- How safe and effective are CBD products for managing symptoms of menopause?
- According to medical experts, the jury is still out.
- But CBD-infused tinctures, bath salts, vaginal suppositories, and personal lubricants are just a few of the products being marketed to menopausal consumers.
Hormonal fluctuations during menopause can cause vaginal dryness, hot flashes, mood changes, and other uncomfortable symptoms.
To help manage the symptoms of menopause, some people use hormone replacement therapy or other conventional treatments.
Other people experiment with less conventional approaches, such as medical cannabis or products that contain the cannabis-derived compound cannabidiol (CBD).
CBD-infused tinctures, bath salts, vaginal suppositories, and personal lubricants are just a few of the products being marketed to menopausal consumers.
But how safe and effective are CBD products for managing symptoms of menopause?
According to medical experts, the jury is still out.
“Despite widespread availability and use of cannabis products such as CBD, they remain an unproven option — lacking adequate clinical trials, safety data, and regulation,” Dr. JoAnn V. Pinkerton, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and director of the midlife health division at the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville, told Healthline.
“Women need to consider these CBD products as ‘buyer beware’ for their medical claims, safety, and the actual ingredients being purchased,” Pinkerton added.
Cannabis is commonly known as marijuana.
It’s a psychoactive plant that contains many types of cannabinoids, a class of chemical compounds that includes the well-known tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and CBD.
THC is responsible for the high that’s associated with cannabis consumption.
CBD, on the other hand, has negligible psychoactive properties and isn’t intoxicating.
This makes CBD oil and CBD-infused products a popular choice for people who want to experience some of the potential medical effects of cannabis without getting high.
“There is a growing body of preclinical and clinical evidence to support use of CBD oils for many conditions, primarily epilepsy, pain control, and addiction,” Pinkerton said.
“At present, there is little reliable evidence to suggest that CBD oil can treat the symptoms of menopause,” she added.
Although more research is needed to assess the potential effects of cannabis and specific cannabinoids on symptoms of menopause, some people have reported positive effects.
When investigators from the University at Albany surveyed menopausal and postmenopausal women who had used cannabis in the past year, respondents reported that cannabis helped relieve some but not all menopausal symptoms.
“A sample of women told us that joint and muscle discomfort, irritability, sleep disturbance, and depression responded well, but vaginal dryness and bladder problems did not,” Mitch Earleywine, PhD, co-author of the paper and a professor of psychology at University at Albany, told Healthline.
These findings might be explained in part by the physiological effects of CBD and THC.
For example, it’s possible that CBD and THC have anti-inflammatory effects that help relieve joint aches and pains, Dr. Mitchell S. Kramer, chairman of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Northwell Health’s Huntington Hospital in Long Island, New York, told Healthline.
CBD and THC can also increase the level of certain mood-boosting neurotransmitters in the body, which might help relieve moodiness, anxiety, and sleep troubles.
“Although there are no randomized, double-blinded, prospective studies regarding the efficacy of CBD or THC for the treatment of menopausal syndrome, there are a number of these symptoms that might benefit from their use,” Kramer said.
“I would say that much investigation needs to occur before recommending or stating that CBD or THC has any beneficial potential to help in those areas,” he added.
More research is needed to understand not only the potential benefits of CBD and other cannabis products for treating symptoms of menopause, but also the potential risks.
When scientists studied the use of CBD for the treatment of epilepsy, they found that up to 36 percent of participants experienced adverse effects, such as sleepiness, decreased appetite, and diarrhea. Some also tested positive for signs of liver damage.
It’s also possible that CBD or other cannabis products might interact with certain drugs, such as sleep aids. This poses “potential for harm,” warned Pinkerton, “particularly from oversedation or drowsiness while driving.”
Gaps in regulatory oversight in the cannabis industry raise safety concern, as well.
For example, some cannabis products may contain harmful contaminants, such as pesticides and heavy metals. Research has also found that CBD products sometimes contain more THC than advertised.
Using certain cannabis products may also put people at risk for legal repercussions, particularly if they live in states where those products haven’t been legalized. Cannabis laws vary from one state to another.
If someone is interested in trying CBD or other cannabis products to manage symptoms of menopause, Kramer encourages them to talk to their doctor first.
He suggests that a doctor, pharmacist, or other qualified healthcare professional may be able to help someone determine which products to try and how to use them.
“There are a multitude of products out there, and you want to make sure you are getting a quality product and get what you are paying for,” Kramer said.
“Beware of very inexpensive CBD products. Good quality products are not cheap and should be organic. Don’t buy these products from your local gas station or package store,” he continued.
For people who decide to use raw cannabis flower or bud, Earleywine recommends using a vaporizer to consume it in low doses.
“Those who are contemplating using cannabis should probably focus on vaporized flower, not a vape pen,” he advised.
“Use as low a dose as possible to alleviate the symptoms, and start with a high-CBD strain to keep any cognitive effects to a minimum,” Earleywine added.
Is CBD legal? The 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from the legal definition of marijuana in the Controlled Substances Act. This made some hemp-derived CBD products with less than 0.3% THC legal at the federal level. However, CBD products containing more than 0.3% THC still fall under the legal definition of marijuana, making them illegal at the federal level. Some states have legalized CBD, so be sure to check state laws, especially when traveling. Also, keep in mind that the FDA has not approved nonprescription CBD products, and some products may be inaccurately labeled.