Menopause is a normal part of healthy aging for females, but the hormonal shifts can produce uncomfortable symptoms such as hot flashes, pain during intercourse, disrupted sleep and mood swings. Could cannabis be a viable treatment? According to a study presented at the 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting of the North American Menopause Society, over 1 in 4 female veterans say they are using cannabis to help manage bothersome symptoms of menopause.
In fact, more female veterans were using cannabis to treat their menopause symptoms than were using hormone replacement therapy. The lead author of the study, Dr. Stephani Faubion, was alarmed: “This study highlights a somewhat alarming trend and the need for more research relative to the potential risks and benefits of cannabis use for the management of bothersome menopause symptoms.” Due to federal prohibition on cannabis, there are no peer-reviewed clinical trials on the effect of cannabis in menopausal humans. However, there is quite a bit of anecdotal evidence indicating that cannabis can ease menopause symptoms in some people.
Perimenopause is the period before menopause in which the ovaries begin to produce less estrogen, although you still have menstrual periods. Menopause is diagnosed 12 months after the last menstrual period, and post-menopause is the period after that diagnosis. However, some post-menopausal people may continue to experience uncomfortable symptoms for a decade or longer until their bodies settle into a new homeostasis. Recent research has revealed that the endocannabinoid system (ECS) plays a primary role in regulating female sexual and reproductive function. For example, levels of estradiol, the strongest of the three forms of estrogen, fluctuate in a way that mirrors endocannabinoid levels, such that when estradiol levels peak, so do endocannabinoid levels. There is clearly a complex bidirectional relationship between endocannabinoid activity and estradiol levels, but how exactly this relationship works, and how exogenous cannabinoids like THC impact this relationship, is not yet clear.
Treating menopausal symptoms with cannabis is nothing new. The 1899 Merck Manual referenced cannabis as a treatment for menopause, as well as a treatment for a variety of other women’s health issues. And according to Dr. Junella Chin, a cannabis doctor and the chief medical advisor at CannabisMD, many women in the modern era have found relief from uncomfortable menopause symptoms with cannabis—particularly for hot flashes and insomnia. Dr. Chin stated, “Hot flashes are due to the hormonal ups and downs of menopause. Estrogen is involved with the body’s endocannabinoid system, and CBD binds to those receptors.” Dr. Felice Gersh, an OB-GYN in Irvine, California, explained to Healthline that mainstream medicine treats menopause symptoms primarily with opiods, NSAIDs or hormone replacement therapy. Many people choose cannabis as a natural, plant-based alternative to these treatments. Let’s look at why cannabis may help ease or protect against some common menopause symptoms: hot flashes, mood swings, insomnia, pain during intercourse and osteoporosis.
Anandamide is an endocannabinoid that helps regulate body temperature. It is known as the “bliss molecule” because it binds to the CB1 receptor and exerts a mood boosting effect. THC also binds to the CB1 receptor, which is how it exerts an acute psychoactive effect. Essentially, THC mimics anandamide in the body. There is evidence that estrogen may increase the synthesis of anandamide, and it is known that estrogen down-regulates the enzyme that breaks down anandamide (FAAH). So higher levels of estrogen lead to higher levels of anandamide. After menopause, estrogen levels are much lower and so are anandamide levels. People who find that cannabis helps them with their hot flashes may be benefiting from the way THC mimics anandamide, thus helping regulate their body temperature.
The endocannabinoid system modulates “affect, mood and emotions.” Estrogen uses endocannabinoids to stabilize mood and emotional responses. That is why a drop in estrogen levels is often associated with mood swings and difficulty regulating emotions. Similar to hot flashes, if cannabis or CBD helps you regulate your menopausal mood swings, perhaps it is due to exogenous cannabinoids interacting with your ECS in a therapeutic way.
Dr. Melanie Bone, an OB-GYN who runs a medical marijuana clinic, noted that many of her menopausal patients suffer from insomnia. She has found success in treating these patients with cannabis, prescribing higher THC products to fall asleep, and lower THC products to stay asleep.
Hormonal shifts related to menopause can cause vaginal dryness in some people, which can lead to pain during intercourse. According to Dr. Bone, vaginal dryness is best treated with hormone replacement therapy. Lubricants are another option to treat vaginal dryness—there are even cannabis and CBD infused lubricants available. Select "intimate products" in our cannabis and CBD catalog to see these products on Jointly. For women who are experiencing pain during intercourse, cannabis is a highly effective treatment according to a survey of women who reported dyspareunia. It is worth noting that vaginal dryness, pain during intercourse and hormonal shifts can all contribute to a loss of libido, which is another common symptom of menopause. For females, the research has “almost consistently suggested a facilitatory effect of cannabis on subjective indices of sexual function.” That means cannabis may help menopausal individuals reclaim their libidos.
Are you curious about using cannabis or CBD to help improve your wellbeing? Jointly is a free smartphone app that allows you to look up legal, licensed cannabis and CBD products in your state based on your wellness goals, and see how other users like you rated a product on a scale from 1-10, based on how well it helped them achieve their wellness goals. Additionally, Jointly allows you to track and record your CBD and cannabis consumption, including the dose, time of use, composition of the cannabis product and various other factors that can influence your experience. As you track your cannabis consumption on Jointly, you will learn about the factors that can impact your cannabis experience and how to eliminate side effects like anxiety. As you use the app, Jointly will build a personalized recommendation engine that suggests actionable advice like new routines and better products. Download the Jointly app today and start accomplishing your wellness goals with cannabis and CBD!