Why are women using CBD products — and do they work?
Cannabidiol (CBD) oil and other products containing CBD are being touted as a natural, organic remedy for a wide range of women’s health concerns. Sellers of these products make many claims: CBD has calming effects on sleep, mood, and anxiety; eases hot flashes and improves bone density by balancing hormonal changes of menopause; and has anti-inflammatory properties that clear skin, cure acne, and calm rosacea. It’s promoted for PMS symptoms like bloating and mood swings. And CBD-infused lubricants claim to boost arousal and enjoyment of sex. So, how much of this is true?
First, what is CBD?
CBD is a major ingredient in cannabis plants (like hemp and marijuana). It comes in different strengths and forms, often as CBD oil, but also in pills and powders. It can be absorbed through the skin, ingested, or inhaled. (Vaping it, however, may not be safe, as this blog post and web page from the CDC explain.)
Unlike marijuana, pure CBD products don’t make you feel high. A different ingredient in marijuana called THC makes people feel high.
Does CBD have proven benefits?
So far, there’s not much evidence on the medical benefits of CBD, partly because laws on marijuana made it difficult to study. Until we learn more, it’s wise to keep in mind that few high-quality studies have been done.
- In 2018 the FDA approved a drug derived from CBD to treat rare forms of childhood epilepsy. This medication was shown in randomized clinical trials to reduce the frequency of seizures (see here and here).
- A few studies have found CBD may improve anxiety, but the studies were small and of poor quality (see here and here).
- Some laboratory research on human cells suggests CBD may have anti-inflammatory effects on oil-secreting glands in the skin. This might have implications for acne and other inflammatory skin disorders, but further research is needed to confirm this. And while CBD in skin products is unlikely to harm you, most dermatologists agree that there are more effective and better-studied medications and treatments for acne and inflammatory skin disorders.
Other potential benefits of CBD aren’t clear. No high-quality research shows that CBD improves sex drive, decreases pain, treats depression or mood disorders, decreases PMS symptoms like bloating and cramps, or relieves symptoms of menopause like hot flashes. This may change as more studies are done, but for now, the jury is out.
Are CBD products safe?
The short answer is this: pure CBD seems to be safe for most people. However, we don’t have rigorous studies and long-term data to prove whether or not a wide range of CBD products are safe for everyone. For example, there is no evidence to suggest that CBD is safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding, or for people who are immunocompromised.
Because CBD products aren’t regulated by the FDA in the way that drugs are, there is huge variation in quality and, quite possibly, safety. In 2017–2018, counterfeit CBD oil was found that contained synthetic cannabinoids and led to a poisoning outbreak in Utah.
Testing shows purity and dosage can be unreliable in many products. One study found less than a third of the products tested had the amount of CBD shown on the label. Another study of 84 CBD products bought online showed that more than a quarter of the products contained less CBD than stated. In addition, THC (the component that can make you feel high) was found in 18 products.
Does CBD cause side effects?
CBD can cause side effects like dry mouth, diarrhea, reduced appetite, and drowsiness. Additionally, it can interact with certain medicines, such as blood thinners and antiseizure drugs. If you would like to start using CBD products, it’s best to first talk to your doctor.
There are a lot of extravagant product claims out there about the benefits of CBD for women, but little high-quality research supports them. CBD oil and other CBD products aren’t well regulated. It’s possible what you are buying is counterfeit or contaminated. Before using CBD — especially if you plan to vape or ingest it — first talk with your doctor or healthcare provider to learn whether it could be safe and helpful for you.
