and other women’s health concerns.
While we acknowledge the preliminary nature of the topic, our intent is to provide a comprehensive overview that encourages discussion and stimulates further research on microdosing as a potential tool in women’s health.
Women’s Health: Menopause, Fertility, & The Hormonal Cycle
The human body is a remarkable tapestry of intricate systems, constantly adapting and responding to an array of internal and external stimuli. Among the many remarkable phenomena that occur within our bodies, the menstrual cycle stands as a unique and essential process exclusive to women.
Spanning an average of 28 days, this cycle orchestrates a series of events that prepare the female body for potential pregnancy while also exerting significant influence on overall health and well-being.
The rhythmic patterns governing reproductive function and hormonal fluctuations encompass four distinct phases: menstruation, the follicular phase, ovulation, and the luteal phase.
During these stages, the hormones estrogen, progesterone, luteinizing hormone, and follicle stimulating hormone all rise and fall in a distinct pattern to catalyze a chain reaction of events in the body.
Beyond its primary role in fertility and reproduction, the menstrual cycle has far-reaching effects on women’s health. Hormonal shifts throughout the cycle can influence mood, energy levels, and cognitive function.
Many women experience physical and emotional changes, such as breast tenderness, bloating, irritability, or heightened emotions in different phases of the cycle.
While the 28-day cycle serves as a useful framework for understanding menstrual rhythms, it’s important to recognize that individual experiences can deviate from this norm. Factors such as stress, hormonal imbalances, lifestyle choices, and underlying health conditions can all influence cycle length and regularity.
Embracing the diversity of menstrual patterns is essential in promoting a holistic understanding of women’s health and the complex interplay of various biological and environmental factors.
Overall, if this cycle becomes disrupted or imbalanced, many negative symptoms and health conditions may emerge, as the delicate balance of hormones plays a critical role in a woman’s happiness, well-being, and fertility.
Common conditions and symptoms that emerge around a dysregulated cycle are premenstrual syndrome, premenstrual dysphoric disorder, fatigue, cramping, mood disturbances, blood clots, digestive issues, and many more.
Menopause, on the other hand, is a time of natural transition typically occurring around the age of 50 when the body ceases to have monthly menstruation as a sign of fertility. During this time, hormonal levels drop drastically, which can result in hot flashes, mood swings, disrupted sleep, decreased libido, and increased risk for other conditions like osteoporosis.
Traditional treatment options, such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT), have proven effective for many women, but they are not without potential risks and side effects.
The Issue With Science: The Exclusion of Women From Research
To put it plainly, women have been historically and systematically excluded from scientific studies, resulting in a significant gender bias that limits our understanding of female-specific health issues and potential treatments.
One prominent example is the underrepresentation of women in toxicology and clinical drug trials. Until relatively recently, women of childbearing age were routinely excluded from trials due to concerns about potential fetal harm.
This exclusionary practice led to a knowledge gap in understanding the differential effects of medications on women’s bodies, potentially putting their health at risk.
One example, cardiovascular disease, is often considered a “male” health issue, but presents differently in women which can go unnoticed given that men were the standard for understanding the disease, leading to misdiagnosis and suboptimal treatment.
Similarly, mental health conditions can manifest differently in women, requiring gender-specific interventions and support. By excluding women from research, we perpetuate a one-size-fits-all approach that fails to address people’s uniqueness.
“Women remain underrepresented in clinical trials in cardiovascular disease, the primary killer of both women and men in the United States, and cancer, the nation’s second leading cause of death for both women and men.
Even when women have been included as subjects in clinical research, the influence of sex or gender is not widely analyzed and reported for various health outcomes” (Mazure and Jones, 2015).
It was not until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandated the inclusion of women in clinical trials in 1993 that significant progress was made in addressing this issue.
The National Institute of Health even implemented a policy requiring that women and minorities be included in NIH-funded research studies to help mitigate this bias (NIDA, 2021), and this is certainly a step in the right direction.
