As women age, their bodies produce less estrogen; this can lead to symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, weight gain, bone loss, vaginal dryness, joint pain, fatigue and more. Menopause affects all women at some point in their life. So if you’re currently suffering from its symptoms, you’re not alone.
Luckily, cannabis can help. The science suggests that cannabis is especially well-suited to ease many menopausal symptoms and may even help prevent some of the issues that arise from lower estrogen levels.
The Science Behind Why Cannabis Can Help Ease Menopause Symptoms
Reduced estrogen causes menopause, but many of its symptoms may in fact be due to a decrease in endocannabinoid activity. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is a network of neurotransmitters throughout the human body that regulates many of our important functions such as:
- Stress response
- Memory building
- Muscle control
Endocannabinoids that occur naturally in the body activate the ECS—but so do the chemicals, or cannabinoids, found in cannabis.
Interestingly, endocannabinoid and estrogen levels are related. Both hit peak levels during ovulation. And FAAH, a fatty acid that estrogen regulates, breaks down endocannabinoids. When estrogen levels are high, endocannabinoids are produced and help with tasks like mood regulation and temperature control.
When there’s less estrogen, endocannabinoid levels decrease, and we see many of the symptoms associated with menopause. In fact, many women with early menopause also have low endocannabinoid levels. Some even argue that an endocannabinoid deficiency may cause early menopause.
By supplementing with plant cannabinoids, like those from cannabis, women with menopause may be able to rebalance their ECS and avoid many of the associated painful symptoms.
How Marijuana Helps With Menopause
How can cannabis help with menopause? Marijuana can raise general cannabinoid levels in the body during and after menopause. But research also supports cannabis’s ability to help with many of the specific symptoms of menopause:
- Hot flashes: Research shows that the ECS regulates body temperatures and high doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can cause body temperature to cool. Taking a dose of high-THC marijuana may just cool you down during your next hot flash.
- Mood swings: Abrupt changes in mood may arise when we don’t have the endocannabinoids present to handle stress or generate a positive mood. Research shows that cannabis can boost positive moods and reduce stress reactions.
In one study, some patients consumed marijuana while others didn’t. Then they all took stress tests. Those using cannabis not only reported less stress during the test, but also had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in their blood. Marijuana was able to reduce stress responses at the behavioural and chemical level.
- Bone loss: One big health risk for menopausal and post-menopausal women is losing bone density. This can lead to diseases like osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, where bones become brittle and weak. Thankfully, cannabis can help with this, too. Research shows that cannabinoid therapy can reduce and even reverse bone loss.
- Weight gain: While marijuana is well known for increasing appetite, few people realize that marijuana users tend to weigh less on average than those who abstain from the plant. Interestingly, cannabis seems to have an effect on our metabolism that allows us to eat more without gaining as much weight. In one study, mice consuming a high-fat diet along with cannabis weighed less than those who had the same high-fat diet without cannabis. The marijuana increased appetite but decreased weight. Because of these metabolic effects, adding cannabis to your routine may help reduce any menopausal weight gain.
How to Take Cannabis for Menopause
There are so many types of cannabis and different ways to use this medicine. And what works best can vary from person to person and depend on the specific symptoms being addressed. Still, there are many recommendations out there from those who use cannabis for menopause.
Some women smoke or vape high-THC cannabis to promote relaxation, uplift mood and get their metabolism back on track. Others choose marijuana rich in CBD to ease inflammation and pain. Many women have found success microdosing cannabis throughout the day to find relief from their menopause symptoms so that they’re still able to work and function in their busy lives.
If you’re looking for some suggestions to get you started, check out these five strains we recommend for PMS and menopause.
Still not sure how to begin taking cannabis to help with menopause symptoms? A good first step is to talk to a health professional with cannabis expertise. Your health practitioner can go over your current conditions with you and let you know what cannabis options best suit your needs. You can talk to one of HelloMD’s health practitioners from the comfort and privacy of your own home.
Photo credit: Eye for Ebony