About the Authors
Rose McKeon Olson, MD , Contributor
Rose McKeon Olson, MD, is a resident physician in internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She has special research interests in gender-based violence, social medicine, and global health equity. See Full Bio
Eve Rittenberg, MD , Contributor
Eve Rittenberg, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a primary care internist at the Fish Center for Women’s Health at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Her interests include women’s health, trauma-informed care, … See Full Bio
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I am a 55 year old woman who has suffered with neuropathy since 2004 (amplified by a trauma in 2011); as well as a sciatic nerve issue and other complication since my trauma. One thing I found out (very quickly!), many of the drugs (natural or not) are either recomended for short term relief and used very long term, or the probable cause of added, often more sever, side effects. I don’t believe, for me personally, any medication that has the potential to do more harm than good, especially when it can only treat symptoms and not the cause, would be ideal, unless there is ‘no other option’ or perspective hope. Limited and controlled ecersizes along with diet, seem to have worked best for me personally; but, yes it is very difficult many days. However, I plan to watch my grandchild grow-up, and I plan to do that watching with as clear a mind as possible for today and tomorrow. Side-effects of CBD have been relatively unstudyed or unpublished for lack of verification. That is not promising. All of that being said, I am sure for some people CBD oil could be a God send of relief, most especially for some seizure and cancer patients.
Cannabis Sativa and Hemp are two different plants. Marijuana is not a plant, it’s a slang term used by rhetoric spewing racists seeking to profit from a new prohibition. How can you publish this when you clearly don’t know the basics?
As a woman with a cervical level spinal cord injury, who has experienced many benefits through the use of CBD … this article had absolutely no relevance to its title.
CBD Oil and Menopause: Does CBD Help With Menopause Symptoms?
Most of us don’t start thinking about menopause until it’s just around the corner — leaving us completely unprepared to deal with its irksome symptoms, especially in the early stages.
But the sooner you detect and proactively respond to the changes taking place inside your body, the better.
Unfortunately, the current medical system lacks support for the needs of peri- and post-menopausal women, so like many others, you may be turning to natural resources for aid.
Menopause is one of the top reasons women use cannabis products. The hype hemp-derived CBD oil is gaining for easing peri- and post-menopausal symptoms isn’t based just on anecdotal evidence — scientists also suggest that cannabidiol (CBD) could be useful for menopause symptoms.
In this article, I’ll cover the 8 most common menopause symptoms and how CBD can alleviate them — and show you my personal list of trusted CBD brands.
But first, let’s go over the basics.
First of All, What is CBD Oil?
CBD oil is a concentrated hemp extract that contains a carrier oil (like sweet almond oil or MCT oil), cannabidiol (CBD), and a variety of trace cannabinoids, terpenes, and other hemp compounds.
Unlike its marijuana-derived counterpart, hemp-derived CBD oil can’t get you high because it only contains 0.3% THC — which isn’t enough to get you high
CBD oil interacts with the endocannabinoid system — one of the most important networks in humans that regulates every homeostatic function in the body. This includes processes like memory, mood, cognitive performance, immune response, body temperature, appetite, sensory perception, and more.
CBD supports the endocannabinoid system through two sets of receptors (CB1 and CB2) and several receptor-independent routes so it can maintain the chemical balance in the body whenever any of the above functions becomes compromised.
Because of that, CBD offers a plethora of health benefits, including emotional stability, better sleep, reduced stress, and relief from inflammation and pain. It’s no wonder women struggling with menopause turn to CBD oil for help.
How Does Menopause Affect Women?
Women are born with millions of immature eggs in their ovaries. Since puberty, our bodies start to produce more estrogen every time an egg matures, which happens approximately once a month.
However, as time flies, our supplies of eggs begin to shrink. And once we use up all our eggs, our menstruation stops which means the end of your estrogen burst. That’s how menopause is triggered.
Well, in very simplified terms, of course.
In fact, menopause is more complicated than we think.
For the years prior to menopause (i.e. perimenopause), our estrogen levels fluctuate from the highs and lows a little bit less each year.
There’s a host of hormones that go on a roller-coaster ride along with estrogen, all of which are meant to keep your body operating in carefully orchestrated cycles.
Consequently, some molecules in your body controlled by these hormones also start to increase or decrease. The body starts to produce inflammatory molecules and your brain’s neurochemistry changes too.
Menopause impacts the inner clockwork of our bodies, from brain function to bone reabsorption to fat accumulation.
And each woman’s experience of menopause is different.
Menopausal Symptoms: Causes & Potential Solutions
The current state of the medical system in regards to menopause is changing. For way too long, women have been silent about menopause and their needs during that period — so the topic was neglected by modern medicine.
