Night sweats. Anxiety. Irritability. Sleeplessness. Brain fog. Sound familiar?
These are common symptoms of menopause, changes in women’s bodies that signal the end of our reproductive years. Menopause typically happens when we hit our early 50s, but is preceded by perimenopause. This natural transition can take five to seven years on average to complete and even longer for some women. Other women may experience early menopause for a variety of reasons including when they go undergo hysterectomies.
I went into menopause relatively early, with a number of symptoms exacerbated by a late pregnancy at 41. I’ve described before my postpartum symptoms, which included intense night sweats where I was not only drenched in sweat each morning but covered in a rash. I would also wake up at 3:00 or 4:00 a.m. after struggling to get to sleep in the first place, so I was averaging four hours of sleep.
This lack of sleep was devastating to my mental state.
My period completely stopped by the time I was 48, and by then, I was in the throes of depression. For me, depression shows itself as extreme irritability and a total lack of ability to cope with life’s stressors. I felt like I was living a nightmare.
Hormone replacement therapy was off the table because of cancer in my family; breast and ovarian cancer in particular.
Cannabis changed everything—and I only needed a little bit to make a big difference. Literally a few puffs on a vape pen at bedtime changed my life:
- better sleep
- reduction in pain
- less stress and irritability
Why did it work so well for me?
To understand the connection between cannabis and menopause, I spoke with Elizabeth Moriarty, who’s a clinical herbalist and formulator, and founder of Luminary Medicine Company. She first explains menopause this way:
“Menopause is characterized by a decline in estrogen production. Many of the uncomfortable changes we experience are authored by the impact of the decline in estrogen on the choreography of biochemicals that affect mood and cognition.”
So less estrogen means more anxiety, irritability and brain fog.
Getting Your Bliss Back After Menopause
While scientists and doctors understand the chemical changes in women’s bodies as we age, the entire process can be confusing and frustrating. Elizabeth explains that all humans have an endocannabinoid that’s a neurotransmitter in our brains called anandamide. Scientists refer to anandamide as our bliss molecule.
If our anandamide is deficient, we may experience stress-induced anxiety and irritability. And guess what? Declining estrogen disrupts the regulation of our anandamide. In short, the specific hormonal changes in women’s bodies that occur during menopause affect our bliss.
How Microdosing Marijuana Can Alleviate Menopause Symptoms
So how can microdosing cannabis help you ease your way through menopause? A microdose is usually considered around 2.5 mg of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), But this may vary depending on someone’s tolerance, metabolism and size.
Microdosing THC along with the cannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) can help with menopause symptoms in a number of ways:
Cannabis alleviates stress and anxiety. In higher doses, cannabis may cause anxiety or paranoia in some people. However, in lower doses, the plant can have a calming, relaxing effect.
Marijuana promotes sleep. Lack of sleep can affect stress levels and increase irritability throughout the day. A deeper, more restful sleep can fortify your ability to cope with daily stressors and hormonal changes.
Marijuana alleviates brain fog. While some of the brain fog that comes with menopause is directly related to hormone deficiencies, better sleep plus THC via a sativa strain of cannabis could help improve focus and clarity.
Cannabis reduces inflammation and pain. “Many painful conditions are known to become more pronounced during menopause,” says Elizabeth. “It may well be that we become less tolerant of pain when we find ourselves deficient in anandamide, which contributes to our overall sense of well-being.”
The plant promotes a feeling of well-being. According to Elizabeth, research shows that CBD inhibits the degradation of anandamide. In essence, CBD works to protect your bliss.
In other words, microdosing cannabis reduces unpleasant physical and mental symptoms of menopause while still allowing you to function throughout your day.
How Marijuana Helped One Woman With Her Menopause Symptoms
One woman I spoke to, Veronica, was experiencing typical symptoms of menopause:
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Mood swings
- Lack of sleep
- Irregular sleep patterns
Veronica finds both cannabis with THC and CBD to be helpful.
“Cannabis completely aids with sleep whether it’s getting back to sleep after waking up from night sweats or assisting with getting a regular sleep pattern by medicating at bedtime,” says Veronica, who says she uses cannabis daily for menopause. “[I put] 10 mg in my coffee in the morning, and depending on my pain in the morning, I will use cannabis flower or a CBD vape pen and more throughout the day depending on anxiety levels from the stress of menopause,” she explains.
When Veronica’s experiencing mental stress associated with hot flashes and hormone irregularity, she ingests microdoses of cannabis throughout her day. Sometimes, if work, caregiving, hot flashes and just life in general have her feeling extra stressed, she takes a break to consume cannabis and even meditate for 10 minutes to help reduce her stress.
If you’re looking for stress relief during menopause, Veronica recommends using a tincture/or sublingual tab or spray to help the cannabinoids assimilate quickly into your system. The mucus membranes in your mouth carry these cannabis compounds into your system more efficiently than when you smoke or vape marijuana.
Specifically for mental focus, Veronica says she consumes CBD oil in the morning daily and vapes or smokes CBD-rich cannabis flower throughout the day
“A good thing about all of the new science and technology is that it makes it very easy to microdose your cannabis when you need to increase just a little bit,” she explains. For example, you can cut edibles into smaller pieces to start with lower doses. For more accuracy, tinctures let you control the number of drops, so you can calculate up or down as needed.
If you try microdosing THC, and you feel more psychoactivity than you’d like, take a CBD oil under the tongue. CBD counteracts THC’s effects, plus you’ll be getting all of the benefits of CBD as well.
More bliss and less stress can mean a smoother transition into menopause.
Photo credit: Pixabay
If you’re new to cannabis and want to learn more, take a look at our Cannabis 101 index of articles. HelloMD can help you get your medical marijuana recommendation; it’s easy, private and 100% online.