CBD oil and menopause
A normal and inevitable part of aging, menopause is a transitional period when menstruation ceases. Menopause can cause a wide range of symptoms, many of which vary from one woman to the next. Most often occurring between the ages of 45 and 55, this transition typically lasts around seven years.
During menopause, estrogen levels significantly drop, causing numerous symptoms. However, research is beginning to suggest that cannabis and the body’s endocannabinoid system (ECS) may be able to help counteract some of these effects without the possible dangers of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Notably, combination HRT and estrogen-only therapy have shown to increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancers, according to Breastcancer.org. Even short-term combination HRT may increase the risk of breast cancer at an alarming rate of 75 percent.
CBD, as well as THC, have become key areas of interest, offering potential low-risk treatment options for menopause symptoms. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
Cannabidiol (CBD) and THC have become key areas of interest, offering potential low-risk treatment options for menopause symptoms. Women of all ages have experienced CBD-related relief in relation to other female-specific hormone-related conditions and symptoms, including premenstrual syndrome (PMS), as reported in an article published in 2017 in the journal Addiction Research & Theory.
While studies on CBD and menopause are limited, there is evidence that high-quality CBD products may help combat associated symptoms. This is particularly true when CBD is combined with other treatment options.
According to a literature review published in 2019 in the Journal of Ovarian Research, the ECS impacts female reproductive tissues and processes, playing a vital role in temperature regulation, sleep, pain, mood, memory, and immune function.
Several studies have reported the positive effects of CBD and CBD-rich cannabis oil on mood changes, joint pain, and sleep problems, all commonly associated with hormonal changes during menopause. Though the studies didn’t look specifically at menopause, the results indicate that CBD could provide relief for these symptoms regardless of their cause.
In addition, numerous studies have identified the potential impact of CBD on mood, including its inherent anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that cannabis significantly reduced perceptions of depression, anxiety, and stress in both women and men. Researchers also reported that women experienced greater reductions in anxiety compared to men and that low-THC/high-CBD strains were best for reducing symptoms of depression.
Aches and joint pain frequently occur post-menopause, as reduced estrogen levels tend to produce higher levels of inflammation. Luckily, CBD has been shown to offer relief from pain and inflammation, as reported in a 2015 literature review published in the journal Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry
Aches and joint pain are also often reported post-menopause, as reduced estrogen levels tend to produce higher levels of inflammation. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
In addition, a 2016 study published in the European Journal of Pain examined the efficiency of transdermal CBD for pain and inflammation in rats. Researchers found that topical CBD can help reduce swelling as well as other signs of inflammation. The study concluded that CBD provides potential therapeutic relief when aiming to treat arthritis pain, as well as inflammation, without any apparent side effects.
Sleep disturbances are also an area of concern among menopausal and postmenopausal women, with 61% reporting insomnia symptoms. In a 2019 study published in the Permanente Journal, researchers were interested in whether CBD would improve sleep and anxiety among a clinical population. After providing CBD treatment to 72 adults, the researchers found that anxiety scores decreased in 79% of patients within the first month and sleep scores improved in 67% of patients within the first month.
Dr. Melanie Bone, a board-certified OB-GYN and cannabis specialist, shared the stories of two of her patients who are going through menopause and using CBD as a treatment option. Names have been redacted in accordance with patient privacy laws.
J.A. is a 52-year-old woman who has had one period in the last six months. She has trouble sleeping because she is awakened with hot flashes and sweats. This makes her tired during the day and she feels depressed because she can’t get a good night’s sleep. J.A.’s sister had breast cancer at age 54 and she is worried about being diagnosed herself. She is scared to use hormones due to the history of breast cancer in her family.
Dr. Bone said, “The patient wanted a consult because she is having so much trouble concentrating at work that she is afraid she will lose her job. After I explained to her that she could opt to try hormones, she decided to try cannabinoids first, with hormones as a fallback. Currently, she is doing exceedingly well with excellent management of most of her complaints. Just a few daytime hot flashes remain as a reminder of her menopause.”