As a matter of fact, scientists are still trying to find out why and how a woman’s body changes during menopause.
Much of the research presented in this article is at the cutting edge when it comes to interactions between CBD and menopause symptoms.
It’s unlikely your doctor will explain them to you, but I believe the more you understand about the nature of menopause, the easier it will be to find relief.
Here are the 8 menopause symptoms you can alleviate using CBD oil:
1. Aches & Joint Pain
Do you feel achy more often than you used to? Without estrogen, our bodies produce more inflammatory molecules, specifically TNFα — short for tumor necrosis factor (1). A spontaneous increase in the levels of this molecule is associated with faster onset of menopause.
This means that you may start experiencing arthritis symptoms during menopause. More than 60% of women aged 40–64 struggle with muscle and joint pain (2).
CBD has documented anti-inflammatory properties. As shown in animal models, it can act as an anti-arthritic by protecting joints against inflammatory damage and reducing concentrations of inflammatory TNFα (3).
You can use CBD oil as a supplement to your dietary regimen and low-impact exercise to combat inflammation during menopause.
2. Mood Swings & Depression
Anxiety and depression are common in women during menopause. Estrogen and progesterone regulate the activity of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, directly affecting mood.
As the levels of these hormones rapidly decrease, your neurochemistry will change, hence the emotional distress.
CBD can help with anxiety on two levels. First, it facilitates serotonin neurotransmission through one of its receptors (5-HT1A), making it more available for the brain and regulating mood (4). Secondly, and most importantly, CBD is able to improve the binding ability of a neurotransmitter known as GABA — GABA acts as the brake pedal for the nervous system, slowing down neurological activity and helping us relax when we experience an anxiety attack (5).
When it comes to depression, CBD offers some remarkable benefits to different causes of this disease. There are a few phase 2 clinical trials being conducted on the effects of CBD for different types of depression.
3. Hot Flashes & Night Sweats
Women frequently joke about hot flashes and night sweats, but this is a serious problem for those going through menopause.
These symptoms are triggered by altered chemistry in the hypothalamus — the body’s own thermoregulator. In short, your body’s cooling abilities — including sweat response and vessel dilation — get activated way too often.
Menopausal women who suffer from hot flashes are triggered when their body temperature rises by only 1.5 degrees, whereas those before menopause have their cooling system switched off unless their temperature increases by almost 3 degrees (6).
Here’s where CBD may help.
Although there’s been no research that has specifically looked for CBD and its influence on hot flashes, its ability to interact with the body’s serotonin system could be one reason why some women use CBD for this symptom.
There actually several other tools that can help you calm the nervous system, such as behavioral therapy, relaxation techniques, or hypnosis.
4. Weight Gain & Diabetes
Hormones play a significant role in shaping our bodies on many levels; this also includes controlling our metabolism.
Without estrogen, our bodies don’t burn as many calories as they did before the plunge — even while sleeping. You may suddenly notice that you also burn less fat during physical activity.
Even if you cut down on calories and avoid weight fluctuation, the ongoing hormonal changes tell your body to sacrifice lean muscle mass in favor of abdominal fat.
This way of storing fat, unfortunately, makes you more exposed to cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance, and diabetes.
According to population studies, adults who use cannabis regularly have lower insulin levels and smaller waist circumferences than those who abstain from cannabinoids (7).
CBD could contribute to that phenomenon by triggering the PPAR-γ receptor that boosts our metabolism. On top of that, CBD also helps increase the production of natural endocannabinoids, including 2-AG, which can mitigate insulin resistance, especially during menopause (8).
5. Genitourinary Syndrome
Estrogen helps maintain proper blood flow to the pelvic region, bringing fresh oxygen to the tissues in the sexual organs and urinary tract. Long story short, it keeps things elastic and healthy.
Once women enter menopause, these functions get easily compromised and lead to an array of unpleasant conditions, such as inflammation, muscle stress, and oversensitivity in those intimate regions.
