Despite a lack of scientific research into the efficacy of cannabis in treating menopause symptoms, recent surveys indicate that an increasing number of women are now using cannabinoids to manage their discomfort. Based on this anecdotal evidence, it seems plausible to believe that cannabis may be of use to women going through menopause.
Why Are Women Turning To Cannabis During Menopause?
Data presented at the recent North American Menopause Society Annual Meeting revealed that of 1,500 menopausal women surveyed in Alberta, Canada, around 500 claimed to use cannabis to alleviate their symptoms. Of these, two-thirds said they consumed marijuana to treat sleep issues, while 45 percent cited anxiety as their main reason for using weed. A further 33 percent said they used cannabis for muscle or joint pain, with a quarter doing so as a treatment for depression[i].
Overall, three-quarters of women said that cannabis was effective at alleviating their menopause symptoms.
Commenting on these findings, study author Katherine Babyn from the University of Alberta stated that the survey “confirmed that a large percentage of midlife women are using cannabis for symptoms that overlap with menopause,” and that “many of these women are claiming to get relief for their symptoms through the use of cannabis.”
These results echo a separate survey of 232 midlife women veterans presented at last year’s meeting. Around two-thirds of respondents claimed to use cannabis to deal with hot flashes and night sweats, while less than half said they had sought out traditional treatments like oestrogen replacement therapy for these symptoms[ii].
Given that many women are not comfortable with the idea of hormone replacement therapies or the use of opioids to deal with joint pain, these surveys indicate that cannabis may represent a more palatable option for the treatment of menopause symptoms.
How Does Cannabis Help During Menopause?
As mentioned, there’s little hard evidence regarding the impact of cannabis on menopause symptoms, yet there are plenty of reasons to believe that it may help. For example, oestrogen is known to interact with the cannabinoid system to regulate emotion and mood. Therefore, the drop in oestrogen levels during menopause has been linked to mood swings and depression, with some doctors suggesting that cannabinoids like THC and CBD may help counteract this effect.
In particular, oestrogen interacts with the endocannabinoid anandamide, which binds to CB1 receptors and generates feelings of euphoria. As oestrogen plummets during menopause, cannabis may help prevent a dramatic slump in mood – as evidenced by the number of menopausal women using weed to treat depression.
Insomnia and joint or muscle pain are also common in menopause, and several cannabinoids – including THC, CBD, and CBG – have an excellent track record for treating these complaints.
The Cannabinoids That Can Help
It has also been hypothesised that CBD, in particular, may help to prevent bone loss – otherwise known as osteoporosis – during menopause. Bone cells, or osteoblasts, express CB2 receptors on their outer membranes, and studies have indicated that drugs that bind to this receptor can help reduce osteoporosis. While the ability of cannabis to prevent bone loss during menopause has not been adequately studied, there is certainly reason to believe that the plant and its components may be effective at treating this condition.
Ultimately, no one can say for sure whether or not cannabis really does attenuate menopause symptoms, as the research simply isn’t there. One small study conducted earlier this year found that menopausal women undergoing traditional cannabis-based therapies in Thailand experienced a reduction in pain, insomnia, and hot flashes[iii], yet very few other studies exist.
For now, though, it seems that an increasing number of women are taking matters into their own hands and self-treating with cannabis – with an impressive degree of success.
[iii] Sinwat S, Homa P, Puensaard R, Uacharoen K, Chantachon S, Kenaphoom S. Preliminary Outcomes and Safety of Menopausal Symptoms Treatment using Cannabis-containing Suksaiyat Formulation based on Thai Traditional Medicine Wisdom. Annals of the Romanian Society for Cell Biology. 2021 Apr 2:7571-81. – https://www.annalsofrscb.ro/index.php/journal/article/view/2299