Often referred to as the final menstrual period (FMP), the menopause transition is a normal, albeit scary in some cases, event in every woman’s life. Although advances have been made, many women still find themselves unprepared for menopause due to a lack of medical understanding and social stigma. Even in developed nations, there are still significant gaps in the medical community’s understanding of menopause symptoms.
Different social and cultural expectations were placed on women in generations past. They were not encouraged to discuss their reproductive transitions at any stage, which led most people to regard menopause as a private matter. Unfortunately, this unspoken social compact resulted in an undereducated medical system and a scarcity of resources for women entering menopause.
Through education, self-examination, and support from well-informed medical professionals, women can take proactive measures to address the changes in their bodies and their lives in general.
Many perimenopausal and postmenopausal women turn to traditional herbal medicines for relief and support, and therapeutic hemp and cannabis (and hemp and cannabis-derived products, like CBD oil) are becoming more and more popular. Consumer research groups have discovered that, along with menstruation and sexual stimulation, menopause is one of the top three reasons women use cannabis products.
Beyond individual testimonials, recent scholarly, peer-reviewed scientific research supports the diverse uses of cannabidiol (CBD) for these common menopause symptoms:
Anecdotal evidence abounds for CBD’s efficacy in managing menopause. Fortunately, scientists are beginning to understand why and how women’s bodies change during this time, and why CBD is growing in popularity for this application.
Cannabidiol (CBD), a phytocannabinoid discovered in 1940 and derived from non-psychoactive hemp (meaning, those who use it experience no “high”), is one of the safest and most popular emerging wellness trends. With evidence-based research scientists have discovered that CBD is a remarkable analgesic, anti-inflammatory and anti-anxiety treatment – properties that may alleviate a wide variety of the most common menopause symptoms.
Menopausal women often find their bodies hurting more than normal and often assume it’s the natural outcome of aging. But when the production of estrogen stops, women’s bodies produce higher levels of inflammatory molecules. This is why arthritis pain and stiffness are often badly exacerbated during menopause. More than 60% of women aged 40 to 64 suffer from pain in their muscles and joints.
Cannabidiol has scientifically-verified anti-inflammatory properties. In rodent studies, CBD has proven to be anti-arthritic, a protector of joints against inflammatory damage, and lowers inflammatory TNFα levels. Low-impact exercise, dietary changes, and certain supplements are also excellent resources in the fight against inflammation.
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 control mood. As a woman’s hormone levels become erratic and eventually plummet, her neurochemistry will change.
Anyone experiencing significant emotional distress should seek the support of a mental health professional. A therapist, counselor or psychiatrist might suggest therapeutic or pharmaceutical solutions. CBD oil may be a useful supplement to those treatments because it activates serotonin receptors, similarly to some anti-anxiety drugs.
Although hot flashes and night sweats are frequently the subjects of comedy, they’re anything but amusing for the women who experience them. Hot flashes disrupt sleep and daily routines, diminishing the sufferer’s overall quality of life.
Researchers say 75 – 85% of women experience hot flashes during menopause. Hot flashes are caused by altered neurochemistry in the hypothalamus— the body’s thermostat control—which rapidly “switches on” blood vessel dilation and sweat response.
Because hot flashes have a neurochemical basis, some SSRIs and antidepressants can help relieve hot flashes. Although haven’t specifically tested whether CBD is effective for hot flashes, its influence on the body’s serotonin could be one reason why some women swear by CBD for this symptom. Other treatments, like therapy, hypnosis and relaxation techniques, can also influence your neurochemistry and help reduce hot flashes.
Hormones shape and change our bodies on many levels, including our metabolism. Without estrogen, a woman’s body burns fewer calories, even while sleeping. Lack of estrogen also makes it more difficult to burn fat during exercise. Even for the woman who cuts calories and maintains a stable weight throughout menopause, the ongoing hormonal shift tells her body to trade in lean muscle mass for abdominal fat. This ongoing cycle of fat storage increases the predisposition to insulin resistance, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Population studies have found that adults who use cannabis products have lower insulin levels and a smaller waistline. CBD can contribute by switching on genes for a healthy metabolism. CBD also helps buffer the activity of natural endocannabinoids, including 2-AG, which is linked to insulin resistance. The body’s 2-AG level is boosted during menopause, and CBD helps to restore balance.