If that happens to you, I suggest that you use a topical lubricant that contains CBD or THC. Both these cannabinoids are potent vasodilators, which means they can make your body funnel more blood to the pelvic region — moisturizing the vaginal canal.
CBD can also reduce inflammation, relax muscles, and calm the nerves within the vagina.
Our bodies regularly transfer calcium and other minerals between the bloodstream and bones. As we enter the perimenopausal stage, less calcium is added to the bone, and more is taken away, resulting in lowering bone density and making us more exposed to fractures.
New studies suggest that inflammation triggered by arthritis or other conditions might be one of the most significant causes of bone degeneration — the main suspect here is, again, TNFα (9).
It appears that the same anti-inflammatory qualities that make CBD oil a popular choice for arthritis may also contribute to improving your bones’ density.
Although most studies in this subject have been conducted on animal models, I encourage you to use every natural resource if you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Additionally, you may add resistance exercise to your daily routine, as it also decreases TNFα concentrations.
7. Sleep Deprivation
Many peri- and post-menopausal women experience trouble sleeping. Sleep deprivation can take a serious toll on your health, triggering fatigue and a whole array of other health conditions.
Menopause disrupts sleep on many levels, mainly through increased anxiety and night sweats.
Before you can troubleshoot the best solutions for decreased sleep quality, you’ll need to identify the biggest obstacles between you and a good night’s rest.
In addition to its anti-anxiety properties, CBD can help the user regulate their sleep-wake cycle when it gets disturbed.
CBD helps us remain in the deep stage of sleep for longer — and reduces the time we stay in the REM stage, resulting in restorative sleep (11).
8. Memory Loss
The hippocampus — the brain area responsible for memory, emotion, and learning — is a key component of memory in the human brain. Estrogen and progesterone stimulate the production of neurons in the hippocampus to create new connections, and without these hormones, our memory might suffer.
Scientists are actively researching the benefits of CBD for improving synaptic plasticity and memory loss, specifically in the hippocampus (12). The initial results are promising, to say the list, but we still need more solid evidence to further prove these findings.
Nevertheless, you can use CBD oil along with other ways to protect this region of the brain, such as exercise, spending time with others, avoiding alcohol, cultivating your sex life, and getting restful sleep.
Things to Keep in Mind When Buying CBD Oil for Menopause
Not all CBD oils are created equal. In fact, there’s a large scope of difference when it comes to the quality of different CBD products.
If using this supplement for menopause and its many symptoms, it’s important to aim at the highest quality possible, and preferably in a moderate to high potency.
Here’s what you need to consider when buying CBD oil for menopause:
The source of hemp used in your CBD oil is of paramount importance because it tells you a lot about the quality of the extract.
Hemp acts as a bioaccumulator, meaning it absorbs everything from the soil it’s grown in. By this token, hemp grown in poor soil will result in a poor-quality CBD oil. Not only will such products contain low levels of CBD, but they will also be contaminated with all the pollutants living in that soil.
On the other hand, organically grown hemp plants will yield potent extracts without harmful contamination. Thus, I encourage you to buy CBD oil from manufacturers who get their hemp from domestic farmers and use organic practices.
The extraction method used in the manufacturing of your CBD oil is another make-or-break factor when it comes to its potency and purity.
Reputable companies use CO2 extraction, as it leaves them with a clean and potent product. CO2-extracted oils come in a beautiful amber-gold color, which is an indicator of their high quality.
CBD tinctures, which are a bit different than regular oil drops, use high-proof alcohol to strip the valuable cannabinoids and nutrients from hemp. But when a company uses butane, propane, and other harsh solvents for extraction, it’s best to steer clear of their products.
Cannabinoid Spectrum (Full Spectrum vs. Isolate)
For menopause, I’d recommend using full-spectrum extracts because they contain all the natural compounds from hemp. These molecules create unique synergy and are more effective together than in isolation.
That’s why, in my opinion, full-spectrum CBD oil is superior to CBD isolate. Of course, the latter carries the highest dose of CBD per serving, but unlike full-spectrum extracts, it may lose efficacy beyond certain dosage, which scientists refer to as a “bell-shaped response.”