What Science Has Shown Us About Women’s Health & Microdosing
Given that there is a lack of direct research on the topic at hand, there are some more nuanced factors to consider when it comes to women’s health and adjacent research. Firstly, there are a number of conditions that women are more likely to struggle with than men.
For example, there is evidence that women disproportionately suffer from anxiety and depression (Bahrami & Yousefi, 2011). Women are twice as likely to struggle with an eating disorder in comparison with men, with a three times higher rate of anorexia nervosa and a five times higher rate of bulimia nervosa (Hudson et al., 2007).
In past articles, we discussed how psilocybin mushrooms may be an effective treatment option for eating disorders and binge eating disorder as well. While there are many mental health conditions which are more prevalent in women than in men, some conditions are entirely specific to the physiology of the female body.
Postpartum depression, for instance, is a prime example of the therapeutic abilities of psychedelics to help us heal and work through pain, whether it be existential or situational.
Furthermore, one study from 2018 showed that psychedelics have strong anti-inflammatory effects which could have wide reaching health implications for women, especially regarding menstrual cramps and PMS (Flanagan and Nichol).
In another study published in 2022 by Rootman and colleagues, out of over a thousand participants who microdosed psilocybin, improvements in mood were seen across both genders, but with women exhibiting higher rates of improved depression.
Lastly, estrogen plays an interesting role in activating and “increasing the binding potential” of serotonin receptor 5-HT2A, which is the well-known receptor activated by tryptamine psychedelics like psilocybin (Bauer, 2019).
This is specifically relevant for menopausal women who likely have low levels of estrogen (estradiol) and may be experiencing a de-sensitizing of the serotonin receptor, resulting in various mood-related symptoms.
In conclusion, the topic of women’s health is multifaceted and complex, and we are awaiting elaborate and targeted research aimed at understanding the effects of microdosing for issues specific to women.
Resources on Microdosing & Therapeutic Use of Psychedelics
Positive results from available scientific research regarding other health conditions and factors may further shed light on the ways in which psychedelics may benefit women’s health. For this reason, here is a list of previous articles which cover relevant topics for women’s health to help provide a clearer sense of the diverse benefits of psychedelics:
- How to De-Stress With Psychedelics
- Psychedelic Therapy For Chronic Pain
- Improving Heart Health With Psychedelics
- Psychedelic Therapy for Fibromyalgia
- Treating Migraines with Therapeutic Psychedelics
- Healing Postpartum Depression with Psychedelics
Because women are more affected by many mental and physical health conditions, any data suggesting that psychoactive substances may alleviate or heal those conditions potentially impacts women with disease even more deeply.
Talk to a Psychedelic Professional
If you are intrigued by the concept of microdosing for women’s health or want to delve deeper into psychedelic topics, we invite you to check out our comprehensive resources page for more articles and information.
Additionally, if you are considering incorporating microdosing into your personal wellness journey or are interested in an intentional, professionally guided psychedelic experience, book a consultation with us today.
We at Psychedelic Passage connect you with a network of pre-vetted facilitators who specialize in supporting your journey from beginning to end, through the preparation stage, in-ceremony support, and integration stage as well.
FAQs About Women’s Health & Psychedelic Substances
What is microdosing, and how does it relate to women’s health?
Microdosing involves taking sub-perceptual doses of psychedelics like “magic” mushrooms for potential therapeutic purposes. In the context of women’s health, microdosing may have direct and indirect benefits for women struggling with sex-specific diseases and conditions.
How can I explore microdosing for women’s health in a responsible and informed manner?
Exploring microdosing for women’s health requires a responsible and intentional approach to the medicine. Seeking guidance from a qualified professional can help mitigate risks of tolerance as well as optimize your experience through setting intentions and getting clear on a schedule for dosing.
How do women typically incorporate microdosing into their routines?
Microdosing regimens can vary, but common approaches involve taking sub-perceptual doses every few days or following a specific schedule, such as the “one day on, two days off” pattern. Check out our resources in this article on how to properly microdose and prevent tolerance and cross-tolerance from occurring.