10 ways that CBD can help with menopause
Brigid Moss shares how CBD can help manage menopause symptoms
The hormonal flux of perimenopause and then menopause can have a huge impact on how you feel and function in mind and body. You’re not only dealing with the decline and end of your periods, but hormonal changes that affect your whole body and being, from your skin and your sleep to your energy levels, metabolism and mood.
Menopause symptoms are so wide-ranging because oestrogen, one of the main sex hormones that’s affected, has receptors all over your body, not just in your reproductive system. It’s no surprise that there are at least 34 known menopausal symptoms – and counting.
CBD as a solution for menopause symptoms
CBD is an effective way to help ease many menopause symptoms. While it can’t make every menopause symptom disappear, for example hot flushes, vaginal dryness or weight gain, it can help alleviate the symptoms of many of the imbalances caused by hormonal havoc, especially those linked to mood, sleep, pain, emotions and mood.
Dr Harper uses CBD to help women manage their symptoms. “It’s something I recommend on its ownin the early stages of perimenopause or alongside HRT,” she says. “I’ve often found that the combination (of CBD and HRT) works really well.”
What is CBD?
CBD is a cannabinoid, an extract of the cannabis plant, but it’s not psychoactive and it doesn’t make you feel intoxicated. Interestingly, what sets CBD apart from other natural remedies is that like oestrogen, CBD works all over your brain and body. That’s because it works via a bodily system you might not have heard of, the endocannabinoid system (ECS), one that’s just as important as the eleven major organ systems.
The main function of the ECS is to bring the other systems back into balance. It helps rebalance your reproductive system but also your stress levels, mind, mood and pain management. You do produce your own cannabinoids but when you’re out of balance, such as during the menopause, it’s very helpful to add in extra cannabinoids from CBD too.
How CBD can ease common menopausal symptoms
Victoria Young, homeopath and naturopath, has seen how this time of life impacts her clients. “The stress of menopause is multi-faceted and so it raises our stress hormones,” she says. “Women can feel shame and embarrassment about ageing because of society judging us.
We don’t sleep and we are tired, and that raises cortisol too. It’s a double whammy as this increases any symptoms you might be experiencing. “CBD lowers cortisol and by doing that, it lowers inflammation, the start of most pain.”
Here’s how CBD can help to ease some of the most common menopausal symptoms.
1. Period pain
In the years before your period stops, periods can become erratic, unpredictable and, yes, more painful. As your oestrogen levels fluctuate, you release more compounds called prostaglandins, which make your uterus contract. There aren’t studies to show CBD treats period pain specifically, but there are a lot of studies that show it’s anti-inflammatory and a good pain reliever. In a 2021 study, when researchers surveyed people about their use of CBD for pain, 59% said it had helped their pain and 71 per cent said it was a good treatment option.
2. Joint pain
CBD’s anti-inflammatory effects may come in useful if you have another common menopause symptom– inflamed and painful joints. A 2022 study gave CBD to people who had been diagnosed with arthritis. Eighty-three per cent reported they had less pain, saying their pain was on average, half what it had been before. Most of the participants said they reduced or stopped their other pain medication, too.
3. Dry, lacklustre skin
CBD is super adaptable when it comes to skin. You can apply it onto skin, and it will help make dry and lacklustre skin both more nourished and hydrated. But taking it orally is also a great remedy too. “CBD is packed with fatty acids, and we are often depleted these with the modern diet,” says Victoria Young. “The hormonal system needs a supply of fatty acids too.”
Even formerly calm women report being struck down by the most terrible mood swings during the perimenopause. CBD can return you to calm. A 2015 review reported that the evidence ‘strongly supports’ CBD as a treatment for both generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder. CBD is thought to work because it affects several receptors in the brain that are key to fear and anxiety, including the receptors for serotonin, which is where antidepressants such as Prozac work. Another study gave subjects a public speaking challenge; it showed that CBD works to calm this kind of stress-induced anxiety.
Experts think that CBD works on mood for the same reason that it works on anxiety: it affects the serotonin system in the brain. It has been shown to have a positive and anti-stress effect in lab studies; for example. “Our body does want to work well naturally at this time, to return to balance,” says Victoria Young. “When we are tired, our emotional system gets out of balance too. By triggering the endocannabinoid system, CBD helps you naturally return to yourself.”
Anxiety very often is what keeps us awake, and studies show CBD helps people sleep as well as calm down. In one interesting study, people with anxiety added CBD to their usual medication. For most people, their level of anxiety decreased, and their sleep got better. OTO Sleep Drops are formulated for exactly this issue. They won’t leave you feeling tired in the morning, but instead are about restoring your natural sleep cycle. Take one pipette of the minty flavoured drops at bedtime.
7. Brain fog
Brain fog - nicknamed ‘meno brain’ – is brain fatigue. You can’t focus, can’t remember and/or you feel totally disorganised. It’s made worse by stress and lack of sleep, too much screen time and multi-tasking. Taking CBD gives you resilience to deal with stress. A review has shown that CBD can improve cognition, which is why our OTO Power Drops have been formulated to help keep you thinking clearly (and calmly)!
8. Headaches or migraine (possibly)
A lot of headaches have a stress component – and are made worse by pain adding to stress. “As CBD is an antispasmodic, it helps you your whole body relax,” says Victoria Young. “It may also encourage circulation which could also help migraines and headaches.” CBD’s hormonal effects help here too, if your migraines are linked with hormonal fluctuations, and these can get worse during perimenopause. “I had one client who’d suffered from hormonal migraines
for many years and she found CBD extremely helpful,” says Young.
9. Glucose metabolism
A brand-new lab study has given us the first piece of evidence to show that taking CBD can improve your blood sugar responses. During digestion, all carbs turn to glucose, the body’s main fuel. Glucose triggers the release of insulin, which stores any excess as fat. And a big input of glucose – a spike – leads to an insulin spike. The study showed that taking CBD regularly may change your gut bacteria in a way that helps keep your glucose levels on a more even keel. This may not only help stop spikes of the fat-storage hormone insulin, but reduce cravings for sugar and keep energy steadier too.
10. Osteoporosis and bone density
“I will often give CBD to clients who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis and osteopenia, it seems to help stabilise bone density,” says Victoria Young. It’s not going to be the only thing you use for bone issues, but it’s a good start alongside other natural remedies, lifestyle changes and medication, if needed, she says. Fascinatingly, the same study that showed changes in glucose metabolism and gut bacteria also showed a positive impact on bone health, too.