CBD comes in various potencies, starting from 100mg to even 5000mg per bottle. Your ideal potency will depend on several factors, such as your body weight, metabolism, the severity of your condition, and previous experience with CBD supplements.
If your menopause symptoms are mild and you’ve never taken CBD before, then it’s better to start low and slow. I would go with low-to-moderate potencies such as 250mg for starters.
But on the other hand, if your symptoms negatively impact your everyday performance, you can go with higher dosages. However, keep in mind that larger amounts of CBD can induce sedation and make you feel a bit dizzy due to lowered blood pressure.
When taking any medication, make sure you consult with your doctor prior to taking any CBD product. Cannabidiol interacts with a wide range of drugs and can lead to their increased concentrations in your system.
CBD companies have the option to send their extracts for a thorough analysis to a third-party laboratory.
These laboratories generated by an independent company test for the product’s cannabinoid content and its purity grade. As CBD becomes popular these days, many new manufacturers and products are out in the market now and then. Unfortunately, there are no quality controls for CBD products, thus making it hard to distinguish poor quality products from the finest ones. For this, users need to find and read these third-lab test results from manufacturers before buying any product for their safe consumption.
Lab reports allow the user to verify if the label claims are based on facts and thus should be clearly displayed on your vendor’s website in a dedicated section. If you can’t find them there, don’t panic; try to contact the brand via email or any other channel.
Find me a company that says their products are low-quality and I’ll get you supplied with premium CBD oil for life.
Every CBD brand out there brags about the quality of its products, and there’s one simple way to see if they’re telling the truth
Do some research and read online reviews from verified users before you decide to spend your money on CBD oil.
Make sure to check with different sources for more objective information. Some companies boast 5-star reviews on their website, while third-party sources like Amazon hammer their products with lots of poor opinions.
Summarizing the Benefits of CBD for Menopause
As you begin to experience the first menopause symptoms, it’s an important time to monitor the changes happening within your body and life. By understanding the causes of these symptoms, you will be able to find the best solutions for alleviating them.
I hope this article will help you in this endeavor and contribute to a well-informed CBD oil purchase.
Do you take CBD oil for menopause? Have you noticed any improvements in your symptoms? Share your stories with me!
- Sites, C.K. et al. (2002). Menopause-related Differences in Inflammation Markers and Their Relationship to Body Fat Distribution and Insulin-stimulated Glucose Disposal. Fertility and Sterility, 77(1), 128–135.
- Makara-Studzińśka, M. T., Kryś-Noszczyk, K. M., & Jakiel, G. (2014). Epidemiology of the symptoms of menopause – an intercontinental review. Przeglad menopauzalny = Menopause review, 13(3), 203–211.
- Malfait, A.M., Gallily, R., Sumariwalla, P.F., Malik, A.S., Andreakos, E., Mechoulam, R., and Feldman, M. (2000). The Nonpsychoactive Cannabis Constituent Cannabidiol is an Oral Anti-arthritic Therapeutic in Murine Collagen-induced Arthritis. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 97(17), 9561–9566.
- Sales, A.J., Crestani, C.C., Guimaraes, F.S., Joca, S.R.L. (2018). Antidepressant-like Effect Induced by Cannabidiol is Dependent on Brain Serotonin Levels. Progress in Neuro-psychopharmacology & Psychiatry, 30(86), 255-261.
- Blessing, E. M., Steenkamp, M. M., Manzanares, J., & Marmar, C. R. (2015). Cannabidiol as a Potential Treatment for Anxiety Disorders. Neurotherapeutics : the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, 12(4), 825–836. doi:10.1007/s13311-015-0387-1
- Freedman, R.R., Krell, W. (1999). Reduced Thermoregulatory Null Zone in Postmenopausal Women With Hot Flashes. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 181(1), 66-70.
- Penner, E.A., Buettner, H., Mittleman, M.A. (2013). The Impact of Marijuana Use on Glucose, Insulin, and Insulin Resistance among US Adults. The American Journal of Medicine, 126(7), 583-589.
