Cannabis and Menopause: 7 Ways It Can Help With Symptoms
Menopause is a natural part of aging that marks the end of a woman’s reproductive years and takes place at the age of 51, on average. Hot flashes, night sweats, urinary urgency, chills, vaginal dryness, and insomnia are symptoms that a woman experiences when transitioning into menopause. One survey suggests that approximately 80% of midlife women seek the help of cannabis in alleviating specific symptoms, such as insomnia and mood issues.
Survey Report on Cannabis and Menopause
A new survey conducted by Harvard was published in the journal Menopause. This study essentially examined the use of cannabis in 131 women in their perimenopause phase and 127 women who had completed their menopausal phase. Candidates were selected through various social media platforms and an online selection platform. Virtually all participants were white and belonged to the middle class.
86% of the respondents were current cannabis users. They were divided on whether they used cannabis for medical or recreational reasons. Approximately 79% of the participants reported that it helped ease their menopause-related symptoms, 67% said that cannabis helps with sleep issues, whereas 46% endorsed it for helping improve anxiety and mood.
Women who were in their perimenopausal phase reported worse menopause symptoms as compared to their postmenopausal counterparts and also admitted to using more cannabis to help manage their symptoms. Over 84% of participants reported smoking cannabis, 78% used it as edibles, and 53% used vaping oils.
How Do Cannabinoids Work?
Humans have an endocannabinoid system that comprises cell receptors throughout the body that help maintain homeostasis. These receptors respond to endocannabinoids, which are cannabinoids produced by the body, along with external cannabinoids.
There are 80 to 100 cannabinoids present in cannabis flowers and around 300 non-cannabinoid chemicals. The two primary cannabinoids in cannabis include cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
Some of the other lesser cannabinoids that may provide wellness benefits for women in menopause include:
Estrogen is critical for the endocannabinoid system since it maintains fatty acid amide hydrolase, breaking down specific endocannabinoids. Suppose the body has low or fluctuating levels of estrogen. In that case, this can impact the endocannabinoid system and consequently lead to some of the symptoms of perimenopausal symptoms, such as mood swings, anxiety, depression, issues with sleep, and lower libido. For this reason, it makes sense that cannabinoids would help ease symptoms of menopause in women.
7 Ways Cannabis Can Help with Menopause Symptoms
People often associate cannabis with its recreational value, but researchers have been touting the effectiveness of some of its components in helping all types of health conditions. Some of the first studies about the use of cannabis to help with menopausal symptoms came from research on female veterans with PTSD. Many of these veterans of Afghanistan or Iraq reported that CBD products helped relieve some of the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder, especially insomnia and anxiety.
The women in the studies then started using CBD products to relieve sleep disturbance and irritability during menopause. Here are seven ways cannabis can help alleviate symptoms of menopause.
1. Minimizes Pain
Menopause often brings along headaches and joint and muscle pain. Due to the presence of estrogen receptors throughout the body, falling hormone levels can intensify the pain caused by general wear and tear, inflammation, and aging. Cannabis has developed a reputation for easing certain kinds of pain, including pain caused by inflammation and nerve damage. An online survey published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine showed that cannabis use could help with pain management related to non-migraine headaches, joint pain, neuropathy, and spasticity.
2. Regulates Body Temperature
Hot flashes are a common symptom of menopause caused by changing hormone levels in the body. Cannabis can help lower the body’s temperature if appropriately consumed. This can consequently help menopausal women with night sweats by decreasing heat production in the body.
3. Cannabis and Menopause Stress Relief
One of the main reasons people use cannabis products is because it helps relieve stress, which is one of the symptoms of menopause. Researchers at the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago have reported that low levels of THC can help with stress management but in a highly dose-dependent manner. Low doses of THC helped tackle anxiety, especially social anxiety, but higher doses increased anxiety.
When consumed in smaller dosages, cannabis might help menopausal women feel more relaxed and less anxious.
4. Induces Sleepiness
A study published in 2019 examined the effects of CBD on improving sleep. It involved 25 subjects who were experiencing poor sleeping patterns. The candidates were given 25 mg of CBD in a capsule form daily. During the first month, 66.7% of the patients reported better sleep.
5. Enhances Mood
Women who experience painful menopausal symptoms, such as headaches, poor sleep, night sweats, and anxiety, might often find themselves battling a lousy mood. A study published in 2020 in The Journal of Biology and Medicine found that around 95% of candidates reported that marijuana relieved them from depressive episodes. This can potentially help improve mood in menopausal women.
6. Promotes Bone Density
Bone density loss can occur during menopause, increasing the risk of bruises, fractures, and osteoporosis in women over 60. Some studies indicate that CBD in cannabis interacts with a cannabinoid receptor that may play a role in bone density loss. CBD might potentially minimize this bone density loss rate during menopause.
7. Helps with Vaginal Dryness
Vaginal dryness is a common symptom of menopause caused by a drop in estrogen levels. This can make the vagina thinner and less elastic. Common symptoms of vaginal dryness include itching, burning, or general discomfort in the area.
Although sufficient clinical evidence is still needed to support the claim that cannabis helps with vaginal dryness, the present research suggests that topical cannabis may help with vulvar/vaginal dryness.
Laura Hamilton, one of the participants in the study related to the effects of cannabis on menopause symptoms, reported that cannabis helped her with vaginal dryness, amongst others. She explained that she uses cannabis in oil and applies it to the skin. The effects take 30 to 45 minutes to materialize properly and last several hours.
Talk to a Physician First About Cannabis and Menopause
The effects of cannabis for easing menopausal symptoms will vary depending on the individual and the conditions they are experiencing. Similarly, the right dosage will also differ from one person to the next. For CBD, most experts recommend starting with a smaller dosage of about 20 mg and waiting for around 90 minutes to analyze the results correctly. For THC, micro-dosing (2.5 to 5 mg) is advised, so you can feel the benefits of the plant without feeling too altered.
Depending on what your healthcare expert prescribes, you can find different cannabis products, including edibles (cannabis-infused drinks and foods), tinctures (liquids in a dropper), sublingual (tabs to put under the tongue), and lube. Vaping or smoking cannabis to alleviate menopausal symptoms is common, but your doctor might not advise it since it can affect the respiratory system.
It is always best to consult with an expert and start slowly. Another essential thing to remember is to always use cannabis products from reputable and licensed suppliers that provide transparency and high quality. Be sure to check the laws of your state and those of anywhere you travel to avoid any legal complications.