Dear Nurse Sheri,
Can edibles help women in perimenopause? The symptoms are killing me and I’m desperate to find some natural relief.
It really depends on what you mean by “help.”
Let’s first discuss the definition of perimenopause: the natural aging process of a woman’s reproductive life cycle from reproductive to post-reproductive. Women are born with a finite number of eggs, which are lost over time through ovulation, menstruation or become embryos when fertilized. Eggs that are released during menstruation or aren’t fertilized simply wither away.
Egg cells — called oocytes — are responsible for the production of estrogen in women’s ovaries. Estrogen is the predominant hormone in a woman, and it effects the body, metabolism, mood, sleep, skin and brain function. Fewer eggs means less estrogen.
By the time a woman reaches her late 30s, her estrogen is already declining, even though menopause (the period of life when menstruation stops) doesn’t occur until about 50. While the decline of estrogen is normal, the transition to post-menopausal is marked by erratic hormonal highs and lows that profoundly affect a woman’s body, emotions and mind.
When I posed the question earlier about “helping” perimenopause, I am really talking about helping women cope with the unpleasant symptoms associated with perimenopause. In other words, there’s no way to stop it from happening — it’s just the natural process of aging.
Let’s break down some frustrating symptoms of perimenopause and see if cannabis can help women cope:
MOOD SWINGS: ✓
Cannabis can help take the edge off and allow women to tackle day-to-day stresses better. It’s all about finding the right strain and dose that will help you let out a big sigh of relief.
ANXIETY AND DEPRESSION: ✓
Cannabis — especially non-psychoactive CBD — is successfully being used by women and men to replace dangerously addictive benzodiazepines (commonly used for anti-anxiety) and selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (your run-of-the-mill antidepressants). The role of our endocannabinoid system, the part of our body that interacts with our natural cannabinoids, is to achieve homeostasis aka balance. While the pharmaceuticals mentioned above lead to a neurotransmitter imbalance over time, cannabis helps us find our natural balance.
BODY ACHES: ✓
I’m a 50-something-year-old woman myself, and I can tell you that it is SHOCKING how much the aches and pains creep in as we age! We all know CBD is a potent anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic. Medicines that contain THC are currently being used to help wean people off dangerous opioids. Cannabis is a natural aid for arthritis, joint aches and even neuropathy (pain caused by pinched nerves).
There are a couple different forms of insomnia: the “I can’t turn off my brain” and the “I wake up during the night.” Cannabis helps with BOTH. While certain strains like sativas notably tend to be uplifting and turn the mind on, others like indicas tend to be more relaxing and make you zone out. A tincture or vape before bedtime will help shut your mind off and a 5-10 mg edible will kick in later so you can stay asleep!
IRREGULAR PERIODS/HEAVY BLEEDING: X
Unfortunately, cannabis won’t help with this symptom. However, cannabis can help with PMS and cramps, which tend to be worse during perimenopause.
Cannabis can potentially help with headaches. They’re complicated and can be triggered in many different ways. Cannabis, though, can help with stress headaches and muscle tension. Also, high CBD formulas work well for women to prevent migraines.
Cannabis aiding in concentration is a maybe. The right dose of a sativa strain tends to increase focus and creativity.
HOT FLASHES: MAYBE
Otherwise known as vasomotor symptom, hot flashes are often associated with “flushing” and may also be accompanied by heart palpitations. Estrogen affects how blood vessels dilate (aka vasodilation) and releases heat to the skin to cool us down. Estrogen and the endocannabinoid system have an interesting relationship. Estrogen decreases the chemical that breaks down one of our endocannabinoids, anandamide, which is chemically similar to THC. Anandamide may have some temperature regulating properties. Less estrogen means more breakdown of anandamide, creating an endocannabinoid deficiency. Perhaps this is linked to the sudden temperature change associated with hot flashes, especially since hot flashes are also often associated with palpitations and anxiety. For this symptom, more research needs to be conducted.
DECREASED LIBIDO: ✓
Cannabis has amazing effects on helping us connect and be more social, which increases our bliss, creativity and curiosity. It’s not the same kind of libido that women have during the height of their reproductive years, but cannabis can notably make your body tingle and open your heart to intimacy.
VAGINAL DRYNESS: ✓
There are PLENTY of cannabis products on the market that can be used for lubrication, vaginal muscle relaxation and anti-spasms. Sprays and suppositories will not stop the effects of aging and loss of “tissue integrity,” but the unpleasant side effects of dryness and discomfort can be easily managed.
Cannabis is not for everyone, though. People with certain heart conditions and serious psychiatric disorders should be cautious and consult their doctor prior to use. Cannabis may also interact with certain medications, so if you’re prescribed medicine (particularly for heart disease or blood thinners) consult your pharmacist. However, cannabis CAN help with perimenopausal symptoms and I highly recommend it!
As a Certified Nurse-Midwife, Sheri Matteo is passionate about women’s health with over 20yrs experience in clinical care. She believes in an integrated approach to wellness that includes the four pillars of education, nutrition, exercise and meditation. Cannabis can play an important role in establishing and maintaining physiological balance, supporting the above. As a member of both the American College of Nurse-Midwives and the American Cannabis Nurses Association, Sheri is dedicated to providing women the most up to date information about cannabis for health and access to quality products.