Using both cannabis and bioidentical hormones may be helpful to some menopausal patients. Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps
C.T. is a postmenopausal patient who uses both cannabis and bioidentical hormones. She told Weedmaps, “I was using bioidentical hormones to help with hot flashes, mood changes, and dryness. After discussing my situation with Dr. Bone, we agreed that I might benefit from the addition of cannabis.
“Now that I have been using both, I feel great. I have no more symptoms of menopause and my husband is delighted to have me back to my old self.”
It is important to note that these are individual testimonials and results will vary among patients. Be sure to consult with your physician before beginning a CBD regimen to address the symptoms of menopause.
What the experts say
Researchers are only just beginning to understand how the ECS works in relation to menopause and other health-related conditions. However, for those looking for an alternative therapy option, CBD may show great promise, according to some physicians.
“There are more issues at stake in menopause: sexual dysfunction, dryness, urinary complaints, and weight changes,” Dr. Bone said. “While some of these complaints are best managed with hormones, in women who have contraindications to using estrogen, such as a history of breast cancer, there is a definite role for cannabinoids to help as well.”
Bone continued, “There is a wealth of history and tradition pointing to the efficacy of cannabis for a variety of women’s conditions, from menstrual cramps to postpartum hemorrhage. The THC of cannabis helps with aches and pains associated with arthritis that sets in with menopause. It also helps with some of the mood swings that can herald the onset of menopause. CBD is important to manage anxiety that is almost universal during menopause. The combination of CBD and THC is essential to help with sleep problems, which are all too common in menopausal women. The ratio that works depends on which complaints are most prominent, but I find that a 1:1 is the sweet spot for a lot of women. In addition, local cannabinoids can be added for vulvovaginal-vaginal complaints and painful sex.”
Dr. Adie Rae, a neuroscientist and scientific adviser to Weedmaps, added, “Although cannabis does not address vaginal dryness, it has been shown to increase libido, decrease pain, and enhance orgasm.”
In fact, certain cannabis strains and products have been designed with women’s sexual pleasure in mind. CBD topicals like Night Moves, Happy Clam Oil, and Smooth Operator are all touted to enhance women’s sexual wellness.
CBD oil and CBD-rich cannabis oil may combat some of the most problematic symptoms associated with menopause, including sleep disturbances, mood changes, and aches. Anecdotal evidence and animal model studies suggest that combined cannabinoids, rather than the more readily available CBD isolate, may be better at alleviating some of the more severe symptoms associated with menopause. When high-quality CBD oil is combined with positive lifestyle changes, there may be a greater synergistic effect, though further research is necessary.
8 Menopause Symptoms CBD Could Help
Unfortunately, you may have discovered that the medical system is often woefully unprepared to deal with the symptoms of menopause. Previous generations of women were so quiet about “the change” that the medical system is only just now waking up to the needs of peri- and post-menopausal women. So, like many others, you may be turning to traditional herbal medicines – like CBD oil – for support, because our great- great-grandmothers were probably on to something.
Most of us never seriously consider menopause until we find ourselves on its doorstep — woefully unprepared to deal with its many symptoms. Some of us might not even recognize these symptoms during the early stages of perimenopause. But the sooner we notice and proactively respond to the changes happening within our bodies, the better our future health.
Cannabis & Hemp for Menopause
Menopause is one of the top three reasons women use therapeutic cannabis products — menstruation and sex are the other two. The good reputation that hemp and cannabis-derived CBD oils are gaining for treating peri- and post-menopausal symptoms isn’t based just on testimonials — scientific research also indicates how cannabidiol (CBD) could be useful for:
- Aches & joint pain
- Mood swings or depression
- Weight gain / diabetes
- Hot flashes
- Genitourinary syndrome (vaginal dryness, atrophy and bladder control problems)
- Sleep disruptions / insomnia
- Memory loss
In this article, we’ll explore how menopause triggers inflammation and brain chemistry changes — which are at the root of most of these symptoms — and how CBD and other interventions could help.
