Why Some Experts Say Cannabis Can be Effective in Treating Menopause Symptoms
A survey, conducted by the San Francisco Veterans Administration Health Center in 2019, indicates that more women may be using cannabis to treat menopause symptoms.
- Some experts say cannabis can be effective in treating menopause while others express concerns about the drug’s side effects
- One expert recommends using hemp-based products as an alternative
*One in four female veterans say they’ve used cannabis to address symptoms of menopause* per Dr. Carolyn Gibson, PhD, a psychologist and Health Researcher at the San Francisco Veterans Administration Health Center (VA) and lead author of the study. That is a greater percentage than those who reported using more traditional types of menopause symptom management, such as hormone therapy. This information comes from a study presented during the 2020 Virtual Annual Meeting of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS).
“This study highlights a somewhat alarming trend and the need for more research relative to the potential benefits of cannabis use for the management of bothersome menopause symptoms”, said Dr. Stephanie S. Faubion, NAMS medical director and a clinician who specializes in women’s health.
Other experts, have said there is plausible science behind the connection between menopause symptoms and the body’s natural Endocannabinoid System, even if direct research on cannabis effectiveness in addressing menopause is currently lacking.
Menopause Symptoms Are Common
In the above mentioned study, researchers examined data on a sample of 232 women in Northern California who took part in the Midlife Women’s Veterans Health Survey. About half the women, whose mean age was 56 years old, reported menopause symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats (54%), insomnia (27%), and genitourinary symptoms (69%). Of these, 27% said they currently use cannabis (in any form) to manage their menopause symptoms or have done so in the past. Cannabis products were most often used to address hot flashes and night sweats, researchers said.
“These findings suggest that cannabis use to manage menopause symptoms may be relatively common,” said Carolyn Gibson, PhD, a psychologist and health services researcher at the San Francisco Veterans Administration (VA) Health Care System and lead author of the study.
The study didn’t differentiate between use of cannabis products containing the full spectrum of cannabis ingredients, including psychoactive THC and those containing therapeutic doses of CBD (Cannabidiol) and other cannabinoids but not THC. An additional 10% of the female veterans expressed an interest in trying cannabis to manage their menopause symptoms. Cannabis use for menopause symptoms were consistent across demographic categories, including age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status and mental health conditions.
Smoking cannabis and/or consuming gummies or other products containing the full spectrum of cannabis ingredients, including psychoactive THC, could have mixed results for women seeking relief from menopause.
Cannabis is known to have a sedating effect, so it may have a positive effect on sleep disturbance and reducing symptoms of anxiety. Mood changes and irritability are often prominent features during menopause, which may be counteracted by euphoric feelings produced by cannabis use. There is still great need for clinical studies looking at cannabis use to aid menopausal symptoms.
Even with the lack of studies, many women have found cannabis products to be effective in treating menopause symptoms, particularly insomnia and hot flashes according to Dr. Junella Chin, the Chief Medical Advisor at Cannabis MD. “Hot flashes are due to the hormonal ups and downs of menopause.” Chin stated. “Estrogen is involved with the body’s endocannabinoid system and CBD binds to those receptors.” She added that both CBD and THC are known for their sedative effects, which could explain their reported effectiveness against insomnia. “It makes sense that women find relief with plant based therapy,” said Chin.
Dr. Felice Gersh, an OBGYN and Medical Director of the Integrative Medical Group of Irvine, California, stated that beyond hormone replacement therapy, mainstream medicine offers little in the way of relief to women suffering from menopause symptoms other than opioids, or NSAID class painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs. Cannabis products do offer an alternative to what’s out there, she said.