Just like every part of the reproductive cycle, the menopause is something we should all be clued up on. Whether you’re experiencing it yourself or living with someone who is, it’s something you’re likely to come across in close proximity. But, like so much of women’s health, this hugely impactful event in a woman’s life has been largely overlooked both in research and education, failing not only the person going through this lengthy and sometimes extremely challenging hormonal shift, but all those around them who could be offering support and better understanding the process as it happens.
From the over-stimulation of mast cells and changing levels of progesterone triggering new allergies, to the new delights of estrogen dominance potentially leading to candida overgrowth and hypothyroidism, the menopause ain’t no joke! There’s an awful lot going on in a woman’s body at this transformational time. But, with the right supplements, a supportive diet and emotional strength within yourself and from others, this journey can be made considerably easier.
Aside from HRT (hormone replacement therapy) almost all of the supplements and therapies used to ease menopausal symptoms stem from traditional folk medicine found documented all over the world for thousands of years. Black Cohosh, for example, is a very popular herbal remedy used for the treatment of menopause symptoms today, but has been a go-to remedy used by Native Americans for centuries. Ashwagandha is still widely used to help reduce hot flashes and degenerative effects of the menopause and peri-menopause, yet was originally an ancient Ayurvedic herb. Cannabis has always been used as a treatment for a wide variety of women’s health issues, with the 1899 Merck Manual referencing its application for labour, ovarian cancer and “climacteric disorders” (otherwise known as menopause).
Until recently we lacked a deeper understanding of why cannabis can be such a tremendously useful plant for treating menopausal symptoms. Now, while there is still a lot to learn (not just about cannabis, but about the menopause as a whole), a plethora of studies into whole-plant cannabis and CBD has revealed a wide array of actions that could make all the difference when it comes to easing the process.
CBD oil offers a natural serotonin boost
Serotonin levels tend to drop alongside estrogen with the onset of the menopause and this can result in many common complaints such as insomnia, depression, anxiety and lack of libido. Finding natural ways to boost serotonin can make a significant difference not only to the side effects of decreased serotonin, but to estrogen levels too.
Exercise, meditation and yoga are all good options for raising serotonin, as is eating a phytoestrogen-rich diet (Soya, linseeds, chickpeas, tofu, Japanese tempeh and miso, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, celery, rhubarb and green beans all contain phytoestrogens, so look for recipes containing these ingredients). As for supplements, CBD oil is an ideal choice due to the way it directly activates serotonin receptors, for an instant release of this all-important neurotransmitter.
Menopause and the endocannabinoid system
One of the densest concentration of endocannabinoid receptors lies in the female reproductive system, where it plays an integral role in ovarian function (which secretes estrogen and progesterone) and is intimately involved in the central and local control of female reproductive events.
Not only does a regular dose of CBD oil (particularly full spectrum CBD oil) help to keep your endocannabinoid system in balance at this very sensitive time, therefore regulating processes which might otherwise go completely awry. But, there’s now also some evidence to suggest that the CBD molecule has some binding potential for estrogen receptors, as does apigenin – a flavonoid phytoestrogen found in cannabis and other plants. This means they may activate these receptors and support estrogen release in a very similar way to HRT medication that is often prescribed for menopausal symptom relief. However, further research is needed to determine these effects.
CBDa for menopause
Raw cannabidiolic acid, CBDa, is another part of the cannabis plant which is well worth including in your diet during the menopause. This is sometimes included in cold pressed or whole plant CBD oils, or can be found in CBD teas and raw hemp material. Studies have shown CBDA is 1000 times more effective than CBD at reducing anxiety and nausea through it’s activation of serotonin receptors, which should translate to other menopause symptoms caused by low levels of serotonin and estrogen, mentioned above.
Another reason CBDa is such an exciting component of the cannabis plant when it comes to menopause is the way it inhibits the COX-2 enzyme, which produces inflammatory prostaglandins. Ordinarily, estrogen would do that job, preventing knock-on inflammatory effects and joint degeneration which can manifest as arthritis. But when estrogen levels are depleted during the menopause CBDa can lend a helping hand.
CBD can relieve menopausal anxiety
Anxiety is very common during the menopause and as you probably already know, CBD oil is great at helping reduce that. There are multiple mechanisms through which CBD can relieve stress and anxiety: via the endocannabinoid system, and the elevation of endocannabinoid levels in the brain; through a serotonin boost; and by aiding with a more restful sleep, as sleep deprivation only ever exacerbates mood issues.
Avoid dopamine cell death
Estrogen deprivation can also lead to the death of dopamine cells in the brain. D. Eugene Redmond, Jr., professor of psychiatry and neurosurgery at Yale School of Medicine and director of the Neural Transplantation and Regeneration Program explains “Without estrogen, more than 30 percent of all the dopamine neurons disappeared in a major area of the brain that produces the neurotransmitter, dopamine, ”
However, the lost cells can be regenerated if estrogen is administered (or elevated) within 10 days.
You will now have some understanding of how cannabis, and CBD, can help raise estrogen levels. On top of this, CBD also activates dopamine receptors to help reinstate this neurotransmitter’s effectiveness (even in the face of declining receptors in the brain, heart and other organs), which should then in turn also help balance Norepinephrinem which plays a role in hot flushes, sleep disturbance, anxiety and pain.
There’s still much to learn about how cannabis could help with the menopause, with terpenes and flavonoids being highly therapeutic too! But if the anecdotes are anything to go by, trying a high quality, full spectrum CBD oil for symptom relief is definitely worth a shot.