Can Cannabis Relieve Menopause Symptoms?
Posted on December 8th, 2023 to Medical Cannabis
- A new survey study showed that cannabis has helped some people manage menopause symptoms like hot flashes, sleep disturbance, and low sex drive.
- Certain strains of cannabis were shown to help with symptoms that are similar to those experienced during menopause.
- Some chemicals in THC mimic anandamide, a compound produced by the body to regulate body temperature, mood, anxiety, and sleep.
Some people are turning to cannabis to ease menopause symptoms. What’s more, some physicians are recommending it.
Sameena Rahman, MD, a board-certified OB-GYN at the Center for Gynecology and Cosmetics in Chicago, said that cannabis has helped some of her patients manage mood or sleep problems during menopause. She said she’d recommend cannabis to patients who don’t want to take first-line treatments like hormonal therapy.
“The reality is people are using cannabis. And based on patients’ perceptions, it seems to be helping relieve symptoms,” Rahman told Verywell.
Cannabis may not be accessible to everyone, especially since it’s still not legalized federally. And patients might react differently to the various strains of cannabis. According to Rahman, cannabidiol (CBD)—a nonpsychoactive chemical found in cannabis—has been effective for one of her patients.
“She’s sleeping better than she has been, she’s doing better at work, she’s doing better with her kids, she’s handling things a lot better,” Rahman said. “Her overall function has improved.”
A recent study published in the journal Menopause found that many people used cannabis to manage menopause symptoms, such as sleep disturbance, anxiety, hot flashes, and low sex drive.1
Those who used cannabis appeared to experience a clear benefit, according to Staci Gruber, PhD, a co-author of the study and director of the Marijuana Investigations for Neuroscientific Discovery (MIND) program at McLean Hospital.
“When people lean into something like cannabis, we want to know what they’re using, why, and whether or not it works,” Gruber told Verywell.
The new study evaluated the benefits of CBD and delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main cannabis ingredient that makes people feel “high.” However, it was conducted in a survey format, which could not affirm the clinical benefits of cannabis in treating menopause symptoms.
How Does Cannabis Target Menopause Symptoms?
Menopause typically happens between the ages of 40 and 58, when a person stops having menstrual periods for more than a year. It can change how the body and brain function, sometimes resulting in painful symptoms.
These symptoms occur in areas of the body where estrogen has been depleted, which can be just about anywhere, according to Rahman.
“Estrogen receptors are located everywhere from the brain to skin and beyond,” Rahman said.
Some chemicals in THC mimic anandamide, a compound produced by the body to regulate body temperature, mood, anxiety, and sleep. According to the study, anandamide production might be controlled by estrogen, which drops during perimenopause.1
Decreased estrogen levels can lead to an overwhelming list of symptoms, including trouble sleeping, anxiety, and hot flashes. It’s not surprising that patients might see cannabis as an attractive remedy because it can relieve some of the same ailments, Gruber said.
Is It Safe to Use Cannabis for Menopause Symptoms?
Different strains of cannabis can have different impacts on the body. So when people don’t know how to distinguish cannabis types, they may be taking a gamble on their health.
For example, CBD is one common element of a cannabis plant that can promote relaxation and reduce anxiety and depression, but it doesn’t get people “high.” THC, another common ingredient in cannabis, can bring about euphoria and skew people’s perception of time. While low doses of THC may promote a calming effect, higher doses could induce anxiety.2
“Our medical cannabis patients tend to use products that are higher in CBD than THC,” Gruber said. “They are generally very clear about not wanting to be intoxicated or altered, they want to address symptoms.”
To avoid unwanted side effects, Rahman said she asks patients about their history with mood disorders before suggesting that they use a cannabis product. She also recommends hormone therapy, which is a first-line therapy for menopause, before cannabis.
“I’ll spend often an hour with a new patient with menopausal symptoms,” Rahman said. “If they ask me about cannabis, then we talk about why it might work and what’s the best avenue to take it based on the medical features.”
Not everyone with menopause benefits from cannabis use, though. For some people, cannabis can cause unwanted reactions like anxiety or overeating.3
People who have brain fog, or take certain blood thinners or anti-seizure medications, may need to avoid cannabis as it could complicate conditions or render some of the medications less effective, Rahman added.
Researchers in the recent survey study didn’t ask about the specific types of cannabis used for menopause symptom management in order to reduce the risks of false labeling or reporting.
According to Gruber, the research team hopes to conduct a clinical trial on cannabis use for menopause as a next step once more funding is secured.
Mary Kathryn Dahlgren, PhD, lead author of the study and an assistant neuroscientist at MIND, added that the team plans to look into specific strains in a controlled trial, where they can record the strains accurately.
“This study is a springboard, a foundation, for future research looking at medical cannabis use for menopause-related symptoms,” Dahlgren said.
What This Means For You
Cannabis might be able to relieve menopause symptoms like hot flashes, sleep disturbance, and low sex drive, according to a new survey study. Researchers hope to conduct clinical trials in the future to confirm whether cannabis is effective at managing menopause symptoms.
Source: Very Well Health
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