Menopause is a trying time in a woman’s life. Symptoms that range from hot flashes to brain fog can make daily life more difficult. Meanwhile, doctors are unwilling to prescribe hormones in most cases due to increased risks, including risk of cancer.
Some women are turning to alternative medicine and more and more are trying medical cannabis. As more states relax legislation and allow cannabis to be used for more conditions, a study showed that 27% of a sample of 232 menopausal women were using or had used cannabis to manage symptoms, and another 10% were interested in trying. This was larger than the 19% who were on hormone therapy, and represents a trend that troubles some experts, due to the fact that there has yet to be any kind of proper study of cannabis use for treating menopause symptoms.
So, can medical cannabis potentially help with annoying menopause symptoms?
How Cannabis Can Help
Cannabis can help manage two specific symptoms of menopause, insomnia and hot flashes. As cannabis has a sedating effect, it can have a positive effect on sleep. It can also help lower body temperature. Hemp-based products that don’t contain THC, but otherwise have the full spectrum of cannabinoids, appear to be more effective than taking CBD oil on its own. Some women have found that THC helps with hot flashes, but this brings up the other issues with THC, including the potential for addiction.
Cannabis can also help mellow you out and reduce your risk of depression and anxiety. (However, in some people it can worsen these symptoms; women who are taking cannabis for menopause-related mood issues should make sure to talk to their cannabis doctor and know when they should stop taking it). It’s theoretically possible that cannabis could slow bone density loss, but again, no studies have been done and the theory is based off of the action of cannabinoids, not any kind of actual evidence.
Some women have also found that topical use of CBD oil can help reduce vaginal dryness for several hours, meaning that using CBD oil 30 to 45 minutes before intimacy might be helpful for sexual function.
All of this is anecdotal and it’s worth repeating that there has not been a study of the use of cannabis in this way.
Risks of Taking Cannabis for Menopause
No studies have been done on the use of medical cannabis during menopause. Because of this, the reports of effectiveness are largely based on anecdotal reports. The study already mentioned showed that more women in the sample were using cannabis than were on hormone therapy, and despite the concerns of cancer risk, hormone therapy is still considered safe for the majority of women.
Additionally, cannabis can cause “brain fog” and difficulty concentrating. For women who struggle with these symptoms of menopause, taking cannabis might be a bad idea as it may aggravate symptoms instead of easing them. The largest problem, however, is when women self-medicate with cannabis and fail to get proper advice from a cannabis doctor.
The FDA has not yet approved the use of cannabis to treat menopause issues.
Additionally, many menopausal women are on other medications that might interact poorly with CBD. There are strong indications that CBD can interfere, for example, with the common thyroid medication levothyroxine.
What all of this means is that women who are struggling with menopause symptoms should not attempt to self medicate with medical cannabis or with over-the-counter CBD oil without first consulting their doctor. The lack of proper studies means that it is unclear whether using cannabis is effective for menopausal women and there are definite risks.
Dosage is Important
As most of the evidence is based on anecdotal reports, it’s clear that cannabis only helps some women and not others. In many cases this might be because they are using an incorrect dose. Some women have tried using regular recreational edibles which are, of course, a high dose. This can cause problems for older people and for people who are not used to taking pot. Using recreational cannabis to treat medical symptoms is never a good idea and can lead to addiction, brain problems, and increased risk of mental health problems, especially for women.
This means that it’s important for women using cannabis to get a medical card and work with their cannabis doctor and their dispensary on the best dose and strain to control their symptoms. In Maryland, menopause is not considered a qualifying condition for medical cannabis, but women who have tried everything else may be able to get a card under the “another chronic medical condition” clause.
Avoid using edibles (which are not legal for medical use in Maryland) as it can be hard to measure the exact dosage and keep it where it is supposed to be. Talk to your cannabis doctor or a dispensary expert about the specific strain you should use; different strains have different cannabinoids and may work better or worse for your specific symptoms.
An increasing number of women are using cannabis to try and control unpleasant menopause symptoms, and in one study this eclipses the number of women using traditional hormone therapy.
However, there has yet to be a proper study of cannabis use for menopause symptoms, and most of the evidence for effectiveness is anecdotal. In fact, cannabis can potentially make some symptoms of menopause worse. It’s obvious that some serious research needs to be done here, but in the interim women should not self-medicate their menopause symptoms with medical cannabis or CBD. The trend is, in fact, concerning many experts, especially as women are often using recreational products, in part due to the fact that it is not an approved use in most states.
For women who have tried everything else and are still being driven crazy by certain symptoms, especially sleep problems or hot flashes, talking to a cannabis doctor may be worth it. You should talk to an actual cannabis doctor who specializes in prescribing medical cannabis, not to your GP (who is unlikely to be willing to help).
If you are a medical marijuana patient for severe menopause symptoms or any other approved purpose, contact Euphoria Wellness Maryland. We are a medical-only store staffed by experts who can help you pick the right individual strain for your problems, and can help work with your doctor to control your symptoms and improve your life.