For the first few decades of our lives, menopause feels like it’s a million years away. And it makes sense; we’re occupied with surviving our periods, building our careers, becoming financially stable, and deciding whether or not we want to become parents.
Photo by: Jared Belson
A full life is nothing to apologize for, but it can leave us smack in the middle of the menopausal transition without having thought about the big hormonal change we’re about to face — and how our lifestyle might need to change to accommodate the ups and downs.
The average age of menopause is 51, but symptoms can start to occur more than a decade before that. According to the Cleveland Clinic, these symptoms typically peak one or two years before menopause:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats and/or cold flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Discomfort during sex
- Urinary urgency
- Irregular periods
- Irritability, mood swings, mild depression
- Dry skin, dry eyes, or dry mouth
Clearly, menopause is no walk in the park. The question is: Can CBD help? According to many experts, yes.
What You Need to Know about CBD and Menopause
“The endocannabinoid system is intimately involved in our metabolism, cardiovascular health, gastrointestinal health, neurological health, sexual health, and musculoskeletal systems,” says Dr. Anna M. Cabeca, D.O., an integrative OB/GYN and expert in all things women’s health and hormones. According to her, our knowledge about how maintaining a healthy endocannabinoid system might affect our hormone health, including during menopause, is ever-evolving; but so far, the evidence we have is pretty compelling.
She’s right. A 2016 study even concluded that, “The female reproductive system and ECS are intricately linked,” and the authors also wrote that hormone fluctuation can influence the way cannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoids in our body are expressed.
Knowing this, it’s clear that CBD could help target some of the underlying causes of menopausal symptoms by promoting overall balance in the body. In addition, it may help target specific, isolated symptoms, and that can help ease the transition into menopause.
How to Use CBD for Menopause
According to Leafly, menopause was cited as an analgesic for menopausal symptoms as early as 1924. And despite the fact that randomized controlled human trials testing CBD’s effect on menopause symptoms are lacking, research has established CBD as a promising therapy for many of the most common symptoms of menopause.
Just to name a few, CBD has exhibited anti-pain and anti-inflammatory properties and has been shown to be helpful for improving mood, decreasing anxiety, and supporting sleep. In addition, data collected from surveys tell us that cannabis users report more enjoyable sexual experiences, which is important because pain during sex, and vaginal dryness are more common at menopause. Certain cannabinoids can also affect body temperature in a dose-dependent manner and the endocannabinoid anandamide — also known as the “bliss molecule” — helps regulate body temperature, among other bodily functions like inflammation and neuron signaling
“The current findings illustrate the many benefits of hemp and phytocannabinoids, both physiologically and even psychologically speaking,” says Dr. Cabeca. If you’re struggling with pesky menopausal symptoms, CBD is certainly worth a try — even though we’re still lacking conclusive evidence.
A Final Word on CBD and Menopause
So, will CBD become a treatment for menopause in the future? According to Dr. Cabeca, there’s a good possibility that it will. “I do believe that as we continue to understand how these signaling molecules and the intricate network of receptors in the brain and immune system functions and responds to hemp phytocannabinoids, we will find ways to utilize CBD for menopause and hormone balance,” she says.
Until then, we can experiment with CBD and focus on other lifestyle changes that have been shown to improve menopausal symptoms, such as meditation, exercise, and a healthy diet. Research has shown that breath-based and other relaxation therapies — like meditation, yoga, and tai chi — show a lot of promise for alleviating hot flashes and other menopause symptoms. One study, published in the journal Menopause, showed that 12 weeks of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise led to small but meaningful improvements in sleep quality, insomnia, and depression during menopause. Studies have even established a link between reduced menopause symptoms and intake of cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, and cauliflower.
At this point in time, combining these lifestyle changes with CBD may be the most effective strategy for controlling symptoms.
Menopause symptoms can be a challenge mentally, physically, and emotionally. The good news is that CBD and other lifestyle changes may be able to ease the transition and provide some relief.