- Menopause is a natural process and not a disease or disorder, but it can cause a host of unpleasant physical and emotional symptoms.
- Declining estrogen during the years before, during, and after menopause may also contribute to several health conditions.
- Treatment options for menopausal symptoms are limited, and some may come with health risks.
- However, a recent study investigating the effects of CBD in estrogen-deficient mice found that CBD improved several menopause-related symptoms and conditions.
- Still, the scientists say that more research is needed to determine if CBD may be a therapeutic option for postmenopause-related health disorders.
Although menopause is a naturally occurring transition, it can often cause numerous unpleasant symptoms in women — primarily due to declining female hormone levels.
According to the National Institute on Aging(NIA), these symptoms can include hot flashes, sleep disturbances, and pain during sex. What’s more, menopause can also cause moodiness, irritability, depression, or a combination of physical and mental health symptoms.
In addition, research suggests that the natural decline in estrogen that occurs with menopause may also increase a woman’s risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and gastrointestinal conditions. A 2020 review of research also suggests that declining estrogen is associated with systemic inflammation.
Treating menopause-related symptoms and negating disease risk in postmenopausal women generally involves hormone replacement therapy (HRT). However, research from 2021 shows that HRT can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and certain types of cancer in some women.
Other FDA-approved treatments for menopausal symptoms include specific low dose selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and a non-hormone medication that mimics estrogen.
Some reports also suggest that alternatives such as medical cannabis may be useful for treating menopausal symptoms. Still, the safety and effectiveness of using cannabis for menopause are not fully understood.
Since therapies for menopause are limited and may carry unwanted health risks, better options are needed for those seeking relief from their symptoms.
A Rutgers University mouse study, recently published in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology, has found evidence that cannabidiol (CBD) may have therapeutic potential for relieving symptoms of estrogen deficiency, and potentially offer benefits for individuals experiencing menopause and postmenopause. While the evidence seems promising, more research is needed in humans before CBD should be considered a safe and effective treatment.
To evaluate CBD’s effect on menopause-related symptoms and disease risk, Rutgers University scientists divided estrogen-deficient mice into two groups.
For over 18 weeks, the researchers fed one group a diet containing CBD isolate (96–99% purity) from Bluebird Botanical (Louisville, CO). Mice in the other group were fed the same diet without CBD.
After the treatment period ended, the mice underwent several tests, including metabolic tests, gene expression tests, bone density assessments, and gut microbiota analysis.
The scientists found that mice in the non-CBD-treated group developed symptoms similar to postmenopausal human females. According to a press release, these include:
- metabolic dysfunction
- evidence of inflammation
- lower bone density
- lower levels of beneficial gut bacteria
However, mice treated with CBD showed significant improvements in several areas. According to the study, the CBD-treated mice had:
- better oral glucose (blood sugar) tolerance
- improved energy metabolism
- reduced intestinal inflammation
- improvements in whole-body bone mineral density and bone mineral content
- enhanced thigh bone volume fraction, trabecular thickness, and volumetric bone mineral density
- an increased abundance of Lactobacillus, a beneficial gut bacteria
The scientists said these results indicate that CBD positively impacts the immune system and gut microbiota. And these effects may offer protection against menopause-related inflammation, bone loss, impaired energy metabolism, and glucose intolerance.
“In agreement with other studies that have documented the anti-inflammatory effect of CBD, we found that CBD treatment of estrogen-deficient mice led to reduced expression of inflammatory mediators in bone and intestinal tissues. We also observed that CBD altered the fecal gut microbiota,” senior study author Diana Roopchand, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Food Science of the Rutgers School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS), told Healthline.
“Notably, estrogen-deficient mice treated with CBD showed increased relative abundance of Lactobacillus species compared to untreated controls. Other studies have reported that Lactobacillus, a well-known probiotic, can protect against bone loss and decrease markers of inflammation in the gut, bone, and circulation,” she added.
Roopchand also explained how CBD might have caused these effects.
“CBD is known to interact with several receptors or targets in multiple tissues,” she said.
“In this first study, we analyzed gene expression of just four CBD receptors in femur tissue and found that, compared to untreated animals, estrogen-deficient mice treated with CBD had an increase in endocannabinoid receptor CB2. Stimulation of CB2 receptor is associated with less bone resorption. Ours is the first study of CBD in a murine model of postmenopause — therefore, more research is needed to better define mechanisms of action.”
CBD, or cannabidiol, is a derivative of the cannabis plant that does not contain the psychoactive compound tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). It is an alternative to medical cannabis that does not produce a high.
“Cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are both natural cannabis compounds known to affect the body’s endocannabinoid system but in different ways,” Dr. Amir Marashi, board certified cosmetic gynecologist and pelvic pain specialist and Founder at Cerē, told Healthline.
“As an extract, CBD can be added to ingestibles, topical creams [or] gels, used as a medicinal tincture, and more,” he said. “Many [people] appreciate that it provides some of the calming, pain relieving benefits of cannabis without the associated THC ‘high’ feeling.”
Dr. Lewis Jassey, DO, medical director at Leafwell, told Healthline that CBD’s effectiveness in managing the symptoms of menopause is difficult to prove, but it “does have a broad impact on a range of receptor systems that can help manage pain, inflammation, and cramps, including serotonin receptors, dopamine receptors, and opioid receptors.”
“CBD also inhibits the degradation of anandamide, which can help improve mood and help relieve pain and anxiety. CBD may also help relieve headaches,” Jassey explained.
According to Jassey, side effects of CBD might include:
- dry mouth
- reduced appetite
“But these are not common at low to moderate doses and can be less severe than the side effects of antidepressants and NSAIDs like ibuprofen,” he said.
Although menopause is a natural process, it can cause unpleasant physical symptoms and may negatively impact mental health. In addition, the decline in estrogen associated with menopause can also increase the risk of certain health conditions.
Treating the symptoms of menopause is generally limited to HRT or non-hormone-containing prescription medications. But these options can have health risks and may not be appropriate for everyone.
However, this latest mouse study from Rutgers University highlights several potential health benefits CBD may have for postmenopause. Still, more research is needed to determine if CBD has a therapeutic role in treating postmenopause-related conditions in humans.