- Fanelli, F., Mezullo, M., Baccini, M., Casadio, E., Gasparini, D.I., Vicennati, V., Pasquali, R. & Pagotto, U. (2017) Menopause is a Major determinant of Endocannabinoid 2-arachidonoylglycerol Plasma Level and of its Relevance as Biomarker of Dyslipidemia and Insulin Resistance in Lean Women. Endocrine Abstracts, 49, EP669.
- Mundy, G.R. (2007). Osteoporosis and Inflammation. International Life Sciences Institute, 141-151.
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Nina created CFAH.org following the birth of her second child. She was a science and math teacher for 6 years prior to becoming a parent — teaching in schools in White Plains, New York and later in Paterson, New Jersey.
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The One Thing That Finally Cured My Hot Flashes and Insomnia
Natalie Gillespie sighed in frustration as she felt beads of sweat trickle down the back of her neck. “Not again!” she huffed, blasting her car’s air conditioner and hoping she wouldn’t be drenched by the time she finished driving carpool.
Since starting menopause, the 52-year-old Florida mom had been experiencing hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, and headaches. But she never imagined a new job and an unconventional treatment — CBD for hot flashes — would be the answer to her prayers.
When Natalie was first offered the position of editor-in-chief of a website called God’s Greenery, a free online resource for Christians to explore cannabidiol (CBD) — a chemical derived from cannabis claimed to have healing benefits — she was very hesitant to accept. As a devout Christian, she felt it would be going against her beliefs. She had a strong conviction against the recreational use of marijuana and wasn’t sure if CBD was the same thing. But after reflection and prayer, Natalie realized that many other Christians may have the same questions, and by taking the job, she could help clarify the facts.
Determined to learn everything she could about CBD, Natalie began scouring scientific studies and quickly discovered that CBD is legal and just one of many chemicals in the cannabis plant. In fact, THC, which causes a high, is a completely different substance. She also read that when used by itself, CBD actually helps disorders like anxiety, depression, heart disease, and pain.
But Natalie was even more surprised when she asked her Christian friends their thoughts — and some had already tried it. One friend, who’d suffered from severe psoriasis, had done everything her doctors suggested without relief. But after using CBD for three weeks, her skin completely cleared. Amazed, Natalie found herself thinking about her own menopausal symptoms. And after praying about it a bit more, she decided using CBD for hot flashes was worth a try.
Relief at Last
Last April, after buying a type of CBD oil, Natalie began putting a few droplets under her tongue before bed. She was shocked when after just two nights, her night sweats had stopped. Over the next week, her hot flashes eased, she felt less anxious and more energetic, and she experienced fewer headaches. Natalie continued using CBD nightly, and soon all of her menopausal symptoms vanished — and have stayed at bay! “At first, I dismissed CBD, but I am so grateful that I did the research and tried it,” she says. “It has changed my quality of life and made me feel like myself again!”
CBD for Hot Flashes: An MD Answers Your Questions
We asked Mary Clifton, M.D., a board-certified internal medicine physician, an expert on medical use of cannabidiol (CBD), and a consultant for cannabisMD.com, to address our biggest concerns about CBD. Her insights:
How does CBD work? “Derived from the cannabis plant, CBD stimulates the body’s endocannabinoid system,” explains Dr. Clifton. “This helps keep all the body systems — immune, respiratory, digestive, etc. — balanced and working together.”
What conditions does it help? “CBD helps reduce inflammation, which lowers pain and anxiety and improves sleep,” she says. “And new research indicates CBD may calm menopause symptoms, such as night sweats and hot flashes.”
Is it safe? Does it make you ‘high’? “It is very safe, and CBD won’t create a ‘high’ like THC. It’s FDA approved for treating epilepsy, and research continues to validate its use for multiple conditions. The caveat: CBD doesn’t work for 20% of those who try it.”
What do I look for? “Try a CBD tincture under the tongue. Results should happen within 10 minutes, so you’ll know if it’s working. Also, choose a product that’s had third-party testing, which should be clearly displayed on the label.” One to try: God’s Greenery Oil of Gladness, $89.