The onset of menopause is an entirely natural part of a woman’s life; however, it can bring with it a number of uncomfortable symptoms caused by hormonal fluctuations.
Menopause can result in symptoms such as sleep disturbances, vaginal dryness, and hot flashes, and while many studies have been carried out to find natural remedies to alleviate these symptoms, the results have been fairly mixed.
Recently, though, there has been significant interest in using CBD as a treatment for the symptoms of menopause, with promising research to back it up. As a result, there has been a surge in popularity for CBD products such as bath salts, lotions, and tinctures among menopausal women.
This guide will cover everything you need to know about CBD products for menopause, including how they work, what symptoms they can treat, and how you take them.
What is Menopause?
Menopause is a natural part of aging which sees a woman’s periods slow down or become more irregular, before stopping completely. Menopause is brought on by changes in hormone balance; in particular, it involves the slowing of estrogen production in the ovaries.
This causes irregular, more infrequent periods, as the ovaries stop producing an egg each month in response to the lack of estrogen.
Menopause has four distinct stages: premenopause, perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause.
Premenopause is the stage where you have no symptoms of perimenopause or menopause – you still have regular periods, and can still get pregnant. Hormonal changes may begin in your body, but there will be no visible symptoms
Perimenopause is the beginning of the process when symptoms first become visible: periods become less frequent or more irregular, and your menstrual flow may also change, becoming lighter or heavier.
Menopause is the next stage, and is defined as when you have not menstruated for a full 12 months, and can no longer get pregnant without treatments such as IVF. During menopause, you may experience a number of uncomfortable symptoms, including:
- Hot flushes
- Night sweats
- Reduced libido
- Depression, anxiety, or low mood
- Vaginal dryness
- Reduced libido
These symptoms may occur during perimenopause, or even earlier during perimenopause. They last for some time; on average, they will persist for around four years after your last period or could last even longer.
Postmenopause is the final stage when menopause is complete and the symptoms end.
Menopause and Estrogen
Menopause is heavily linked to estrogen production. Estrogen is the sex hormone responsible for regulating the female reproductive system and secondary sex characteristics.
Perimenopause begins when estrogen production starts to fluctuate and eventually reduces as you age. Normally, perimenopause begins around your mid-40s; however, it may sometimes begin earlier if your body stops producing estrogen too soon.
Premature perimenopause can be tested by using a blood test to measure estrogen levels. Estrogen is also part of the treatment for premature or early menopause – hormone replacement therapy (HRT) uses estrogen supplements to offset some of the symptoms of your body’s own estrogen production slowing.
The Endocannabinoid System – How Do Cannabinoid Receptors Work?
Since menopause is so closely tied to hormones, it can have secondary effects throughout the rest of your body. In particular, it can have a big effect on the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a network of receptors that influence various physical and cognitive functions in response to chemical signals.
The ECS is responsible for maintaining homeostasis – essentially, the normal, balanced function of the body. It regulates a variety of functions and responses, such as pain, mood, sleep cycles, immune responses, and – importantly when it comes to menopause – fertility and reproduction.
There are ECS receptors throughout the female reproductive system, many of which respond to estrogen. The reduced production of estrogen that causes menopause also disrupts the ECS, which can have a knock-on effect on the various other bodily functions that it regulates.
This is why CBD has been proposed as a treatment for menopause – it interacts with the CB1 and CB2 receptors of the ECS in order to influence the way it operates and therefore has the potential to alleviate some of the symptoms of menopause linked to the disruption of the ECS.
Menopausal Symptoms CBD Oil Can Treat
While studies explicitly researching the potential for CBD to treat menopause are currently fairly limited, other studies have shown promising results in using CBD to treat many of the symptoms commonly associated with menopause.
Some of the symptoms of menopause that CBD may help to treat include the following:
Anxiety and Depression
One common symptom of menopause is the onset of anxiety and depression, both from the hormonal effects of menopause and also due to psychological factors like stress brought on by other symptoms of menopause.
CBD’s potential as an antidepressant and anxiolytic (anxiety-relieving drug) is well-documented. CBD’s interactions with the ECS help to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression in a number of ways.
For instance, a 2014 review found that CBD has a positive effect on serotonin receptors in the brain, helping to prolong and enhance the effects of the mood-boosting hormone.
In addition, CBD has been found to interfere with the secretion of cortisol, a stress hormone that is commonly linked with anxiety.
Another common symptom of menopause is frequent mood swings; as with anxiety and depression, this can be due to hormonal imbalances or the psychological stress of menopause.
CBD may help to treat mood swings through its effects on anandamide. Anandamide is sometimes known as the “bliss hormone” since it is responsible for feelings of calm, happiness, and generally positive moods.
Research has shown that CBD has a positive impact on anandamide – it slows the deactivation of anandamide at ECS receptors in the brain, helping to prolong and enhance its mood-boosting effects. This could prevent mood swings during menopause by helping to promote a stable, positive mood.
As well as regulating the female reproductive system, estrogen plays an important part in maintaining bone mass. Since menopause leads to lower estrogen levels, it can then lead to reduced bone mass. This in turn may lead to issues such as osteoporosis, where low bone mass leads to weak, fragile bones that are prone to breaking easily.
CBD may be able to protect against this, however. The CB1 and CB2 receptors that CBD interacts with have been shown to have a significant role in regulating bone mass and density; by regulating activity at these receptors, CBD may be able to promote healthy bone mass and reduce the risk of menopause-related osteoporosis.