More than Estrogen: A Sea of Changes
You’re probably familiar with the estrogen story by now: women are born with millions of immature eggs in their ovaries. Starting at puberty, our bodies are pumped full of estrogen every time an egg matures — approximately once a month. However, over the years, our supply of eggs dwindles. And once all our eggs are gone, our periods stop and the estrogen bursts go away, triggering menopause.
But in reality, menopause is not so clear-cut. For years before the menopause (a period called the perimenopause), our estrogen levels swing unpredictably high or low before the final plunge. And it’s not just estrogen that goes on a roller-coaster ride — a full supporting cast of hormones that (more-or-less) kept our bodies operating smoothly over the years also begin rebelling.
Controlled by these hormones, countless molecules in our bodies also increase or decrease. Our brain neurochemistry changes. Our bodies ramp up production of inflammatory molecules. From brain function to fat accumulation to bone reabsorption — menopause changes the inner workings of our bodies. And each woman’s experience of menopause will be unique.
Menopausal Symptoms: Causes & Support
If menopause has left you feeling like the medical system doesn’t understand your needs, you’re probably right. Scientists are still uncovering why and how our bodies change during menopause.
Much of the information in this article is at the cutting edge of menopause research, and may have never been explained to you by your doctor — but we believe that the more you understand about your symptoms, the easier it will be for you to find support.
Here are some of the most widespread issues women face during menopause:
Aches & Joint Pain
What’s going on: Does your body hurt more than it used to? Don’t be so quick to blame it on age – without estrogen, our bodies produce higher levels of inflammatory molecules (specifically, tumor necrosis factor, or TNFα). This means arthritis symptoms could skyrocket during menopause. More than 60% of women aged 40 to 64 suffer from pain in their muscles and joints.
How CBD could help: It is more important than ever to reduce inflammation in your body during menopause. Cannabidiol has proven anti-inflammatory properties . In mice, CBD is anti-arthritic, protects joints against inflammatory damage , and lowers levels of inflammatory TNFα. Low-impact exercise and dietary changes are also excellent resources in a fight against inflammation.
Mood Swings & Depression
What’s going on: It’s not unusual for women to experience anxiety or depression during menopause. Estrogen and progesterone influence the activity of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain — which directly affect mood. As levels of these hormones become erratic and eventually plummet, your neurochemistry will change.
How CBD could help: If you’re emotionally distressed, you should seek the support of a medical professional. They might suggest therapeutic or pharmaceutical solutions. If you supplement your treatment with CBD oil, it turns out that CBD activates serotonin receptors , similar to the anti-anxiety drug buspirone. (For more on this topic, read our articles about the different ways that CBD could help anxiety or depression .)
Hot Flashes & Night Sweats
What’s going on: Hot flashes and night sweats are frequently joked about, but in reality they’re no laughing matter. They disrupt our sleep and daily routines, which can reduce the quality of our lives. These “vasomotor” symptoms are caused by altered neurochemistry in the hypothalamus — your body’s thermostat control. In other words, your body’s cooling system — blood vessel dilation & sweat response — gets switched on way too easily. When tested in the lab, women who suffer from hot flashes are triggered when their body temperatures increase by only 1.5 degrees , whereas other women’s bodies don’t switch on the cooling system unless their temperatures increase almost 3 degrees.
How CBD could help: Because hot flashes have a neurochemical basis, some SSRIs and antidepressants can help relieve hot flashes . Although there aren’t studies that have specifically tested CBD for hot flashes, its influence on the body’s serotonin system could be one reason why some women swear by CBD for this symptom. Other treatments like therapy, hypnosis and relaxation techniques that calm the nervous system can also influence your neurochemistry and help reduce hot flashes.
Weight Gain & Diabetes
What’s going on: Hormones shape our bodies on so many levels, including controlling our metabolism. Without estrogen, our bodies burn fewer calories — even while sleeping — and we also burn less fat during exercise. Even if you cut calories and maintain a stable weight throughout menopause, the ongoing hormonal shift tells your body to trade in lean muscle mass for abdominal fat. And this pattern of fat storage unfortunately raises your predisposition to insulin resistance, diabetes and cardiovascular disease .
