Mood swings, hot flashes, sleeplessness, weight gain. If you’re over 45, you’re probably all too familiar with these common symptoms of menopause. And you’ve also probably discovered that finding relief can be a challenge. Not every woman is a candidate for hormone therapy, and natural herbs and supplements have varying degrees of effectiveness. Could medical cannabis be a panacea?
Constance Therapeutics founder Constance Finley says that cannabis may provide natural relief for women going through perimenopause. “Our endocannabinoid system is a network of cell receptors that helps to regulate all of our body’s systems — immune function, mood, sleep, pain, appetite, reproductive cycles, and temperature. Many of these systems are directly tied to menopausal symptoms: hot flashes, insomnia, fatigue, pain, anxiety, irritability, and so on.”
In fact, a recent study by BDS Analytics (which surveyed 1,281 women in Oregon, Washington, California, and Colorado) found that menstruation, sex, and menopause are the top three reasons that women use cannabis for self-care.
Dr. June Chin, D.O., an integrative cannabis physician, agrees that cannabis can be useful in treating common symptoms of menopause such as anxiety. “Cannabis works to help alleviate anxiety by its mediation of a neurotransmitter called GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). GABA tells the body it’s time to power down. Since millions of neurons all over the brain respond to GABA, the effects of cannabis on GABA can include calming the nervous system, help with sleep, and relaxing muscles,” says Dr. Chin, who herself takes sublingual tinctures for sleeplessness as well as hybrid vaginal suppositories for vaginal dryness and low libido.
When it comes to using medical cannabis, it’s important to look for full-plant-extract CBD, purity, and a standardized product.
Mara Gordon, 59, founder of Aunt Zelda’s, a pioneering, data-driven developer of cannabis-based plant medicines, has created several products specifically for women going through perimenopause, including Women’s Blend, a whole-plant-infused olive oil. “I started making it in 2011 for a couple of women who were in their late 40s and early 50s. They wanted something to help them deal with lethargy, erratic moods, and aches and pains without feeling ‘altered,’” says Gordon. “I selected particular profiles of cannabis varietals and mixed them together to have the correct ratio of cannabanoids and terpenes. It’s approximately a one-to-four ratio of THC to CBD.”
Both Gordon and Finley, as well as the other experts, say that when it comes to using medical cannabis, it’s important to look for full-plant-extract CBD, purity, and a standardized product. “Many of the side effects people associate with cannabis are actually coming from toxins from the growing or extracting processes, and choosing a high-quality product will help ensure you don’t confuse byproduct and its effects with the true effects of the cannabis,” explains Finley.
As with other uses of medical cannabis, Dr. Chin suggests patients seek out an integrative cannabis specialist and don’t take no for an answer if you hit a dead end with your regular physician.
Seek out an integrative cannabis specialist and don’t take no for an answer if you hit a dead end with your regular physician.
In addition to making sure you are taking a high-quality product, dosing and the method of transmission (edibles, tinctures, vaporizers, etc.) are also critical. A vape pen can deliver benefit almost immediately and last an hour, possibly two. The effect of an edible, on the other hand, won’t be felt for an hour or two but can last eight to 12 hours.
“You wouldn’t use an edible for someone who has epilepsy and needs immediate relief,” says Chanda Macias, MBA, PhD, who runs the National Holistic Healing Center in Washington, D.C. “It’s important to focus on a comprehensive treatment plan, ensuring that you’re getting just the right dosing for specific issues.” For instance, to help treat pain from cramps and endometriosis, Macias says that hybrid-strain tinctures, infused Epsom salts, and micro-dosing throughout the day can really help with pain. “People often use medical cannabis as a last option when it should be one of the first,” she says.
Since there are no clinical studies specifically about cannabis and menopause, and because cannabis is legal in only a handful of states, it’s important to seek expert advice and be aware of your state’s laws.
Not Your Mama’s Pot Products
Carla Baumgartner, 50, founder of Ganjarunner, a California-based cannabis delivery service, says she has personally found “extreme relief from menopause by medicating with THC/CBD along with living an active, healthy lifestyle.” She takes 10 to 15 milligrams of CBD oil during the day to help deal with anxiety, which has plagued her since her early teens, and credits cannabis, along with surfing, eating well, and yoga, for helping her do a “pretty good job of getting through menopause.”
Baumgartner is also a fan of THC-infused lubes, which she says may help with loss of libido and trouble with lubrication. “THC-infused lubes not only offer a nice, tingly sensation, but they also help relax the body, promote overall comfort for cramping, and may enhance your libido.”
Marci Freede and Amber Laign, co-owners of Plant Juice Oils, offer CBD-enhanced essential oils that they say can help with some of the most common symptoms of menopause, such as sleep issues, stress, hot flashes, and lack of energy. “We have found through our research that many essential oils blended with CBD have incredible results in combating many of these symptoms,” says Freede.
Sacha Cohen is founder and president of Grassfed Media. To see more of her work, go to grassfedmediadc.com.