Body Pain, Joint Pain, and Aches
Another of estrogen’s functions is to regulate fluid levels in the body. As menopause reduces estrogen levels, the body can’t retain fluid as easily. In turn, this affects the lubrication and hydration of joints and muscles, which may lead to them losing elasticity and becoming achy or painful as a result.
Luckily, CBD has been shown to be an effective analgesic (pain-relieving drug) in a number of studies. For example, a 2008 review showed that CBD can be helpful in managing difficult-to-treat pain from a variety of conditions.
As a result, CBD may offer relief from menopause-related pain, as well as any other chronic pain you might experience.
Hot flashes are one of the most well-known side effects of menopause. They involve a number of symptoms, including a sudden feeling of warmth on your face and upper body, flushed appearance, rapid heartbeat, excess sweat, and sometimes feelings of anxiety,
While it’s not clear exactly why they occur, a popular theory is that hormonal changes impact the hypothalamus, which essentially acts as the body’s thermostat. Because of this, the hypothalamus will occasionally misinterpret your body as being too warm and initiates a number of bodily mechanisms to cool you down.
CBD’s potential to treat hot flashes is less clear than for other symptoms, but some studies have found a link between cannabinoids (the class of compound that CBD belongs to) and the thermal regulation activity of the hypothalamus.
This suggests CBD may be able to help regulate the hypothalamus’ activity to reduce the chances of experiencing a hot flash.
Night sweats are directly linked to hot flashes – the main difference being that these occur at night. A night-time hot flash can lead to excessive sweating that covers your nightclothes and sheets in sweat.
As stated above, the link between CBD and thermal regulation is shakier than for other symptoms, but the link between cannabinoids and hypothalamus regulation suggests that CBD may be able to provide some relief from night sweats.
As well as reduced estrogen levels, menopause also leads to reduced production of progesterone. Progesterone is a sleep-inducing hormone, and lower levels during menopause can therefore lead to difficulty sleeping.
This may be exacerbated by other symptoms of menopause, such as anxiety, joint pain, and hot flashes, making it even more difficult to sleep.
As well as treating these other symptoms as described above, CBD can help to facilitate better sleep by regulating sleep cycles. A 2017 review concluded that low doses of CBD can act as a stimulant, promoting wakefulness and alertness, while higher doses have a calming, sedative effect.
This allows CBD to help facilitate better sleep in two ways: by reducing tiredness and fatigue using low doses during the day, and then by making it easier to sleep at night with higher doses.
Loss of Bone Density
As discussed above with menopause-induced osteoporosis, the lowered estrogen levels experienced during menopause can cause issues in terms of bone mass and density.
Fortunately, as noted earlier, the CB1 and CB2 receptors with which CBD interacts have been shown to have an important role in maintaining bone mass, which suggests CBD could help to avoid lower bone mass during menopause.
How Can I Take CBD Oil?
CBD is available in a wide variety of different forms, such as tinctures, edibles, vapes, and lotions. In terms of treating menopause, however, the two most popular methods of taking CBD tend to be sublingual administration and topical application.
This is the way you take CBD tinctures: after measuring your dosage with a dropper, you hold the tincture under your tongue for around a minute before swallowing it. This allows the CBD to be absorbed into your bloodstream via the sublingual veins found under the tongue.
Taking CBD sublingually allows for fast-acting effects – they should usually kick in within 15 minutes or so. The effects can also be fairly long-lasting – while the CBD absorbed into your bloodstream may be processed quickly, the remainder that you swallow must be processed by the digestive system, which can take several hours.
Topically applying CBD refers to administering it to a specific area of the body using a cream or lotion (known as a CBD topical). The CBD topical is then absorbed through the skin, interacting with ECS receptors within the skin in that area rather than being carried throughout the body by the bloodstream.
Topical application takes longer for CBD’s effects to manifest; however, it also leads to a longer effect duration since it is absorbed fairly slowly through the skin.
CBD topicals are a good option for targeted relief from menopause symptoms in a specific area of the body since they can be applied directly to affected areas.
Is CBD Safe? Potential Side Effects
CBD is extremely well-tolerated in humans, meaning it holds a very low risk of causing any serious side effects.
Despite being derived from cannabis plants, it also poses very little risk of getting you high. CBD has no psychoactive effects whatsoever, unlike its sister compound THC – the compound responsible for giving weed its signature high.
However, CBD use may sometimes lead to some fairly minor side effects. Most of these are nothing to worry about and will pass on their own in time. However, if you take other prescription medication, you should consult a doctor before taking CBD, as it may cause adverse interactions with certain medicines.
CBD interacts with ECS receptors that regulate saliva production; as a result, it may hinder saliva production and lead to a dry mouth. This is nothing to worry about – just try to stay hydrated while taking CBD, and the feeling will pass.
Changes in Appetite
Like its sister compound THC – responsible for the infamous “munchies” experienced when smoking weed – CBD can lead to changes in appetite. However, unlike THC, CBD may decrease as well as increase appetite depending on the user.
One of the more uncomfortable side effects of CBD is diarrhea. This is normally caused by using too high a dose – so if you experience diarrhea after taking CBD, try taking a lower dosage next time.
As noted earlier, CBD can be used for its sedative effects when taken in higher doses. However, this may not always be a good thing. If you don’t want to feel tired or drowsy after taking CBD, stick to lower doses which can instead promote alertness and wakefulness.
While there’s currently little research into the exact effects of CBD on menopause, existing studies support its use to treat a number of the common symptoms of menopause. If you’re finding menopause symptoms difficult to deal with, then consider trying CBD to see if it can help you alleviate them.