One of the joys of uterus ownership is menopause. The cessation of menstrual periods often comes with a raft of awful side effects, but could cannabis help?
Menstrual periods are a monthly reminder that you are in ownership of operational ovaries and uterus. Periods are, at best, an inconvenience; at worst, debilitating and painful. But everyone agrees they are annoying and come at the worst time. So menopause, theoretically, should be a fantastic time, knowing you don’t have to have a period every month.
But menopause produces a host of unpleasant symptoms that can be incredibly frustrating, exhausting, and an annoying reminder that males don’t have to go through this.
What is Menopause?
Essentially, menopause is the cessation of periods. This can be due to a medical procedure, such as hysterectomy removing ovaries, or part of the natural process of ageing. Ovaries create oestrogen and progesterone, and perimenopause is when the ovaries start producing less oestrogen, eventually resulting in no eggs being released.
The symptoms of menopause could include:
- Irregular periods
- Hot flashes
- Vaginal dryness
- Loss of libido
- Night sweats
- Moodiness and irritability
- Weight gain
- Thinning hair
- Dry and crepey skin
- Breast deflation
- Heavy periods lasting 10+ days
- Joint pains
Perimenopause lasts, on average, for four years, but can last for up to ten years. Rejoice, uterus owners; it’s only ten years of discomfort, pain, and frustration.
What’s the Cure for Menopause?
More great news is that there is literally nothing that can speed up menopause or safely reduce symptoms. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) works to maintain hormone levels in the body, so symptoms are reduced. However, this may increase the risk of breast cancer (and these risks are increased for combined HRT, which replaces both progesterone and oestrogen), blood clots, and stroke.
Every other therapy for menopause is simply symptom management. This could include herbal supplements (of which the market is filled with untested and unregulated products), chiropractic and acupuncture care (which has minimal or placebo-like effects), or anti-depressants.
Could Cannabis Help Menopause?
A 2022 self-reporting study in North America had 258 participants who were either perimenopausal or postmenopausal. The findings, while not being a controlled, representative sample, offered some interesting insights and directions for future research.
The main symptoms these people took cannabis for were:
- Mood disturbances and anxiety
- Low libido
- Sleep problems
And other symptoms experienced include:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Body pain
And some participants used cannabis to increase pleasure during sex.
They took medicinal or recreational cannabis in various forms, including smoking and edibles. There are a number of confounding factors and limitations in this study, but the results provide plenty of reasons why researchers and those undergoing menopause should take note. These anecdotal reports could be the basis of medical cannabis treatment breakthroughs.
67.4% of people took cannabis for sleep disturbances and 46.1% for mood and anxiety problems. For instance, a woman reported eating half a brownie before bed to try to stop the night sweats that resulted in 3 am wakeups. Her sleep became uninterrupted, her mood swings decreased, and her back pain resolved.
Another woman didn’t want to take hormones and preferred cannabis in a pill form. She slept better, with fewer nightmares due to reduced anxiety.
Why Might Cannabis Offer Relief from Menopause Symptoms?
Anandamide is the chemical compound researchers think is implicated in symptom relief. Anandamide is an endocannabinoid that is produced in the ovaries and influences the female reproductive system and is correlated with oestrogen levels, which decrease during perimenopause. It may play a role in ovarian follicle and oocyte maturity, and in mouse experiments, anandamide levels change a lot during pregnancy, so it makes sense they are going to be affected during menopause too.
Because anandamide is an endocannabinoid, they are chemically and structurally similar to cannabinoids. Cannabis seems to mimic anandamide effectively.
So while the mechanisms, in general, are unknown, there could be an effect of cannabis on the anandamide compound, which somehow regulates the oestrogen implicated in the symptoms of menopause.
Cannabis may also help to resolve hot flashes and night sweats by causing vasorelaxation via cannabinoid receptor mediation.
Want to Try Cannabis for Menopause?
If you’re struggling with perimenopause or post-menopause symptoms, cannabis may help alleviate some problems. While it’s still an emerging area of research, it may be a good option to trial before other allopathic medicines. Speak to your GP or local clinic to see if it could help you.
Summary: Cannabis and Menopause
- Menopause is a natural function with many unpleasant side effects and symptoms.
- There is no ‘cure’ or way of speeding up the process
- It seems that cannabis mimics a chemical compound, anandamide which is an endocannabinoid that is produced in the ovaries
- Anecdotal reports suggest cannabis alleviates hot flashes, helps with sleep, and helps with libido