Genitourinal Syndrome (Vaginal Dryness, Atrophy & Bladder Control)
What’s going on: Sexual health and bladder control after menopause might seem like two separate subjects, but they are so intimately related that they are now lumped into a single medical condition. Estrogen helps keep blood flowing to the pelvic region, delivering fresh oxygen to the tissues of the urinary tract and sexual organs — keeping things elastic and healthy. Once menopause arrives, women should give their pelvis some extra love and attention to keep up the blood flow. (For more on this topic, read our article on sexual health after menopause .)
How CBD could help: Along with regular sexual activity, a topical lubricant that contains cannabinoids like CBD or THC — which are both potent vasodilators — can increase blood flow to the pelvic region. This keeps tissues healthy while also moisturizing the vaginal canal. Topical CBD can also fight inflammation, relax muscles and calm pain-perceiving nerves in the vulva and vagina , making CBD-infused lube and suppositories one of women’s best companions through menopause.
What’s going on: Our bodies constantly move calcium and other minerals into — and out of — bones. As we enter perimenopause, the net result is often bone resorption (where more bone is taken away than is added), lowering bone density and increasing our risk for fractures. We’ve all heard about the importance of dietary calcium and exercise for preventing osteoporosis, but new research suggests that inflammation from arthritis or other conditions might be one of the biggest causes of bone resorption . Inflammatory TNFα is particularly adept at telling your body to increase bone resorption .
How CBD could help: The same anti-inflammatory features that make CBD oil a popular remedy for arthritic symptoms might also prove useful for bone health. In rats with periodontitis, CBD lowers TNFα levels and prevents oral bone loss . However, human evidence for this application is lacking, and we encourage you to use every medical resource available if you’ve been diagnosed with low bone density. Resistance exercise also decreases TNFα levels, which may explain why exercise can help prevent bone loss.
What’s going on: Many peri- and post-menopausal women have trouble getting a good night’s sleep. And sleep deprivation can really wear a person down — triggering fatigue and a full spectrum of other health issues. Menopause might disrupt your sleep a number of different ways, including through night sweats and increased anxiety or depression . You’ll need to identify the biggest hurdles between you and a good night’s sleep before you can troubleshoot the best solutions. Track your sleep or ask your doctor about a sleep study if you need help.
How CBD could help: People of all genders and ages report that CBD formulations help them get restorative sleep. Whether or not CBD could help you get a better night’s sleep depends on the source of your disruptions. CBD’s influence on neurochemistry and anxiety could help improve sleep for women experiencing insomnia or disruptive night sweats.
What’s going on: It’s tempting to blame memory loss on age, but even younger women who go through surgical menopause can experience rapid memory loss . The brain region responsible for memory, learning and emotion, the hippocampus , is a hotbed of synaptic plasticity. Hormones like estrogen and progesterone encourage neurons in the hippocampus to form new connections , and our memories might suffer without these hormones.
How CBD could help: Scientists are actively investigating CBD for encouraging synaptic plasticity and neuroprotection , particularly in the hippocampus. However, there is not yet solid evidence for its recommendation, and there are many other ways you can protect this important brain region. If you want to improve your memory, check out 9 ways to naturally rewire your hippocampus .
Self-Directed Care for Menopause
Now, more than ever, is an important time to observe the changes happening within your body and life. Be honest with yourself and others about how much support you need.
Estrogen and progesterone shouldered a lot of responsibilities within your body, and CBD should only be one of many resources that help you through (and beyond) menopause.
For more suggested tips to help you thrive through this transition, see our handy article on 9 essential sources of support for menopause.
CBD: Are You Doing It Right?
For those who are new to the world of CBD, in addition to purchasing a high-quality product, it’s important to optimize your dosage and delivery for the desired effect.
For instance, vape pens deliver immediate benefits that dwindle within an hour or two, whereas oral CBD oil takes longer to kick in — but its effects can last 8-12 hours.
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