The genitourinary syndrome of menopause (GSM) describes a variety of menopausal symptoms and signs. This includes genital symptoms like dryness, burning and irritation, and also sexual symptoms — lack of natural lubrication, discomfort, pain, impaired function – as well as urinary symptoms, such as urgency, frequency, dysuria, and recurrent urinary tract infections.
Sexual health and bladder control after menopause are directly related. Estrogen keeps blood flowing to the pelvic region, delivering fresh oxygen to the tissues of the urinary tract and sexual organs, which promotes strength and elasticity. Once menopause arrives and estrogen drops, women must find new ways to stimulate healthy blood flow.
Along with regular sexual activity, a topical lubricant containing cannabinoids like CBD (a potent vasodilator) can increase blood flow to the pelvic region. This keeps tissues healthy while moisturizing the vaginal canal. Topical CBD also fights inflammation, relaxes muscles and soothes pain-perceiving nerves in the vulva and vagina. CBD-infused lubricant is a multifaceted product and growing in popularity among women of all ages, and especially menopausal women.
Women’s bodies constantly move calcium and other minerals in and out of bones. During perimenopause, the net result is often bone resorption – more minerals are taken away than added. This lowers bone density and increases the risk of fracture. Many women know that dietary calcium and regular exercise can help prevent osteoporosis, but new research suggests that inflammation from arthritis or other conditions may be the more worrisome cause of bone resorption. Inflammatory TNFα informs the body to increase bone resorption (see “Aches and Joint Pain” section above for more on inflammation).
The same anti-inflammatory features that make CBD oil a popular remedy for arthritis symptoms might also prove useful for bone health. In rats with periodontitis, CBD lowers TNFα levels and prevents oral bone loss. Currently, human test subject evidence for this application is lacking, so further research is encouraged, especially for those already diagnosed with low bone density.
Resistance exercise also decreases TNFα levels, which might explain why exercise helps keep bones healthy.
The National Sleep Foundation says that 61% of menopausal women report insomnia symptoms. Sleep deprivation triggers daytime fatigue and is responsible for many other health problems. All the symptoms listed in this article can occur at any time of day; it’s easy to imagine why women in menopause encounter great difficulty at bedtime. Not all women can afford to undergo hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and some just don’t want to.
Menopause might disrupt sleep in a number of different ways, including night sweats, increased anxiety, and depression. Sufferers must identify the primary obstacles keeping them from healthy sleep, and then troubleshoot solutions through research or with the help of a healthcare provider. Some women opt for sleep studies set up by their primary caregivers.
People of all genders and ages report that CBD formulations help them achieve restorative sleep. CBD’s influence on neurochemistry could mitigate the anxiety and depression that complicates a woman’s ability to relax at night. CBD can also improve sleep for women experiencing hot flashes or night sweats.
Most people attribute memory loss to aging, but younger women who elect for surgical menopause also face rapid memory loss. The hippocampus is the brain region responsible for memory, learning, and emotion. It is a hotbed of synaptic plasticity. Hormones like estrogen and progesterone encourage neurons in the hippocampus to form new connections. Once those hormones are depleted, the memory begins to deteriorate.
Scientists are actively investigating CBD for its promising applications to improve synaptic plasticity and neuroprotection, particularly in the hippocampus.
Estrogen and progesterone are vital hormones with great impact on women’s bodies. Once those reserves are exhausted, of course, many changes can be expected. CBD can be one of many tools women use to find relief and live their lives fully.
Women who decide to explore their CBD options should also learn how to optimize their ideal dose and delivery (topical cream, oral supplement, oil tincture, etc.) for the desired effect. For example, vape pens yield immediate, short-term results, whereas oral formulations will take longer but last 8 to 12 hours. Fortunately, CBD is safe and uniquely customizable, unlike many prescription medications.